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9 Jan 2012

Good news for Readings voluntary sector

Reading Borough Council Press Release

Voluntary and community groups across Reading are set to benefit from an increase in funding from Reading Borough Council over the coming year..

Despite the difficult economic climate, in Reading the Council plans to continue to increase money going towards the voluntary and community sector from a budgeted £12,596,403 million in the current year, to £12,637,584 in financial year 2012/13.

Reading has always maintained a strong voluntary sector and the proposed increase in funding is in recognition of the significant benefits voluntary and community groups bring to communities across Reading, and in helping the Council to tackle key issues in the town.

Bet Tickner, Lead Councillor for Public Engagement and Health, said: 'Once again Reading is supporting the vital work of the voluntary sector, at a time when families, the elderly and disabled and young people are all going through hard times. Continuing to work in partnership will be our way forward.'

The proposed total funding pot for 2012/13 is made up of direct grants to voluntary groups and revenue contracts with community organisations.

Direct grants of £1.5 million underpin the work of many of Reading's local voluntary organisations, including Reading Citizens Advice Bureau and the Reading Community Welfare Rights Unit, which provide advice and support for people who are struggling with debt and whose services have become even more important in the current economic conditions.

Reading Council for Racial Equality will be provided with transitional funding while they carry out a consultation with a view to forming a new local organisation to bring together, represent and support the work of all local groups working on equalities issues and community cohesion.. *(see notes to editors).

In 2011/ 12 there was a significant shift in the way Reading Borough Council commissioned services from grants to contracts with the voluntary sector, and there is projected expenditure of £10.8 million on contracts - in addition to the £1.5m expenditure on grants - planned in 2012/2013.

The change provided opportunities for new services to be tendered in 2011/12 to provide the best possible value for council tax payers money. These have included for example the Family Support and Youth Counselling services, for which both open tenders were awarded to voluntary organisations. New funding for the Active Ageing programme enabled Age UK to continue to deliver a vital service for local residents.

Plans for 2012/2013 include opportunities for service providers to bid for funding for:

- Preventative services for older people, following a series of pilot projects which tested out new approaches
- Carers services
- Timebank service (whereby residents can give time to help their community and then receive help back when they may need it)
- Re-investment into substance mis-use support services and mental health

There will also be bidding opportunities for short breaks/ respite for children with disabilities. This will be restricted to voluntary, community and not-for-profit organisations.

Local groups involved in culture and sport will continue to access a £74,000 grants pot for projects planned for the year of the Olympics and for the wide range of related events and activities planned to take place in the town.

Local groups will also benefit from the easy access community grants pot of £25,000 to encourage neighbourhood and grassroots activity where participation is the key. This will help groups organise or take part in regular local events such as Carnival, Children's Festival, Waterfest, Pride, Asian Arts, Holocaust Memorial Day, East Reading Festival, Oxford Road Fun Day, Caversham Festival, Climate Week, Reading Rescue and Black History Month, as well as take part in environmental activities, or simply set up a new group or project. GLOBE groups are now included in this easy application process.

In addition a funding pot of £100,000 has been set aside by the Council to fund capital projects for the voluntary and community sector in Reading. This fund has already proved popular in helping voluntary organisations make improvements to heating systems, replace windows, install security systems and improve car parking facilities for a support centre for children with learning disabilities.

Reading Borough Council has confirmed its continued support of £220,000 in 2012/2013 to bring the Central Club back into community use, working in close collaboration with the Reading African and Caribbean Community Association. The Association is still seeking matched funding support for this venture.

An additional £384,049 is also provided in the form of low cost accommodation for local groups.

The proposed new funding opportunities for voluntary and community groups across Reading will go to Cabinet on Monday January 16th for discussion and approval.

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