Middlesbrough Collaboration

In 2022 Turn2us, alongside Buttle UK and the Smallwood Trust, set up a new local programme in Middlesbrough.


As communities advocate for their rights and build their financial security, our role is not to take the lead, but to walk with them and work together to remove obstacles.

Turn2us strategy 2023-2028, Tackling Financial Insecurity Together.

In 2022 Turn2us, alongside Buttle UK and the Smallwood Trust, set up a new project in Middlesbrough working in a highly collaborative way with local mothers to provide money and support aimed at transforming their lives and the lives of their children. 

Why women and children and why Middlesbrough? 

We know women and children are more likely to live in poverty, and women from racially-minoritised groups, Disabled women, women with caring responsibilities and trans and non-binary people are more likely to face financial insecurity. We also know caring for children can leave women at greater risk of poverty.

Middlesbrough was chosen because of the unique combination of challenges women and children face, including the highest proportion of children in poverty in England and high levels of domestic violence.  

The value of grants 

The Middlesbrough Collaboration is made up of three grant-making organisations; Turn2us, the Smallwood Trust and Buttle UK, who have the shared aim of supporting people to be free from poverty.  

Grant-making is giving money to people to help them cope when finances are tough. Money doesn’t need to be paid back. It can help someone withstand a financial shock, but we know it’s not enough, on its own, to lift people out of poverty for good.  

A new kind of grant-making 

The aim of our programme is to test whether a collaborative approach (working together with other grant makers and community organisations) can transform the lives of women and their children.   

The aim of the Middlesbrough collaboration is to look at grant-making in a different way, shifting power to people in local communities so they can decide who it helps and how it works. 

Filling gaps in knowledge and support 

Existing support in Middlesbrough was mostly short-term and there was a lack of work looking at how poverty affects women. Turn2us, the Smallwood Trust and Buttle UK wanted to do something that would listen to and learn from the experiences of racially-minoritised women, women with disabilities and women who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF), as we know they are often worst affected by gendered poverty.  

Partners with shared values 

The partners, community groups and women in Middlesbrough all agreed it was really important to have shared values to get the project off the ground in the early stages. Everyone who is involved agreed to the following principles; 

  • Working together using co-production (a way of working which believes that those who are affected by a problem are best placed to help design solutions).   
  • Honesty.
  • Accountability - to each other, co-production partners and women experiencing poverty.   
  • Partnership working.
  • Feminist values and understanding where different issues overlap depending on someone’s race, class, gender or other factors that can combine to make someone more likely to experience discrimination or disadvantage.   
  • Shared decision-making.     

Progress so far 

So far, the collaboration has built relationships with residents and community organisations in the Newport ward of Middlesbrough.  

A group of women and children in Newport have worked with us to design a new two-part grant fund and create systems of support around it, including financial advice and support to identify and work towards future goals. 

We have met with the council, other grant makers and charities in the region to understand what else is happening to improve women and children’s financial security. This will help the Collaboration work with decision makers to tackle the systems that cause gendered poverty.  

The Collaboration partners 

Ubuntu Multi-Cultural Centre

Ubuntu is a multicultural centre based in Middlesbrough providing advice, advocacy and support to people from Black, Asian and minoritized ethnic communities. As well as information and advice it offers a range of activities, from gardening and healthy food projects to a weekly maths homework club, themed coffee mornings and volleyball sessions. Ubuntu Centre acts as a safe space for the community, where anyone can discuss anything, and receive support in a non-judgmental way. 

Creative Minds Middlesbrough

Creative Minds aims to be a pillar of support and a beacon of hope to people who are seeking asylum and refugee women across Middlesbrough. Creative Minds helps women build new relationships and build communities of support, through a range of activities that promote belonging, and reduce the negative impact of isolation, language barriers and financial hardship. Creative Minds helps women be bolder, more confident and to access education. It aims to improve women’s mental health and wellbeing by providing a new community that gives the care and support they received in the close-knit communities they’ve been forced to leave behind at home. 

Buttle UK

Buttle UK is a charity dedicated to helping children and young people in the UK who have experienced crisis, living in financial hardship and dealing with multiple challenging social issues. We provide support designed to improve emotional, educational and social outcomes through our Chances for Children grants and, for some children whose home environment is disruptive and chaotic, grants which allow them to go to boarding school. 

Registered Charity No. 313007 / Scotland – SC037997 

Smallwood Trust

The Smallwood Trust’s mission is to enable women to be financially resilient. 

All of our funding is directed at meeting this mission. The Smallwood Trust aims to achieve its outcomes through grant-making, evaluating what projects and approaches work best and partnership working. 

Registered Charity No. 205798


Local Programmes

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Turn2us Local Programmes