A £1m programme to tackle unemployment has been launched today with backing from the European Social Fund. The funds have been granted by the government’s Skills Funding Agency in partnership with Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership to the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), an adult education charity which provides training and learning opportunities for people at risk of exclusion. Over the next two years, the charity will help hundreds of people who face additional barriers in the workplace, such as lone parents, improve their employability and gain permanent employment.
Although much improved, Liverpool City Region continues to be below the national average, with 6% less people being economically active and nearly 3% more people having no qualifications.
Asif Hamid, Liverpool City Region LEP Interim Chair and Co-chair of the European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF) committee said: “Despite improvements we are still lagging behind national averages and thereby disadvantaging our communities in basic skills needed for the world of work. These grants will give much needed support, advice and guidance to assist the long term unemployed to gain access to work and in turn increase economic growth across our City Region.”
Cllr Phil Davies, Leader of Wirral Council and Co-chair of the ESIF committee said: “The award of this funding is excellent news for unemployed adults across Liverpool City Region. This £1million programme fits with our aims for the City Region to create job prospects for all.”
The WEA will distribute small grants of between £10,000 – £35,000 across Merseyside and Halton to eligible organisations in the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector between September 2016 and December 2017. Funded activities will target those aged 15 and over, from the hardest to reach communities. The funding can help all who are out of work, but especially people with disabilities and long-term health conditions; single parents; women, people from ethnic minorities, people over 50 and those planning to return to the workplace after a long period of absence.
The last programme of this kind supported 91 local community projects in Merseyside and Halton between 2012-15, to a total value of £1.093m and 2050 people taking part. Evaluation of the last contract showed 49% of participants went on to engage in voluntary work, 29% into further learning, 26% into employment and 21% into self-employment.
Ruth Spellman, Chief Executive of the WEA, says: “The skills gaps in Liverpool city region are more pronounced than in other parts of the country, restricting opportunities for both local residents and businesses. The funding announced today will provide a lifeline to those struggling to gain employment by equipping them with the tools that employers need.
“Our programme will benefit hundreds of individuals from some of the most marginalised groups in society but it goes beyond that. Improving skills and job prospects will help strengthen families and communities, which are part and parcel of our everyday lives. There is no greater poverty than to be without the means to look after yourself and your family.”
Eligible organisations, based in Merseyside or Halton, are invited to apply for a community grant through the WEA website – http://nw.weanorthwest.webfactional.com/ESFgateway or call 0151 243 5340 for further information.