Secretary of State for Communities, Hazel Blears and Minister for the Third Sector, Phil Hope have today announced the Government's commitment to further strengthen the role of community organisations and the third sector across England.
The £70m Communitybuilders fund, a joint programme between Communities and Local Government and the Office of the Third Sector, is the largest single programme in the Communities in Control: real people, real power white paper published today. This is the largest ever investment by government in a programme of this kind, designed to help community organisations grow and thrive.
The government recognises that one of the most tangible and popular ways people can get involved and give something back to their community is through local community-led organisations.
This programme responds to calls from the third sector for more support of such community organisations, enabling them to continue to thrive and promote community groups, active citizens and local social entrepreneurs, and help drive forward an enhanced role for the citizen in local governance.
The programme will:
Around 400 organisations from across the country will benefit from the scheme. In turn they will pass on that support to many more community groups in their area, creating a strong base for active citizens which will inspire new ideas and initiatives from which whole communities will benefit.
Communitybuilders is just one part of a larger package of support for the third sector in the white paper. The white paper recognises the importance of creating the conditions for a healthy third sector, and this package will support all aspects of community activity at the local level – from community leadership to commissioning, from social media to social entrepreneurs, from petitions to participatory budgeting.
At the launch of the white paper today, Hazel Blears MP said:
“Local residents have a strong understanding of what they want and need in their neighbourhood, and community organisations help to strengthen and empower all members of a community to become actively involved in the wellbeing being of their local area.
“The Communitybuilders scheme is a powerful, practical way to help empower people in their local community. It will support and develop the local organisations that provide a vital focal point for community life, bringing people together and providing services and activities under one roof.
“The third sector have made it clear that there is a real need for this type of funding – supporting community organisations to become more independent and delivered by someone who understands them and their needs alongside a broader package of measures. The government has listened and this is exactly what we will be doing with this programme part of approaching £100m of new support for the third sector”
Phil Hope, Minister for the Third Sector, said:
“Today's white paper reflects the desire across government to do more to release the energies and talents of communities, and empower people at the local level to make a difference.
“I welcome the strong emphasis in the paper on the importance of promoting a thriving third sector, and the support offered for all aspects of local voluntary activity and organisations.
“The Communitybuilders programme is the biggest investment of its kind in community-led organisations that work at the heart of neighbourhoods. Alongside grassroots grants and the community assets programme, this will enable them to become more financially secure and enhance their ability to increase life chances and strengthen our communities.”
Iain Tuckett, Group Director of Coin Street Community Builders said,
“The Communitybuilders programme has the potential to enable a new generation of independent, sustainable, neighbourhood-based organisations which could transform the way we think about regeneration and the meeting of local needs. It allows for the investment of significant resources in the project feasibility and organisational development which are essential to the creation of robust bodies capable of attracting private finance and playing a significant role in enabling communities to define and meet their needs.”
A delivery partner will be selected following a competitive procurement process starting in due course, and funding is expected to begin in Spring 2009.