Next week (7 March) Bristol City Council’s Cabinet is set to consider allocation of grants worth £3.29m from the Bristol Impact Fund to 49-life improving projects to help the city’s most disadvantaged people.
The local voluntary sector has helped to design the process to make awards from the fund. It brings together many existing city council grants into one place, allowing money to be allocated in a fairer, well planned way to achieve maximum benefit for local people.
Recommendations to Cabinet propose support for voluntary sector organisations working in areas including mental health and social isolation, hate crime, refugees and asylum seekers, employment and skills, HIV support, digital access and community hubs.
If approved 31 new organisations will benefit from the fund, joining 39 others which have been funded under previous grants. The schemes being considered have a particular focus on the people and places in the city where needs are greatest.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “The Bristol Impact Fund puts our money where our mouth is. We’ve been talking about the need for other players in the city to take on the shared city challenges enabled by the council. This is a prime example of this being brought to life and we’ll be considering the recommendations for distributing the fund very carefully before reaching a decision on individual awards.
“The aim of the fund is to focus on the big issues that affect disadvantage and inequality. By pooling our grants in this way we have greater visibility of the whole picture so we can make sure that the money is working as hard as possible for the people who need it most. This will help us deliver on our promise to make Bristol a fairer city and provide a major boost for many voluntary and community organisations.”
Councillor Asher Craig, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “We recognise that voluntary organisations are vital to many people’s lives and this is why we’re continuing to invest in them through this fund. We are grateful to the organisations that have helped to bring forward recommendations for Cabinet to consider because their insight ensures the fund can really work for the voluntary sector.
“Of course there is only a finite amount of funding available and we realise that sadly some bidders won’t be successful. In those cases officers will provide detailed feedback to help them strengthen future bids and try to connect them to other potential funders.”
A number of organisations sat alongside the council on a panel which assessed the medium and large bids worth more than £10,000. These included Quartet Community Foundation, Locality, Bristol Ageing Better, the Big Lottery Fund and Wylde Meadows Consultancy. Smaller grants were also assessed by a panel with an independent member.
Adam Rees, Programme Director at Bristol Ageing Better, said: “The city’s voluntary and community sector are vital partners in addressing the challenges facing Bristol. It was important that they have been involved in the design of the fund as well as in this decision-making. I am pleased to have sat on the advisory panel alongside council and voluntary sector colleagues to recommend how we could get the biggest impacts from the available resources.”
Sandra Meadows, independent advisor on the BME voluntary sector from Wylde Meadows Consultancy, said: "Bristol City Council and partners worked extremely hard to ensure funding remains available through the Bristol Impact Fund to support the vital work of our voluntary and community organisations. Despite having to make some difficult decisions, we are confident that recommendations to Cabinet are in line with our focus to help the most disadvantaged in our city through a wide variety of services. I am pleased to have played a role in such an innovative, well managed process that so clearly demonstrates the benefits of good partnership work and diversity of thought."
In recommending which organisations to fund, the panel looked at how bids addressed key challenges; which groups would profit; which part of the city they’d benefit and what other projects were already being funded in the city. Organisations bidding for grants were asked to demonstrate how they could use their skills and experience to address five key challenges which affect disadvantage including:
improving access to information
reducing social isolation and improving mental health and wellbeing
enabling influence and participation in the community
There was also a requirement to show how they could provide timely support to help people to live independently, whilst supporting and connecting communities.
The plans recommend that 70 organisations are funded to deliver 49 proposals – 31 organisations are new to the streamlined funds and 23 of these have not benefitted from any council funding previously. Many of the projects are partnerships, with voluntary sector organisations working together to benefit local people. It also recommends that £140,000 is reserved to commission organisations to deliver voice and influence for equalities groups.
There will be some organisations which will no longer receive grants from the council and where possible, the council would connect these organisations to other potential funders. The Bristol Impact Fund will also make it easier for other funders in the city to recognise where they may be able to complement the council’s grants, effectively pooling money to address common issues if they wish.