COMMUNITY projects helping vulnerable people will get a share of £30million allocated to help former mining communities.
Housing and Regeneration minister Grant Shapps announced the cash for the Coalfield Regeneration Trust (CRT) on a visit to Job Linkage, in Houghton, one of the projects supported by the trust.
“It’s great to be able to deliver some good news, especially in these difficult times,” he said. “This is £30million to improve people’s lives.”
Mr Shapps said the CRT had proved it was a good use of funding and the £30million was part of the Government’s commitment to helping the most vulnerable in society.
He said the cash would also help towards the Government’s aim of reducing dependence on public sector jobs in Wearside and the North East, and increasing employment in the private sector.
Peter McMestry, chair of the CRT, said the charity’s board would meet next week to decide where the money would be allocated.
As well as services such as Job Linkage, the CRT also funds community projects, such as midnight football sessions to provide thousands of youngsters with constructive activities.
“It’s good news in these depressing times,” said Mr McMestry. “All our funding ended this month. This £30million is for the next two years.”
Mr Shapps also praised the hard work of the team at Job Linkage in helping people find employment.
Gordon Donkin, senior employment counsellor at Job Linkage, said Mr Shapps’ visit was a chance to put the service in the spotlight.
“Funding is obviously always a concern for us, because we rely on funding to provide support and services to people,” he said.
“There’s a great need for our services, particularly in these difficult economic times.
“We help with creating CVs, interview skills, where people don’t have internet access to send in applications – basically removing barriers to people finding employment.”
Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson welcomed the Government’s recognition of the CRT’s work “under Labour” but claimed it was facing a 15 per cent budget cut.
She said: “It’s also a rather hollow announcement with £9.9million cut from the Working Neighbourhoods Fund to Sunderland City Council alone that supports jobs and small business start ups.
“Until the Government comes up with a credible plan for jobs and growth and stops hitting our area with disproportionate and unfair cuts, then unemployment will rise and poverty will increase.”
Mr Shapps’ visit came on the same day as Social Enterprise and Volunteering minister Nick Hurd met with voluntary sector organisations at Swan Street Centre in Monkwearmouth to discuss the Big Society agenda.
“I wanted to talk about the Big Society, but also about the challenges they’re facing.
“They wanted the opportunity to share some concerns with me and some view about the opportunities of the Big Society.”
Mr Hurd also met Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson and chief executive Dave Smith.
He said he was keen councils making “painful” cuts avoided hitting the voluntary sector if possible.