Forty-five community groups from across West Yorkshire were given extra reason to be celebrating last week after being issued with a share of more than £200,000.
The Safer Communities Fund allocates grants to local projects which aim to improve communities, with the majority of funding coming via cash seized from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
After the first round of grants, £218,000 was issued out to representatives from successful applicants, who received their giant cheques at Tong High School at a special presentation.
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, handed over the money and explained why the Safer Communities Fund was so vital to communities.
He said: “As funding cuts continue to impact on charities and voluntary organisations, I am delighted to be able to provide these groups with the money that will allow them to provide an invaluable service to our local communities.
“The feedback I received from representatives of these groups at last night's event was extremely supportive and I was really interested to hear about the projects they will be delivering locally.
“I am really looking forward to working closely with the groups who will be key partners in making our communities safer and feeling safer.”
One registered charity, which will benefit from one of the biggest grants, is the Shantona Women’s Centre, located in the Roundhay area of Leeds.
The organisation, which provides support to mothers and children from a range of backgrounds, was allocated £8,000 from the scheme which will go towards the ‘Strong Mothers, Stronger Daughters’ project, launched in partnership with ‘Getaway Girls’.
More than eight languages are fluently spoken at the centre, which aims to tackle some of society’s taboo subjects, such as domestic violence and child sexual exploitation, whilst also acting as a support group.
Nahid Rasool, director of the centre, said the money was crucial in helping to launch the latest project and she hopes it will help women prevent issues from arising.
“We are a proactive organisation in that we are trying to prevent these problems before they have even happened,” Ms Rasool said.
“With Strong Mothers, Stronger Daughters, we hope to inform mothers on ways they can protect their children, whilst also teaching about social media and the best way for them to support their daughters in these circumstances.”
She added: “It will be a free eight-week programme for three groups of mothers, and three groups of daughters, meeting to discuss the best way to support the child. There is nothing else quite like it in the city.”
Meanwhile, in Bradford, the Bangladeshi Community Association Bradford (BCAB) was allocated just less than the Leeds support service, with £7,712 handed over to help with ‘Inspire Youths’.
BCAB works in one of the most deprived areas of the city, Bowling and Barkerend, and looks to actively engage youths from all backgrounds, whilst also helping residents with tasks such as job applications, welfare advice and translations.
Jalal Uddin, centre manager, explained how BCAB was planning on using the money.
“The project name is Inspire Youth and, as it says, we hope to inspire young people in terms of development, socialising, understanding and community cohesion.
“Activities will be run to help young people divert from things such as drugs and gang culture, and be more aware of things like having a healthy lifestyle and being more active.
“It’s also helping out with sport events, bringing people together, and helping to educate different cultures about each other.”
On the importance of the funding, Mr Uddin added: “There has been a huge 33per cent cut in the local youth services across Bradford so the funding we have received here from the police, has allowed us to continue providing projects from here.”
The second grant round for the Safer Communities Fund will open on 12th May and, despite the positive response from the first allocation, Mr Burns-Williamson is hoping to share even more funds next time.
He explained: “Under current legislation, the Government keeps half of the money seized from criminals. This is cash which could potentially double the amount available within my Safer Communities Fund.
“I am therefore leading a nationwide campaign to bring this money back and would urge everyone to sign my petition which would ensure the subject is discussed in parliament.”
If you would like to sign the petition please visit action.westyorkshire-pcc.gov.uk/pag/s/giveusbackallthemoney