Bringing Black Country communities together
Near Neighbours has received funding for a further year for its activities aimed at community cohesion in the Black Country and across England.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) has announced that £1.3 million has been awarded to the ground-breaking Near Neighbours programme to build relationships between different communities to address hate, fear, and the voices of division. Church Urban Fund has added £100,000 as support for the programme.
This will be Near Neighbours’s fifth round of funding after four successful phases of funds have been used to transform communities and bring people together from different backgrounds. This work will be supporting the government’s new Integrated Communities Strategy, as well as the five local authorities that have been elected as the first Integrated Areas in particular (Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Peterborough, Walsall, and Waltham Forest) among other areas of Near Neighbours reach.
The work of Near Neighbours is focused on developing relationships between people of different faiths and ethnic backgrounds in some of England’s most diverse cities. Many communities in these locations live separately without ever interacting with those different from them. Near Neighbours works to bring them together to improve their neighbourhoods through social action in areas that are of shared concern and common values.
In the Black Country, it is administered through the Church Urban Fund (CUF) and is part of the Transforming Communities Together joint venture between Lichfield Diocese and CUF.
All Saints Church Darlaston in partnership with Walsall Council and Walsall College Adult and Community learning recently delivered a fully accredited ESOL course with funding from Near Neighbours (pictured above). The funding allowed the Church to provide childcare facilities and subsided the cost for students who are not eligible for grant support, breaking down the barriers they faced to learning.
The Near Neighbours small grants fund has awarded seed capital worth over £5.3m to over 1,600 projects. These projects have impacted the lives of over a million people and 71% of projects have continued to run after the initial seed capital was spent.
Projects work to address a variety of issues such as integration, employment skills, mental health, environmental work, and homelessness. 53% of Near Neighbours projects provide new skills to the unemployed and 33% offer important social support to refugees.
Minister for Faith Lord Bourne said: "Near Neighbours have a fantastic track record in delivering real and lasting changes to many communities across the country. We want everyone to make the most of the opportunities that living here offers and Near Neighbours are well positioned to support Government in bringing forward our bold proposals to create a stronger, better integrated Britain. I am delighted to be able to confirm our continued support today, and I am confident that this funding will be used to create a wide range of opportunities for people of all backgrounds to mix, socialise and work together to make their communities even better places to live."
Chairman of Near Neighbours trustees, Baroness Eaton, commented: “I am thrilled to hear Near Neighbours will be continuing its vital work in creating harmony and friendships within communities in England. From visiting Near Neighbours projects in the past, I have no doubt this funding from the government for a further year will ensure an even greater impact for our diverse local communities.”
This new funding will enable Near Neighbours to expand their vital work within England’s diverse communities by providing grants to community projects, providing safe spaces for difficult conversations and by supporting Places of Welcome. Another strand of work for the programme is faith leadership training which fosters open discussion and tolerance, along with encouraging women and young people into leadership roles.
Paul Hackwood, Executive Director of Near Neighbours, said: “Near Neighbours has been working within communities in England for many years and has impacted over one million people from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. I’m excited to see that work continue a further year where we will be reaching more communities and further expanding the work. This funding provides us with the opportunity to continue build social cohesion and public confidence in our diverse society.”