Empowering Third Sector Organisations

Case Studies

Air Cadets pass with flying colours thanks to PETT

The challenge for all youth groups, charities and voluntary organisations these days is the balancing act of finding the funds to invest in the latest technology.  In today’s fast-moving tech world, to be the best they can be, these organisations need IT equipment to function, promote themselves and raise funds. 

2496 Cumbernauld Squadron Air Cadets is a North Lanarkshire Air Cadet Squadron located in one of the highest socially deprived areas in Scotland, serving young people aged 13-20. The group provides opportunities for flying and gliding and forms part of an important service, in assisting in keeping young people off the streets.  The cadets learn citizen and leadership skills, use flight simulators to discover what an aircraft can do and then sit exams on what they have learnt on the computers.

Critical numbers

Three years ago, their cadet numbers were falling, as was attendances. Feedback received from the young cadets suggested this was due to the wait to get on a PC being too long, which was frustrating the cadets as well as the squadron staff. The need to purchase IT equipment was becoming critical.

“The issue was that our funding budgets are very limited, it was a case of working with what we could afford, which at that time was just one or two computers.  Then, a colleague looking on the web for solutions to our IT problem found the solution, PETT.”  Says Steven Cairns MCGI, Flight Lieutenant RAFVR(T) and Officer Commanding 2496 Cumbernauld Squadron.

Perfect solution

The PETT scheme was designed to donate to charities the IT equipment they need to engage in today’s world. Empowering them to be more efficient without dipping into their limited funds.

“We couldn’t believe that there were companies out there like PETT that were giving so much back to charities.  We explained our needs and within weeks we had 10 PCs delivered.  The impact of this was phenomenal on our air cadet unit.  For the cadets it means that the learning process is much quicker and as leaders we can use them for training, delivering presentations and interactive learning.

We also use the PCs to help us with promotion of the air cadets, community engagement, Facebook and recruitment, our cadet number on roll has doubled.

But that was only just the start.  Recently, PETT have provided a new virtual reality computer.  It’s an excellent piece of kit, a powerful PC with an impressive processor and graphics card.  With this, we can run our 3D, 360-degree views flight simulator.  It’s a Red Arrows programme where you fly as ‘Red 4’.  We had a group Captain from the air force come in and try it out and the quality is so good that you feel motion sickness.  The feedback from the cadets has been fantastic, they love it.”

These are some of the fun things the unit are doing with the donations from PETT, but there is a more serious side as Steven explains:

“Some of our air cadets have Special Educational Needs and come from deprived areas and families. They can sometimes demonstrate signs of withdrawal from the other cadets. Their parents have told us that the one to one time on the PCs and the staff interactions they get with us has proved to be invaluable.  Parents say that they have made great improvement where their confidence has altered and their personalities are showing a positive change.“

 Over and out

So, what’s next for the Air Cadet squadron and how will the IT help in the future? The last word from Steven:

“We will be focussing on recruitment in the coming year.  We go out to local gala days and we will certainly be taking the virtual reality PC and headsets with us as the new system from PETT can run two simulators.  I know they will have a positive impact on our cadet numbers.  We will also be going into schools to help support them with learning days.  There’s a real focus on getting more pupils into STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) this year and we will be going into schools and the wider community to help them with that.


As Squadron Commander, I can’t thank PETT enough for what they have done for our air cadet unit.  PETT took the time to understand what we needed support with and then delivered the equipment to help us.  Enquiry levels have risen, cadet numbers and attendance are up but most importantly, PETT have helped us improve the overall experience for our cadets, which is our ultimate goal.”

Winter Wonderland donation from Prism helps Ruby’s Fund gives parents of children with special needs the chance to play together and provides the emotional support they need

They say having a baby is one of the most exciting times in a parent’s life, but it can also be one of the most daunting and isolating.

Everyone has a journey

In 2007 Alison’s daughter Ruby was born with a very rare and incurable condition called Isodicentric_15 or IDIC 15 syndrome, meaning she was born with a partial duplication on chromosome 15.  Feeling very isolated and wanting to connect with other parents in similar situations, Alison went on an exhaustive search for local groups to join where she and Ruby could have playdates and she could talk openly and honestly with other Mums and Dads about the journey they were all on.  It quickly became apparent there wasn’t anything suitable in the area and that if she wanted something, then she’d have to set it up.  Not deterred and wanting to help others, the idea of Ruby’s Fund was born.

The birth of Ruby’s Fund

After finding a suitable location, lengthy fundraising and securing of grants, in September 2014 Ruby’s Fund opened its doors.  Offering a safe stimulating environment to children where they can play regardless of their ability, it’s now used by up to 800 people per month and has 9 employees and 80 volunteers. It brings parents, grandparents and carers together, basically anyone who’s in need of support and is a place where people can chat over a cup of tea, share advice and knowledge, seek help and most importantly find friendship and fun.  

It has become a community hub and many parents have said Ruby’s Fund has helped them to celebrate their child’s own achievements as opposed to hitting the standard milestones.  They also say that it’s given them the social support they desperately needed and that without it they would have felt quite alone on their unique journeys.   The ethos at Ruby’s Fund is that ‘Everyone should be together regardless of their ability and people should be accepting of everyone’s imperfections.  Everyone is welcome. If a child has emerging needs, they can come to Ruby’s Fund, for support, advice and emotional opportunity.’

Empowering through IT

As with any charity, IT is crucial to its survival.  However it’s not always an area which they can dedicate the specialism too or the budget.  Prism became aware of the work Ruby’s Fund were doing when Ruby’s Fund were awarded ‘Charity of the Year’ at the East Cheshire Chamber of Commerce Awards and Prism wanted to get involved.   Keen to take away their financial and technical IT burden, Prism set them up with the IT infrastructure they needed, installing fully backed up, networked computers, laptops, tablets and an email system, plus training.  Prism also took on the day to day maintenance and support meaning Ruby’s Fund didn’t have to worry about this or finding budget.  Recently, the provision of two Tablets, as part of the Prism Winter Wonderland donation for the centre, allows visitors to sign in electronically and course leaders can use the tablet devices to help them deliver course content. 

Talking about Prism’s support, Alison said “By having Prism as our IT partner, Ruby’s Fund have been able to set up a well visited website, built up our online presence, promoted our fund raising events and schedule of activities, captured service user statistics and so much more. Their recent donation of £1000.00  from their Christmas Winter Wonderland event will help us develop an App and allow electronic sign in for visitors to the centre.  What Prism have done for us can’t be measured, their support is invaluable.”

Looking ahead

Ruby’s Fund and Prism are already collaborating to ensure the continued success of the charity to help parents, carers and children have the fun and support they deserve.  Top of Alison’s list is to develop the information and resources available and make them easier to access for carers.  Though things have come a long way since she started the charity, Alison says, “the medical professionals are fantastic at dealing with the medical side of things, but it’s still very difficult for parents of children with special needs to find practical information out there on things such as equipment, local support, social activities, helpful websites etc. and they still very much rely on word of mouth”.  Working with Prism she wants to share her trusted network by offering a private on-line forum where parents can safely log in and have a chat or look for help on subjects relevant to them, such as an autism or post-natal depression website for example. 

They are also developing an app together that will capture data on service users providing valuable statistics to help them apply for funding and develop a database that can be used for targeted communications and newsletters. 

Much needed funds

Ruby’s Fund also have plans to become a short break provider for children with complex and specialist needs, build an outside sensory garden and lots of fundraising plans including drop in sessions, discos, and parties.  Prism’s £1000.00  donation from their Winter Wonderland event will help with the development of the App and streamlining the management of the centre.  It’s going to be a busy and successful future for Ruby’s Fund and we’re only too happy to help them.

Prism's fundraising arm PETT, is helping CLC to change lives for generations with a fresh approach to cookery

Through fundraising, PETT is supporting Cheshire Learning Partnership to teach people how to cook wholesome inexpensive family meals and get healthier.

From training to tapas

14 years ago the Cheshire Learning Partnership set up with the goal of teaching people basic IT and pre-employment skills.  Fast forward to today and they’ve helped thousands of people to gain new skills and qualifications, and support them with realising their own goals.  From chatting to people attending their clubs and courses over the years, many participants were frequently saying how they were relying on expensive unhealthy microwave meals and takeaways for family dinners because they didn’t know how to cook or were in a rut with meal ideas.  Having a light bulb moment in 2016, they realised that if they could secure funding then they could develop a course to teach people how to cook easy healthy meals on a budget and lead them to a healthier lifestyle whilst saving money.   That’s when their course ‘Cooking from Scratch’ was born offering people a chance to learn how to cook a new meal each week, carry out meal planning, write shopping lists on a budget and about food hygiene.  

Like all charities, the Cheshire Learning Partnership relies on the support of local businesses to help with funding, so securing money would be the key to getting their course off the ground.  Having initially secured Skills Agency Funding as a sub-contractor for Cheshire East Lifelong Learning to launch the course, it quickly became oversubscribed and they needed another injection of money to enable them to grow and reach more people. Turning to PETT for help, PETT held a fundraising Christmas party called ‘Winter Wonderland’ raising £3,500 for the course.    

The difference PETT’s funding makes

At the start the cookery course, which has places for around 10 people, ran over 6 weeks for 2 hours per week.  The course took place in a room hired through the charity, Ruby’s fund  and was reliant on one cooking kit. The new funding from PETT means that they have been able to purchase a fully portable kitchen kit with enough equipment to take 14 people at a time.  The portable kit, which includes hobs and tables, means that they can add more dates and places and they’re now running 4 courses concurrently.  

Have kitchen will travel

The beauty of having the portable kitchen kit means that they can take the courses to areas where they are needed most.  They have expanded their courses to more deprived areas, running them in across many venues throughout Cheshire. They’re promoting the course more widely too, advertising in local newspapers and communicating it via Health Visitors, social media to young Mums and Dads, to ex Service Men, via Charities and to Local Housing Associations.  

Eggcellent ideas

Using seasonal produce and simple ingredients provided by the Cheshire Learning Partnership, their three cooking Tutors, Emma a Home Economics Teacher, Cath who has an NVQ in cookery and Ruth who has a teaching qualification, have created a fun environment offering people the chance to learn how to cook.  The course includes a wide variety of dishes from meatballs and paella, to fresh pizza dough and apple crumble.  The students cook enough to feed a family of 4.  They’ve even had an egg week demonstrating the many dishes that can be created using eggs followed by an egg poaching competition.  

Social & supportive

Courses are free and it’s open to everyone.  Students vary from young parents, to working Mums and Dads to older people who are all stuck in a cooking rut and want new fresh ideas, or simply have never been taught how to cook.  Students are also taught how to budget and about the advantages to your pocket on buying seasonal produce. Another great reason for signing up is the dishes made in class can be taken home.  However it’s not all work, there is a sociable side too, with the tutor cooking food for everyone to sit down and eat afterwards.

The Future

With such demand, Adele Cook, Managing Director at The Cheshire Learning Partnership says they will continue to take the course to as many people as they possibly can and the fundraising generated by PETT will be instrumental to this.

“Without Prism’s continued support the growth and development of the course wouldn’t be where it is today.  140 families have benefited from our ‘Cooking from Scratch’ course to date where we’ve students have created over 3,000 delicious meals.  Food is a daily staple and to know that we’ve helped someone cook a homemade meal from scratch for their family or introduce them to a food they’ve never tasted before is hugely satisfying.  We’re helping people to think about what they’re eating and cooking for themselves and their families, to choose better ingredients to cook with, make wiser food choices and by default live a healthier lifestyle.  As long as the course is in demand, then we’ll be here to run it and find the funding to make it happen.  Without companies like Prism none of this would be possible”.