VITAL voluntary and community enterprises, that have stepped up to support vulnerable people in the city during the pandemic, will be given a lifeline in the form of a new fund being led by Sunderland Labour Group.

Sunderland’s voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE) is set to be able to apply to receive grant support from Monday [June 1], in a move that will help scores of groups and organisations survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city’s Labour Group has proposed that VCSE organisations have access to support, to ensure that they can continue to deliver their important work and activity in Sunderland, as the country emerges from the global crisis. Many organisations have been left cash-strapped, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made fundraising difficult and other funding sources scarce.

Labour councillor John Kelly, who is also Sunderland’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture, said: ” Voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations play a crucial role at the heart of their communities at the best of times, but the way in which many have stepped up to support the city as it battles the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of inspirational.

“The sad fact is though, that a great many of the organisations that have been so instrumental in pulling the city through this crisis will be left most vulnerable to collapse as a result of it, with the Government having failed to provide assistance. We feel very strongly that we must step in where we can and help them survive this crisis, and we have pushed for help to be made available by the council to provide support.”

Under the Local Support Scheme, VCSE organisations will be able to apply for a cash grant of either £1,000 or £10,000.

Cllr Kelly added: “As a Labour Group, we absolutely believe in the value of the VCSE sector. Often this is the sector that glues our communities together, and we will always do all we can to protect and support them.”

The scheme will provide financial support to VCSE organisations who are unable to benefit from national support schemes including Small Business Rate Relief Grant and the Discretionary Grant Fund. More details of how to apply will be announced by Sunderland City Council on Monday (1 June).

Cabinet Secretary, Councillor Paul Stewart, said: “The scheme is very much in-line with our Community Wealth Building Strategy which recognises the importance of local VCSE organisations in delivering the city’s ambitions for social and economic wealth and that VCSE organisations have a key role in moving Sunderland forward to becoming a fairer and more prosperous city.”

More details of the Local Support Scheme and how to apply for it will be shared by Sunderland City Council.