COMMUNITIES across England receive vital support as they recover from challenges caused by the pandemic, thanks to a recent £65million injection of National Lottery funding.
The life-enhancing sum, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, was awarded to over 1,700 community groups when communities were seeking to build back stronger and reconnect again after 18 months of hardship.
The cash boost has reached over 90% of constituencies in England identified as most in need of levelling up, including Birmingham, Tameside and Gloucester, with such areas receiving a 40% share (£26 million). The activities funded are important to communities emerging from the pandemic and range from therapy sessions with rescued animals for vulnerable people to reduce isolation and improve mental health, a beach clean project to rid much-loved community spaces of plastic waste, and a café for the LGBTQI+ community where they can feel safe and build friendships.
One of the groups to receive funding is Noah’s ART in Dukinfield, Greater Manchester, which was awarded £145,000. This will go towards its animal-assisted wellbeing service for vulnerable people, which reduces isolation and social anxieties, as well as improves mental health. The group offers one-to-one therapy sessions with its vast array of rescued animals – more than 70 in total ranging from dogs, guinea pigs and rabbits. Support also includes a dog café open to the public, outreach sessions in schools and mental health wards, and employability workshops to upskill people considering a career with animals.
Sharon Hall, a former mental health nurse, set up Noah’s ART in 2014 to help improve aftercare for patients. She said:
“Our one-to-one therapy sessions are a really good place for people to start, especially if they have really bad social anxiety. There are three people maximum in the room and you find conversations flow because they can talk about the animals and their confidence grows quite quickly from there. We wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t have survived without National Lottery players. So many people are going to benefit because of the funding. We can’t say thank you enough, it’s just such a relief.”
Final Straw Foundation in Hampshire is another charity to benefit from the latest National Lottery investment. Thanks to almost £140,000, it can continue its important work to rid the Solent coast of single-use plastics. With the help of a dedicated army of volunteers, the charity has carried out an impressive 93 beach cleans since launching three years ago, one of which recently resulted in filling two 17-foot skips, 12 one-tonne grab bags and 34 bin bags with plastic waste.
Bianca Carr, Co-Founder of Final Straw Foundation, said:
“The charity was born after spending a summer on the beach with my children, who I noticed were decorating their sandcastles with plastic instead of shells like I did as a kid. Then a few days later we were served drinks, all with plastic straws. We decided right then and there that we needed to start a campaign to remove, at the very least, straws from our small village. In the current climate, it’s more important than ever to be able to continue with our work to educate people and reduce plastic pollution. We are beyond grateful to National Lottery players for enabling us to do this. We are so passionate about this topic and know we can continue to make a positive difference.”
Another group to receive vital National Lottery funding is Sol Café in Birmingham city centre, which was awarded £10,000 to develop a safe space for the LGBTQI+ community. This café creates a sense of belonging and community spirit that goes beyond its four walls. It’s the first space of its kind in the city, hosting craft workshops, yoga sessions and queer fayres where LGBTQI+ creatives share and sell their crafts.
Paul Alexandr, a regular volunteer at Sol Café who has also benefitted from its support, said:
“Sol Café has created a space that is free of judgement and where everyone feels like they belong – it’s where I can truly feel comfortable and safe. It’s more than just a café, it’s somewhere the community can come together, take part in group activities and make lasting friendships. I started volunteering at Sol Café to get involved with its craft fayre and could really see that it had a very wholesome and holistic approach to reaching people, making a real difference to the LGBTQI+ community in Birmingham. I’m really so grateful to National Lottery players, without them I don’t know if Sol Café would still be here.”
John Mothersole, Chair of England Funding Committee at The National Lottery Community Fund, said:
“Thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to award almost £65 million across England in the past three months, supporting communities to build back from the pandemic, prosper and thrive. Through more than 1,700 charities and community groups, we have funded issues that matter to and are at the heart of communities, including employability, mental health, supporting young people and building connections to tackle loneliness. It’s brilliant to see that this money is making a significant difference to people’s lives, helping to address priorities for both local communities and the UK as a whole.”
National Lottery players raise an incredible £36 million each week for good causes throughout the UK. The National Lottery Community Fund awarded over half a billion pounds (£588.2 million) of life-changing funding to communities across the UK last year. Over eight in ten (83%) of its grants are for under £10,000 – going to grassroots groups and charities across the UK that are bringing to life amazing ideas that matter to their communities.
To find out more, please visit: www.TNLCommunityFund.org.uk.