A FREE advice centre which helps the poor, elderly and disabled fight for their rights has nominated a supermarket which keeps it going in the Oxfordshire Local Business Charity Awards.

Banburyshire Citizen Project, which helps people across the north of the county, has put forward the Midcounties Co-operative for the 2019 A-Plan Award for smaller charities.

The charity runs the Banburyshire Advice Centre, a non-profit scheme providing benefit advice, general advice and career counselling to help the poor, elderly, disabled and unemployed.

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One example of the team's work was when they recently helped a person with uncontrollable epilepsy and frequent blackouts who was told by the local Jobcentre Plus they were fit to work.

After the advice centre challenged the Department for Work and Pensions, the decision was overruled and benefits were reinstated.

In another instance the charity helped a single mother with mental health problems and learning difficulties who faced having her benefits cut when she missed a job search interview because one of her children was ill.

Andy Willis, the chairman of the organisation based at Cherwell Business Village in Banbury, wrote in his nomination for this year’s A-plan award: "I cannot express how much Midcounties have done for our charity, they are truly amazing.

Witney Gazette:

"Midcounties has allowed our advice centre to flourish. Their funding has allowed us to publicise our services, which has allowed us to reach people who we may not have reached."

He underlined that, as his organisation does not receive any regular funding, the Midcounties Cooperative's donation help keep the centre running so 'people receive justice in benefit decisions'.

But the Midcounties Cooperative support is not limited to financial transfers.

Mr Willis explained: “The local Midcounties Committee has been really supportive to our Good to Talk Group, which is a group to support carers and lonely people.

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“The Midcounties offered one of their team to help at the sessions and provide tea, coffee and cakes for the group.

“They are a wonderful company and I cannot express our deep gratitude to their help and cannot explain what a difference they continue to make for our charity and to the people of Oxfordshire."

He summed up: “Midcounties makes a difference which is such an extent we urge you to recognise how they help the local community and our charity”

Midcounties Co-Operative hardly needs to be introduced: the largest independent co-operative in the UK now has more than 700,000 members.

Witney Gazette:

It was created in 2005, when Oxford, Swindon and Gloucester Co-op merged with West Midlands Co-op, but can trace its history to 1853, when the Swindon’s society was formed, followed by Gloucester in 1860, Chipping Norton in 1866 and Oxford in 1872.

Midcounties Co-op is a multi-sector retail and services giant, best known for numerous convenience stores and supermarkets, but also active in travel, healthcare, funeral, childcare, energy, post offices, telecoms and flexible benefits sectors.

Its nomination for this year’s A-Plan Award in the Local Business Charity Award reflects Midcounties Co-op’s commitment to helping local communities.

Midcounties is one of six businesses and three individuals that have been nominated to the Local Business Charity Awards in Oxfordshire, to compete for prizes worth over £2,000, which are sponsored by insurance brokers A-Plan and Jelf with the Oxford Mail’s media partnership.

To enter, charities had to nominate an Oxfordshire business or individual who had done an outstanding job supporting them.

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If their nominated business wins, the charity will receive a donation of £1,000 and the winner of the individual award will receive a weekend break to the value of £300.

The finalists in the Jelf Award are Lucy Group Ltd (nominated by Oxfordshire Youth), Oxford Castle & Prison (Helen & Douglas House) and STL Communications (SpecialEffect).

In the A-Plan Award Oxfordshire finalists are: Knox & Eames (nomination from Clear Sky Charity), Pillow Wad (Springfield Sanctuary) and Midcounties Co-op.

Individual Award nominees are Brendon Cross, John Lubbock OBE and Keeley Dennyschene.

The finals will be held on Thursday, August 29.