14 Dec 2016

Catherine Miller is the Environet Manager based in Rhyl. She had a chat with Morgan Armstrong from WCVA’s Active Inclusion team, about what can be achieved environmentally with the help of a grant from the Active Inclusion Fund and whether the process is as complicated as people think.

Morgan tells us - "The Active Inclusion Fund is a great initiative helping organisations of all types in Wales; to access vital EU funding to help them deliver training and employment skills to those people in our communities that need this type of help the most".

Active Inclusion funding is available to the third sector in Wales to carry out non- prescriptive project activities that help those  facing barriers to getting work related training and qualifications. From lack of experience to a work limiting health condition, projects can apply for funding to help these people take steps to get them closer towards employment.

Morgan goes on to tell us about one particular group in Denbighshire, NEWVOL (Part of Denbighshire Voluntary Services Council) - 'I think that this will be a very relevant example for the Environet groups, especially in demonstrating how the fund can not only enable people to gain skills and work experience but can also deliver environmental benefits, raise environmental awareness and educate people in conservation and habitat enhancement.'

NEWVOL applied for funding to support individuals living in rural south Denbighshire in gaining training, qualifications and volunteer placements. They started work in October 2015.

Project leader Isobel Smith supported participants to gain qualifications and skills to help them become work ready. One group supported in the process has been North East Wales Wildlife (NEWW), where activities included clearing ponds of reeds which were causing them to silt up and dry out, becoming uninhabitable for the great crested newts which had been spotted there.

Morgan And Mario At Trenant Reserve
Participant, Mario Jones helping with the pond clearance with Active Inclusion Performance Officer Morgan Armstrong

PAUL Furnborough, Reserves Development Manager at NEWW said the following, in thanks to the participants of the project - "NEWW was joined by volunteers from NEWVOL's Active Inclusion project to help us manage our Trefnant Nature Reserve. The group tackled a dried up pond which was overgrown with bulrush in the damp areas and brambles around the edges; pulling up the bulrush and using loppers and slashers to knock back the bramble. In just 2 hours we had the patch under control again. This work will help the pond to retain its water better, increases the structural variation and amount of sunlight reaching the pond; and will help us survey it at night for pond breeding great crested newts. My thanks to the group - you'd be welcome to return anytime!"

This type of activity in a community is not only beneficial in conserving and enhancing biodiversity but also provides community members from hard to reach groups with the opportunity to gain skills in conservation. Alongside specific skills in conservation - participants also get the chance to develop key skills in time keeping and job searching which are fundamental to their gaining of confidence and employability.'

Active Inclusion offers participants from several target groups including, amongst others, youth, over 54's and those with work limiting health conditions, the opportunity to gain qualifications in work relevant skills, access volunteer opportunities and support in moving closer towards and into employment.

Grants from £10,000 to £400,000 are available requiring various rates of match funding. Eligible costs include direct project costs and staff salaries and funding can cover up to 90% of costs for some of the lower levels of grant.

Morgan explains: "To be able to apply, groups must first complete an eligibility questionnaire. Once accepted they will be on what is known as the Approved Beneficiaries List and will be invited to apply for grants when the different funding streams become available. There will be grants available until 2019 and projects can be funded for up to 2 years. There is more information on the Active Inclusion webpages on WCVA's website.

If you have an environmental project that you think could benefit from this funding then Environet would love to hear from you at environet@wcva.org.uk. We know EU funding can seem complex and hard to access, but we're here to help! We're also happy to help you explore collaborative or partnership projects that can help share the workload of grant and project management between organisations.

In the spring time Environet will be holding some regional events where Active Inclusion will be one area that we'll be sharing information about. If this would be of interest to you please email environet@wcva.org.uk with the subject line 'Spring events' or fill in our short survey