SpeakUp Forum has been heavily involved in engagement and representation work with the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SE LEP) around the European Social Fund (ESF) since early 2014. When it was announced that ESF money would become available through Local Enterprise Partnerships to bring those furthest from the job market closer to employment, a special focus on Social Inclusion provided the opportunity for engagement of the VCS in the development of the programme. Consequently, ESF money was match-funded by Big Lottery Fund, which amounts to £ 16 million to be distributed across the SE LEP area under the Building Better Opportunities (BBO) funding programme.
SpeakUp Forum’s involvement started after the initial announcement of the funding. The Forum focussed strongly on preparing the local voluntary sector to be able to access the BBO programme, by supporting organisations to build partnerships required to bid for money through BBO.
Alongside this, SpeakUp Forum together with IMAGO (Kent) and Basildon Billericay Wickford (BBW) Voluntary Action worked to influence SE LEP and Big Lottery to ensure inclusion and equal access of the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) in the programme.
SpeakUp Forum published several articles through local Voluntary Action newsletters and those of other VCS and statutory partners’ organisations reaching around 5500 individuals and organisations each time, to inform and brief about developments of Building Better Opportunities and ESF funding.
Further to this, we informed those interested in our work with SE LEP and the Big Lottery Fund directly through our mailing list, which individuals.
SpeakUp Forum organised information and networking events reaching around 80 organisations across East Sussex and beyond.
The first event, held in Hastings in May, aimed to raise awareness and clarify questions from the sector in regards to the funding. The following event in Ashford in August involved networking to bring together potential leads and delivery partners for the SE LEP South area (East Sussex, Kent & Medway), which SpeakUp hosted together with IMAGO.
The deadline for all BBO bids was 30 November 2015, which will be followed by a two-staged process for those partnership bids which were successful.