A scheme designed to help the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE) during the Covid-19 pandemic is closing in on delivering £461,560 in grants.
A total of 263 VCSE organisations based in or delivering activity in Sunderland applied for cash grants of either £1,000 or £10,000 through the Local Support Scheme and 161 have been successful, with more pending approval.
The Sunderland City Council scheme was created to support VCSE organisations who are unable to benefit from national support schemes such as the Small Business Rate Relief Grant and the Discretionary Grant Fund.
Grants were available to small VCSE groups including resident’s associations, sports clubs and community groups, in addition to charities and community interest companies which had to close due to the crisis, or who lost their regular income.
Councillor John Kelly, Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture at Sunderland City Council, said: "We put this scheme in place because we understand that many organisations have experienced additional financial pressures during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"I am pleased that the council has been able to help these voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations, as they continue to play a crucial role in their communities."
One organisation who received the grant is Active Families NE, an organisation which provides activity and exercise programmes across the North East. The organisation was successful in its application for the higher grant of £10,000.
The funding helped the team to provide services to help keep people active and combat loneliness during the lockdown.
Kelly Brougham, Director of Active Families NE, said: “The financial support from the VCSE grant has been absolutely vital to helping keep Active Families above water and enabling us to provide support to communities across some of the most deprived areas of the city.
"This has included rolling out a befriending service where we have undertaken over 100 phone calls on a weekly basis to vulnerable older people and provide instructor led walks for small groups of older people.
"The funding has also enabled to pay some of our delivery staff who had been giving up time voluntarily.
"It’s really rewarding to see first-hand the difference we have been able to make by supporting some of the most vulnerable, socially isolated older people in the community that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic."
Another organisation to benefit from the scheme was North East Sport, which works with communities and provides sports programmes for young people.
The organisation usually does a lot of work in schools, but when schools closed the team began offering services such as delivering food parcels to vulnerable people, as well as helping with shopping and dog walking.
Peter Curtis from North East Sport said: "This support has enabled us to support others.
"We saw massive losses to our income and there was a very good chance we may have had to stop trading altogether but receiving this grant has kept us afloat and allowed us to keep doing what we do."
Sunderland City Council Cabinet Secretary, Councillor Paul Stewart said: "The Local Support Scheme has helped some very important organisations who otherwise would have struggled during recent months, and this is very much in line with our Community Wealth Building Strategy.
"The scheme recognises the importance of local VCSE organisations in delivering the city’s ambitions for social and economic wealth and how they have a key role in moving Sunderland forward to becoming a fairer and more prosperous city."