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Four Black Country organisations given share of £400,000 to help some of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods

Four Black Country organisations have been handed a share of £400,000 to help some of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the region.

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Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), with representatives of the social enterprises that will share £400,000 to improve their communities

Working with other groups and residents, they will use Commonwealth Games legacy cash from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to help them identify specific projects that can improve their communities.

Then, they will help to bring in further investment to help deliver the schemes which could be new community facilities or services, regular events to improve health and wellbeing or education and training opportunities.

There are a total of eight social enterprises which have been chosen by the WMCA to draw up these plans, including four in the Black Country.

They are Provision House in Dudley; Skills Work and Enterprise Development Agency (SWEDA) in Sandwell; Urban Hax in Walsall; Access to Business in Wolverhampton; Witton Lodge Community Association and iSE (Initiative for Social Entrepreneurs), both in Birmingham; Coventry and Warwickshire Co-operative Development Agency (CWCDA) and the Colebridge Trust in Solihull.

This new investment by the WMCA is part of a £2 million plan to grow the social economy.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chairman, said: “Across the region we have around 10,000 social economy businesses and organisations providing valuable jobs, training, housing and other services which are all being delivered by local people for the benefit of local people. These are underpinned by a central aim of doing good for their communities.

“This is why, as part of our plan to use Commonwealth Games legacy cash to help widen their impact, we’ve decided to put money directly into their hands to support them to identify and deliver even more ways in which they can make a positive difference to the lives and futures of local people.

“This is just the beginning of our £2 million investment in an important but little-known area of our region’s economy, and it will empower communities in a way that will mean they can make sure that no one is left behind. I look forward to seeing how these plans progress and the positive impact they have on local people’s lives in 2024 and beyond.”

In the West Midlands, the social economy is already worth £3.5 billion a year and directly impacts the lives of over 250,000 people – as employees, volunteers or as beneficiaries.

This new £400,000 investment is the first phase of an action plan drawn up by the West Midlands Social Economy Taskforce, which was set up by the mayor to look at what the WMCA and its regional partners could do to help double the size of the social economy so that even more people benefit.

The Wolverhampton cluster will be led by Access to Business, a charity that supports people into work and delivers services to local start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises to support them to develop and grow.

Josie Kelly, chief executive at Access to Business, said: “Local charities and social economy businesses are struggling to tackle local issues due to lack of resources and loss of funding.

"It is vitally important that our work is recognised and championed for its value and the contribution it makes to regenerating the local economy. With this support from the WMCA and local key business and statutory partners we all make a greater impact together.”

One of the two Birmingham clusters will be led by Witton Lodge Community Association and co-funded by Power to Change, the independent trust which works to strengthen community businesses.

Witton Lodge Community Association was formed over 20 years ago by residents who were unhappy about the demolition of 900 homes in the area.

It now manages homes across Perry Common, provides jobs and skills advice and runs community events and other activities.

Afzal Hussain, chief officer at Witton Lodge Community Association, said: “This investment will give us the much-needed resources to do the job we are trying to do, to improve the local area and economy to generate wealth and retain it in our communities. It’s a great opportunity for the community to decide what’s right for us, and help create change that makes a real, tangible difference.”

Councillor Kerrie Carmichael, WMCA portfolio lead for inclusive communities, and leader of Sandwell Council, said: “This investment in an important area of the economy is a tangible example of our commitment to inclusive growth – something that is at the heart of the WMCA’s vision for a region where people thrive in the places they live and work.”