FIVE community initiatives have supported more than 1,700 local people and 400 businesses after the city council helped them to bid for a share of £3million in funding.
Last summer, Leicester City Council submitted the five bids from among 29 applications received to the Government’s Community Renewal Fund (CRF), a short-term funding scheme aimed at building skills, supporting local businesses and providing employment support in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.
All five bids were successful, and resulted in the five projects benefitting from a share of £3million in funding.
The projects were:
- Positive Communities – a voluntary and community sector partnership of 12 local organisations led by the Highfields-based Bangladesh Youth and Cultural Shomiti, working to support people into employment and developing new skills development. It received £584,230.
- A community ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) scheme aimed at improving language skills to help people into employment, led by Leicester-based Twin Employment and Training. It received £500,000.
- The ‘She Inspired Business Playbox’ project – comprising five local voluntary and community sector organisations - which works to support women into employment and business. The project was led by Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan Trust, a local organisation helping women to escape from poverty and abuse, and was successful in its bid for £349,588.
- Leicester Accelerator – a partnership of seven business support organisations led by East Midlands Chamber of Commerce. They successfully bid for £1million of CRF funds, to fund a range of support programmes for businesses, including the use of digital technology, mentoring, and grants.
- Leicester Textiles Renewal – an integrated support programme to improve skills, support innovation and encourage best practice in the city’s textile and garment industry. The bid, led by Leicester City Council, received £500,000 of CRF funding.
The projects ran from 1st November 2021 to 30th September 2022, and so were expected to achieve results quickly. All of them involved collaborative working between a series of partner organisations, so there was considerable emphasis on joint working and shared responsibility.
As well as leading on the textiles renewal project, the city council oversaw the bidding process, provided administrative support for each scheme and has evaluated the success of them all. The city council also hosted a celebration event for the projects, which was held at City Hall in Leicester on 10 February. People who benefitted from the schemes attended, along with the community groups and organisations that delivered the five projects.
As a result of the projects, a total of 1,786 individuals and 426 businesses have been supported. In more detail:
- 553 people who were previously classed as ‘economically inactive’ and a further 567 who were unemployed were helped into work or training;
- 666 employed individuals were supported to increase their skills;
- 391 small businesses and 35 medium or large businesses benefitted from tailored business support;
- 477 people gained a qualification, for example in maths, ESOL or textiles training;
- 52 businesses were supported to develop decarbonisation plans;
- 13 new businesses were created.
People who took part in the projects have been very positive about them. One said: “I am now much more confident about speaking English and looking for employment. The course greatly helped my self-confidence and skills in this area.” Another said: “I successfully gained employment and found a secure job after being unemployed for months.”
And Junaid Makda, managing director of Bru Leicester coffee shop, said: “We’re always looking at how we can improve efficiencies within our business, with a firm focus on customer experience. This has been our first interaction with the Chamber of Commerce, and the Accelerator project and joining as a Chamber member will help us to develop at an even greater pace.”
Socially, the projects have also helped people to gain confidence as well as mixing with and respecting other cultures, and many have reported increased motivation and better mental health.
Leicester assistant city mayor responsible for jobs and skills, Cllr Danny Myers, said: “It’s great to see what a far-reaching impact these agile and innovative projects have had in such a short space of time. They are a great advert for partnership working, showing what can happen when community groups work together to achieve shared goals.
“The city council has played a supportive role throughout, from overseeing the bidding process and financial management of the schemes, through to evaluating their results. We also managed the textiles renewal project, which we know has resulted in more workers knowing their rights and gaining important new skills in this area via our textiles training academy. This will help to raise standards in the garment industry.
“Initiatives like these are a key part of our work to help Leicester meet its potential, to become a fairer place to work. We will continue to work with community organisations who understand the need to help people develop their skills and build their confidence so that they can get better paid work with better rights.”