A HEXHAM-BASED charity has a new van thanks to county councillors.

The Hextol Foundation has been supported by Northumberland County councillors Derek Kennedy and Trevor Cessford, as well as former county councillor Cath Homer.

The councillors' generous donations from the members’ local improvement scheme will allow Hextol to offer even more opportunities for voluntary work training placements to its beneficiaries with learning disabilities or difficulties, or mental health support needs.

The councillors’ grants were bolstered with donations from Northumberland County Council’s Community Chest Fund and the Thorne & Derrick Fund at the Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.

"Hexham is very fortunate to have a facility such as Hextol, which provides volunteer employment opportunities for adults with special needs", said Hexham mayor, councillor Kennedy, "and I’m delighted to provide support to the charity and its ongoing success."

Councillor Cessford added: "I'm more than happy to be able to put some of my members’ allowance towards the van.

"The Hextol Foundation is superb in what they do and have been doing for many a year by offering their beneficiaries opportunities to take an active part in voluntary work training placements, which I know is hugely appreciated."

Chief executive of the Hextol Foundation Bruce Howorth said services are proving even more popular and more important since lockdown.

He added: "Returning to Hextol placements after lockdown is playing a vital part in restoring everyone’s mental health and well-being.

"Beneficiaries welcome the chance to carry out high quality work for our customers and the impact that this has on their self-confidence and self-esteem is huge.

"The new van means that Hextol has been able to expand its gardening service in the Hexham and Tyne Valley area.

"As well as allowing Hextol to give further opportunities to even more beneficiaries, the increased income will mean that they will be less reliant on grant funding in the future."

Hextol offers placements for beneficiaries in its post and packing, warehousing and catering businesses, including The Hextol Tans Vegetarian Restaurant and Coffee Shop on Hexham’s St Mary’s Chare, as well as the gardening service.

"We’ve been going for nearly 16 years now and will very soon be reaching our 100,000th hour of supported work placements which is a massive achievement and a credit to everyone who has been involved over the years", added Bruce.