Two South East community organisations are set to benefit from a share of £1m, as NatWest reveals the winners of the latest round of its Skills & Opportunities Fund. 

The NatWest Skills & Opportunities Fund was set up in 2015 to create opportunities for people in disadvantaged communities to gain qualifications, financial capability & entrepreneur skills or start a business. Since then, over £3.9m has been distributed to good causes in England & Wales through the Fund.

Citizens Advice Maidstone is working with Citizens Advice Tunbridge Wells, who both provide financial capability sessions, as well as free, confidential and impartial advice to residents in a wide range of locations and settings. They have received funding for their project, Make it Count, which will target residents and families living in isolated rural locations within the Boroughs of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells to improve their financial resilience and capability.

Let’s Do Business Group (South East) Limited, based in St Leonards-on-Sea, supports the economic development of Hastings and the wider East Sussex area by helping new and budding entrepreneurs. Its Business Builder project has received funding to provide start-up workshops, mentoring support, online training and specialist advice for deprived communities.

Tim Boag, Chair of NatWest’s South East Regional Board, said: “Supporting not-for-profit community organisations is a crucial part of our commitment to making a real, long term difference for disadvantaged communities in the South East. Since we launched the Skills & Opportunities Fund two years ago, the projects we’ve funded across the South East have so far made a positive difference to more than 1,600 disadvantaged and at risk people. This includes supporting 23 new business start-ups, helping 80 people get into employment and another 234 achieve professional qualifications. In addition to the funding we will also look to partner with each winner through mentoring, volunteering and advice.”

Bonny Malhotra, Chief Executive Officer of Citizens Advice Maidstone, said: “It is fantastic to receive this funding which will allow Citizens Advice Maidstone to provide essential money management training to residents, helping them avoid falling into debt and manage paying their bills. We know we can make the biggest difference where we empower people to help themselves. Our trainers will enable people to manage budgets effectively and provide one-to-one support to maximise income and increase their understanding of financial opportunities. We will provide sessions to more than 500 residents in the rural areas of both districts. 

Sean Dennis, Deputy Chief Executive of Let’s Do Business Group, said: “We are absolutely thrilled at receiving this award and would like to thank NatWest for choosing us. As the leading business support organisation in the region, we already have a long and successful track record of helping businesses start, grow and prosper. But this programme really allows us to provide a far greater level and depth of support than we would otherwise be able to, which will enable candidates to develop the skills and knowledge they will need, from experts who have done or are already doing it themselves. We will provide full application details shortly, but if anyone wishes to register their interest in the meantime, all they have to do is get in touch and we’ll take it from there.” 

Nearly 600 organisations from across England & Wales applied to gain funding for community projects. You can find out more about Citizens Advice Maidstone and Let’s Do Business, as well as the other 32 winning organisations in England & Wales, and how their inspiring projects will be making a difference in communities by visiting: http://skillsandopportunitiesfund.natwest.com/winners/

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