The Black Country LEP covers part of the West Midlands, including Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. The overall Building Better Opportunities investment in the area is £23,700,000. The four Building Better Opportunities programmes within the Black Country have worked collaboratively to ensure the best, integrated support for the individuals they help, and the most efficient use of resources to achieve results.
Bridges offers support to those over 25 years of age, who make up the largest group of unemployed and workless residents in this LEP area.
The Bridges project provides individually tailored support to those with complex barriers to work and additional needs. The partnership consists of a diverse range of organisations covering a wide range of specialisms including supporting individuals with mental and physical health issues & disabilities, drug and alcohol issues, LGBTQ individuals, and refugees and migrants. Participants receive one-to-one mentoring, and support with confidence, motivation, CVs and applications forms, job-searching and volunteering.
The support offered by Community Matters is designed to meet the needs of local people, communities and employers in the most deprived areas in the Black Country. Throughout the programme, Community Matters will support 2,800 people to move into education, training, employment or job searching.
The organisations who form Community Matters have extensive expertise in supporting lone parents, refugees, people with long term medical conditions, deaf people and those who have had substance misuse problems.
Activities range from advice on managing finances, accredited training in subjects such as IT and Health and Safety, and workshops on CV writing and interview techniques. Participants can develop new skills through activities that involve radio and TV, volunteering in the community and learning about horticulture.
Family Matters provides employment support for adults within Troubled Families, lone parent families, families in poverty, or families at risk of poverty, helping to address the range of complex barriers to employment they may experience. Family Poverty was identified as a particular issue for the Black Country LEP - the percentage of children living in poverty was above average in Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall and Dudley. By helping adults within troubled families and families facing poverty, this project will help improve the lives of the children within these families.
This project focuses on increasing financial and digital inclusion for those who are most vulnerable to debt, or who lack the confidence or skills to get online.
The project helps individuals to develop the basic skills needed for employment, accessing learning and online job search and applications. These skills will also improve their financial situation, helping individuals to access Universal Credit and bank accounts.
More than one third of people in Wolverhampton and Sandwell are in debt, along with almost one third of people in Walsall and one quarter of people in Dudley. With the introduction of Universal Credit, financial confidence and personal budgeting will become even more vital to help individuals avoid debt.