Communities across the West Midlands are set to benefit from more than £30 million supporting people most in need to develop the skills and tools to overcome barriers to work, education and training.
The Big Lottery Fund is for the first time matching funds from the European Social Fund (ESF) 2014-2020 to provide joint investment in nine local projects tackling the root causes of poverty, promoting social inclusion and driving local jobs and growth.
Projects will provide opportunities for people to improve numeracy, literacy and digital skills, build confidence and self-esteem, and better understand and manage their finances. Extra support will be given to hard to reach and socially-excluded groups, including people with disabilities, mental health or addiction issues, those who are homeless, ex-offenders and people living in isolated rural areas.
The Big Lottery Fund is working with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) across England who have identified projects that best meet local need and priorities. From today organisations can apply for funding to deliver these projects.
Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive of the Big Lottery Fund said: "We are delighted to be working with Local Enterprise Partnerships across the West Midlands to bring new funds into communities to develop employment opportunities and pathways to the job market for those most in need. These projects focus on solutions developed at a local level, from customised programmes for carers seeking flexible work to support for people to create new local social enterprises."
Across England 71 projects have been announced today with a total of £174,521,600 available. This represents the first round of this funding and involves 25 LEP areas. Further investment is expected to be delivered over the next few years, taking the total number of LEP areas with projects to 37. Each LEP has identified the issues challenging their communities and the opportunity that funding can bring to address them. The funding will be managed by the Big Lottery Fund, giving voluntary, community and social enterprise groups greater access to this wider ESF money than in previous years.
Projects open for applications today include:
A project in the Black Country LEP area to tackle poverty through improving people’s digital skills so they can better understand and manage of their finances online. More than 128,000 households in the region have been identified as ‘internet non-users’, which restricts employment and training opportunities. On top of this, the move to Universal Credit will see people needing to apply and manage their accounts online and taking on responsibility for paying rent direct to a landlord, so digital skills will be important.
A project in the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP area to provide support for disadvantaged young people who are out of work, and help build their confidence to get back into work or find training opportunities. Certain communities in the area are particularly affected by unemployment, such as Nuneaton and Bedworth at nearly 30 per cent. In May 2013 25 per cent of all those claiming Jobseekers Allowance for more than 12 months across the region were 16-42 years old.
A project in the Worcestershire LEP area to improve access to lifelong learning and support to boost the local economy, working alongside local employers. Although the area as a whole could be considered affluent and prospering, pockets of deprivation exist, particularly in Redditch, Worcester and Wye Forest. These areas have higher levels of unemployment and crime, alongside greater health and educational disadvantage.
The first competitive application stage is now open. Grant competitions are fair, open and competitive and any organisation is eligible to apply, however most of the projects will be better suited to partnership working. Full details of all the project outlines in this round are available at www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/esf.
In order to support potential applicants and to help grant holders to understand, plan for and deliver the additional requirements that come with managing European funding, Big Lottery Fund has also awarded £950,000 to Baker Tilly, in partnership with Ecorys UK. For further information about this support visit www.bboesfsupport.com.
Further funding opportunities will be available in autumn 2015. To be kept informed on the latest Building Better Opportunities news register your interest on our website at www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/esf.