Groundwork's Vicky Cuthbertson (centre) with the representatives of the 12 ROAD member organisationsGroundwork North East & Cumbria has been appointed to lead a £2.4million project to help people in County Durham gain employment.

The three-year long Reach Out Across Durham (ROAD) project will bring 12 organisations, which already offer training and experience opportunities, under one umbrella with the aim of helping 650 people whose needs are not being met by existing services.

Working under the patronage of Building Better Opportunities, which brings together funding from the Big Lottery Fund and the European Social Fund (ESF), ROAD will work on referrals from GPs, Adult Social Care and housing providers to help people to access training, education and volunteering, with the ultimate aim of securing full-term employment.

In addition, careers and training advice, tailored to County Durham’s local labour markets, will be offered with the intention of providing relevant training to address the region’s skills gaps.

A team of highly-qualified and experienced ‘Navigators’ will work with up to 30 people a year using goal-orientated plans; action plans to overcome barriers including health issues, aspirations, self-esteem, offending, housing, digital skills and financial management.

All 12 ROAD partner organisations, including Pioneering Care Partnership, Durham Community Action, Citizen’s Advice Durham and Durham Christian Partnership, have pledged to provide volunteering opportunities, as well as interviews for individuals on the programme should vacancies arise.

Kate Culverhouse, Chief Executive of Groundwork North East & Cumbria, said: “It’s a great honour to be chosen as the organisation responsible for the implementation of the Building Better Opportunities ROAD programme.

“Through our extensive network of partners, ROAD will engage people through less traditional means, such as the arts, sport, community events and outdoor activities, to provide them with the skills and confidence they need to gain and keep permanent employment.

“All of the organisations taking part are committed to providing a consistently quality offering. It’s vital that this is not just a box-ticking exercise, but instead creates a legacy of cooperation between the organisations and provides a network of opportunities for the most disadvantaged people in our region.”

Cllr Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration and culture, said: “The project is excellent news for County Durham, promising to help some of the most disadvantaged in the county on their way to finding work. The council has a range of schemes to support people into work but the different partners involved in this scheme will mean innovative and wide-ranging help can be directly targeted at those who need it most.”

The full list of partner organisations is as follows: Groundwork NE & Cumbria, Changing Lives, Cornforth Partnership, County Durham Citizen’s Advice Bureau, CDC Enterprise Agency, Developing Initiatives for Support in the Community (DISC), Durham Christian Partnership, Durham Community Action, Finchale Training College, Jack Drum Arts, Pioneering Care Partnership.