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Grimsby gets its Fair Share

7 August 2009

A message by Margaret Cooney – Deputy Director Policy & Partnerships (England)

Five years ago, the Fair Share Trust was set up with an endowment of £50million to fund neighbourhoods that hadn’t received their fair share of Lottery funding. Each neighbourhood was given £800,000 to spend between 2003 and 2013, and the Community Foundation Network and their local agents were delegated the job of spending the money.

I visited the Grimsby Fair Share neighbourhood in Lincolnshire recently. I am evangelical about what I saw there. The appropriately-named Sue Fortune is the local agent for the neighbourhood, which covers the former fishing community areas of East and West Marsh. The fishing has long gone – and these areas were hard hit – but in the five years since the programme started some amazing initiatives have emerged thanks to the excellent efforts of Sue and the local panel that advises on how the money should be spent.

The three priorities they set were ‘building voluntary sector capacity’ – not as easy as it sounds in such a poor area. But they did it and now have two excellent and dedicated development workers for East and West Marsh, Alan and Neil, who support volunteering, skills development, new community groups and a whole range of training and community activities.

Priority two was to support community development, and the panel supports two new resident groups in the areas. With high levels of crime, unemployment, homelessness, and absent landlords, the locals are keen to turn the area around and they want to get involved.

The final priority was promoting community business. In an area where there are three generations of worklessness in some sections of the community, this was always going to be tough. Skills are low and even though there is work elsewhere in Grimsby, very few locals have been able to get the jobs on offer. By involving local people in Fair Share activities, the Trust has given them the chance to develop skills.  The CPO media centre is a small community publishing enterprise that is a mouthpiece for Fair Share activities and has made strong links with the local paper . Fair Share has even supported a social enterprise to develop the fishing industry again.

While I was in Grimsby I was lucky to visit the Harbour Place Day Centre, which has been deservedly shortlisted for a National Lottery Award.

Myself (far right) with Sir Clive Booth (BIG chair – far left) and Vanessa White (Head of Yorkshire & Humber – centre) at the Grimsby and the Harbour Day Centre.

Photo by Grimsby Telegraph

Some Harbour Place volunteers come in three times a week to look after the needs of some of the most vulnerable members of the community. (Very worryingly, we were told that they have seen an increase in the numbers of OAPs coming in for lunch as many are finding it hard to make ends meet in the current economic climate.)

What was encouraging was the genuine dedication of those volunteers, – and it’s great that some have gone on to get paid jobs.

Five years on, that’s the experience of one area, which looked so fragile to start with, running a high risk programme that was so different, yet has achieved all of this, and more that I haven’t included. They put it down to the efforts of Sue and her team. And funding continuity has been vital too. As one person said to me, ‘Nobody pulled the money out or changed the rules just as things were getting going , consistency has been the key to our success ‘.

There’s a lot to be said for the Fair Share approach.

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