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The success of local people in Furness, Cumbria, in turning around their community is a shining example of civil re...
The success of local people in Furness, Cumbria, in turning around their community is a shining example of civil renewal that communities across the country could follow, the home secretary, David Blunkett, has said.

Civil renewal is all about empowering people to take control of their lives and to contribute to solutions in the wider community. It is the commitment people make to work together to improve the places where they live. This is particularly important in areas which have undergone major economic change.

The home secretary said that this vision of civil renewal needs to be at the heart of the government's future agenda. To make it a reality, the government must not simply do things to people, but with people.

Speaking in advance of a visit to Furness, where the community has set up numerous enterprises and jobs, Mr Blunkett said: 'What has impressed me most about community action Furness is its drive and determination to overcome adversity. It has built up the community asset base by setting up 18 community enterprises and around 90 jobs, which have helped hundreds of young people overcome learning difficulties and social exclusion.

'This is a tremendous achievement. It has brought hope to others, and is a clear example that the renewal of civil society is not about harking back to some mythical golden age, but about extending democratic practices and committed citizen engagement.

'Unless communities organise themselves and engage directly with finding solutions to their problems, apathy and despair will stand in the way of vibrant community life. Confidence, a sense of hope rather than hopelessness, a self- belief for individuals, families and the community, are all critical to regeneration.

'We need to foster a society that helps people take more control of their lives and the decision making that shapes the communities in which they live. Civil renewal provides a far reaching reform agenda - one that needs to be at the heart of future government p olicy. The government must continue to fundamentally redefine its relationship with the people it serves, and empower communities and boost active citizenship.

'The government is committed to promoting active citizenship, whether it is through volunteering, community involvement or the activities of the voluntary and community sector in delivering local services. We are determined to help organisations such as community action Furness contribute to a better life for people at local level.'

The home secretary will also announce that the heritage lottery fund has awarded Community Action Furness a £1.37m grant to provide a new home for community activities in Barrow. CAF will use the award to restore the derelict Victoria Hall, opening up an impressive new facility for local people and making a significant contribution to the area's regeneration.

Mr Blunkett said: 'I am very pleased that heritage lottery fund is supporting the regeneration of the Furness area as well as providing what I am sure will be a first class community facility. The restoration of Victoria Hall in Barrow is being driven by local people, and this will be the key to its success. This is an excellent example of how our heritage can help build strong and active communities and contribute to a better life at local level.'

Mr Blunkett spoke at a 10th anniversary dinner for Community Action Furness on 16 October 2003 in Barrow-in-Furness.

CAF is a joint church, community enterprise which has energetically created around 18 community enterprises, employing around 90 people. Aimed at regenerating the area, it particularly focuses on helping young people become involved in learning, confidence building and gaining skills and qualifications.

The Home Secretary recently outlined the ideals behind his civil renewal agenda at the Democracy & Participation Programme Key Findings and Policy Implications Conference, Great George Street, London, on 24 September 2003.

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