A SOCIAL enterprise which provides woodwork training to people with disabilities has been given £15,000 to provide new opportunities.

The Wood Pile, in Durham, has worked with hundreds of people over the last and has saved tonnes of scrap wood, which would otherwise have been sent to landfill.

The new funding, which has been given to the community enterprise company by UnLtd, a foundation for social entrepreneurs, and Scope, the disability equality charity.

Karen Stubbings, which set up the community enterprise company in 2014, said the funding would be used to provide additional training courses this year, which would be led by Wood Pile client Duncan Pardoe, who is deaf.


Dan Mellis, Duncan Pardoe and Dean Butler, who are all involved in the Woodpile project

She said: “Hopefully we will be working with more people and giving people more skills.

“We will be funding someone to deliver those course and it’s the first time we’re having a deaf tutor with an interpreter.

“We always look at people and see what they can do, rather than what they can’t. Duncan wants to learn how to teach so that’s what we’re doing.

“It’s absolutely brilliant – we can’t wait to get started.”

The Wood Pile started in 2014 as a social enterprise reusing and recycling waste wood from its workshop in Renny’s Lane, in Gilesgate.

Since it has started, about 900 disabled and disadvantaged people have been given support, including 160 people who have had intensive support, while 468 tonnes of waste wood has been diverted from landfill, being used to restore about 2,000 pieces of furniture.

Ms Stubbings added: “It’s really evolved. Initially someone asked us if we could paint a piece of furniture, and then if we could build one

“Now we do build all sorts of things and more bespoke pieces.

“Nothing goes to waste. Everything is 100 per cent recycled. If we can’t sell it, we make something and if it’s not good for that it goes as fire wood.

“We don’t even have a skip so we can’t throw anything away so people know if they donate then it will be used.”


Ross Telford and volunteer George Harvey

She added: “It’s not just about moving people into employment. It’s about tackling social isolation as well.

“It can be a big problem for people with disabilities so we do social things as well. People say they want to come back because it’s like a real family.

“That’s what we want.”

As well as working with disabled people, the workshop offers a number of courses in things like upcycling, upholstery, painting, joinery for women and how to make shabby chic furniture, which are open to anyone from the community.

The company makes bespoke bits of furniture for people as well as making things like cabinets, chairs, tables and picture frames which it sells from its shop, at the workshop in Renny’s Lane.

The company was initially 100 per cent reliant on grant funding, but thanks to the shop and courses, it now raises about 65 per cent of its income itself, with the remaining 35 per cent coming from grants.