Headlines: April 2nd, 2009

More than 20 third sector organisations are to share millions of pounds of funding for projects to help give people a bigger say in the running of their communities. The Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, said the 9.25 million pound Empowerment Fund would help the successful charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises to deliver on the key themes of the Communities in Control White Paper.

The White Paper proposals included access to information and encouraging people to be active in their communities, to stand for office and measures to broaden ownership and control. In all 21 projects will benefit from the funding.

The successful bids include Operation Black Vote, which will use the money to help increase voter registration and participation among Black, Asian and other ethnic minority people. A project by the Workers Education Association will address barriers to empowerment in deprived communities through a programme of adult education and mentoring. The Young Foundation will use its funding to increase the number of young people getting involved in public leadership and Social Firms UK will focus on helping excluded and disadvantaged groups back into employment.

Hazel Blears said the Third Sector could offer people real opportunities to get involved in the areas in which they lived and to have a say in things that mattered to them. “This Empowerment Fund is about acknowledging that key role, which is even more important in these tough times. It will provide real help on the ground supporting the innovative work they are doing for the benefit of communities and local people,” she said.

Plans for the Fund were first announced last summer. It will provide grants of a quarter of a million or half a million pounds for three years so the organisations can plan ahead. In return they will be expected to show how they make effective use of the money.