Vision 21, an independent environmental and social charity on a mission to make Gloucestershire more sustainable is delighted to have been awarded a £15,000 grant from the Social Enterprise Support Fund, providing a much-needed lifeline following the impact of COVID-19.
The enterprise runs a number of community-based sustainability projects including their monthly Regeneration and Repair Café which aims to help the local community reduce the number of items being sent to landfill because they are faulty. A team of volunteer ‘fixers’ donate their time to repair items the local community bring in for repair including household, clothing, gardening and electrical.
And Vision 21's Reclaim Cheltenham project takes donations of furniture and electrical items from residents in and around Cheltenham which are then made available at low cost to people on low incomes in the area. This project also provides volunteering and work experience opportunities for local people with mental health issues or physical disabilities. And provides a route to mainstream employment for individuals who are struggling to find work or who need support to gain confidence, social and employability skills.
However, like many social enterprises, the effects of COVID-19 on Vision 21 and the individuals and communities it supports have been incredibly challenging.
Dave Entwistle, Vision 21’s Chief Executive Officer explains the impact of COVID-19 and the difference a £15,000 grant from the Social Enterprise Support Fund has made: “COVID-19 has brought about a complete loss of income and a full stop to all community support work, causing a great deal of stress and anxiety for staff and volunteers. But it has also inspired new ways of working.
“Whilst some projects are now running with a skeleton staff and others are still on hold, our team at Vision 21 are doing what they can to help support our volunteers and local communities. However, things remain difficult, because our current income level is less than 50% pre-COVID and many volunteers are still too scared to interact with other people.
“Our only income generation project, along with all our other projects, was closed for four months. This meant the charity had no income but continued to have outgoings such as rent and insurances. It also meant that our volunteers, many of whom have mental health issues, were not able to volunteer their regular services to us.
“The grant was really important to us, because it ensured that we could continue our income generation project and welcome back volunteers who wanted to return.
“The grant has done more than simply provide financial security by plugging a gap in our finances until we are fully activated again. It has allowed us to re-activate two of our self-employed session workers who can now continue to do work that supports vulnerable members of Cheltenham's communities.
“The grant was a lifeline for the charity, the volunteers and the communities Reclaim Cheltenham supports.”
As a response to the COVID crisis, The National Lottery Community Fund (the largest funder of community activity in the UK) is providing essential financial support to help social enterprises in England during COVID-19 through its Social Enterprise Support Fund, providing £18.7m in grants.
Five social enterprise support agencies have come together to deliver the fund. Big Issue Invest, The Key Fund, Resonance, the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) and UnLtd are jointly delivering £18.7 million in grants, with support from CAF Venturesome, the Young Foundation and Ashoka.
The fund is aimed at social entrepreneurs who support vulnerable communities - people who are at high risk from COVID-19 and/or who are most likely to face increased challenges as a result of the COVID-19 – this includes leaders with lived experience, to ensure they can put their solutions into practice to help people most impacted by the crisis and ‘build back better’.
It is offering eligible social enterprises in England three opportunities to apply for a grant. Rounds 1 and 2 have now closed but Round 3 opens 1pm Thursday 10 September providing a final opportunity for eligible social enterprises to apply.
We want to ensure grants from the Social Enterprise Support Fund are awarded to more social enterprises like Vision 21, supporting those communities most in need during the COVID crisis.
The fund has so far received nearly 900 applications, and by 8th September had agreed to support over 400 social enterprises across the length and breadth of England with over £12.2 million in grant funding. Research shows that this crisis is disproportionately hurting communities who already experience social and economic inequalities.
For this final round, eligibility for the fund has been widened to organisations with an annual income of between £20,000 and £1.8million.
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