A new fund is being launched by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) to support voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) projects in the wake of COVID-19.

A report published in May this year by Voluntary Organisations’ Network North East (VONNE) showed that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the VCSE sector, with 13% of organisations surveyed at the time anticipating they might close. Across the 7,200 VCSE organisations in the North East, that could mean more than 900 closures.

Carol Botten, CEO of VONNE, and North East LEP board member, said: “As well as delivering vital services for communities across the North East, these VCSE organisations are a fundamental part of the North East economy. And we know that collaboration across all sectors, including the VCSE sector, will be key as we work together to deliver the region’s phased recovery plan which we hope will lead us towards a long-term recovery for communities and businesses in the North East.

“We hope to attract creative and collaborative applications to this fund, that engage young people, or that deliver opportunities for communities to engage in a green economic recovery. For example, the fund could support the creation of outdoor recreational spaces like small ‘pocket parks’, a community woodland, or cycle paths; or the creation of space for local enterprise in a village hall.”

Up to eight awards will be made for grants of between £50,000 and £150,000, and organisations can find out more and make an application here.

Grant awards will support either:

  • New or enhanced community facilities that support the health and economic well-being of young people, particularly those aged 16-24 and from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Green infrastructure projects that improve our urban or rural environments, making connections to education, vocational learning, and employment opportunities through paid or voluntary positions.

This new local scheme complements other, national initiatives to support investment and recovery in the VCSE sector such as: the government’s recently-announced Green Recovery Challenge Fund is aimed at charities and environmental organisations to help them deliver local environmental projects, and details can be found here. And the National Lottery Community Fund is distributing government funding to support organisations to continue delivering services to people and communities affected by COVID-19 – more details are available here.

Find out more about the Capital Grant Programme for VCSE organisations here.