Charities see opportunities with ‘levelling up’ agenda

The Government’s Levelling Up white paper, published this month, has provoked a mixed reaction from regional leaders. However, charities and social enterprises see opportunities in the levelling up agenda.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund, worth £2.6 billion over two years, will focus on domestic priorities and “be used to restore local pride”, according to the Government paper. It says local leaders will be empowered to direct funding towards their own, locally identified priorities.

That could include supporting local businesses, tackling anti-social behaviour, targeting litter and graffiti, promoting new outdoor markets, reviving high streets and supporting those furthest from the labour market.

However, the proposed measures also include recommendations for charities, including:

Volunteering and community

The COVID-19 pandemic saw rising levels of volunteering and community services as people rallied around to support others.

Government statistics show over 12.4 million people across the country volunteered, including 4.6 million first time volunteers. Therefore, the white paper says it will build on the Volunteering Futures Fund.

The Government will also launch a strategy for community spaces and relationships, which will:

  • Reach out to disconnected communities
  • Empower community groups to come together
  • Gather evidence of what works in communities
  • Engage with communities, local Government and civil society to identify priorities, the assets that matter to local places, and the policies and actions needed to strengthen community infrastructure.

The Government says it will collaborate with partners and the Office for National Statistics to gain a “better understanding of the facts and figures behind community activity and develop a civil society satellite account.

These are accounts that cover activities linked to the economy but not part of the core UK national accounts, including environmental accounts, tourism satellite accounts, and household satellite accounts.

This will mean estimates more fully reflect the scope of the sector and fill a longstanding gap in official statistics.

Empowering communities

The Government says this will be new agreements between councils, public bodies and communities themselves to empower communities to shape the regeneration of their areas and improve public services.

Supporting social enterprises and procurement

The paper says: “The UK Government will consider how the existing Community Asset Transfer and Asset of Community Value Schemes can be enhanced and consult on options to go further to support community ownership.” Elsewhere, it will look at how to better support social enterprises in disadvantaged areas.

Youth and young people

By 2025 the Government wants all young people to have access to regular out of school activities and volunteering and 300 new or refurbished youth facilities will mean there are 45,000 extra youth activities each year. A “reformed” National Citizen Service will be funded for three years.

Other key points for charities:

Lottery: The paper says the Government will “explore further collaboration between lottery funders for arts, heritage, sport and community projects within the UK to ensure that £1.7 billion in National Lottery funding every year reaches the people and places that need it most”.

Parks: A new £30 million parks fund will deliver up to £1 million to at least 30 local parks in England for refurbishment with an emphasis on facilities for young families.

Culture, heritage and sport: The document sets out a commitment to funding cultural initiatives, particularly outside of London. It also focuses on funding to improve community football pitches.

The levelling up white paper contains many measures that seek to assist and aid worthy causes in the coming years. To find out how you could access and make the best use of new funding, please contact us.