Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence


Memorandum by The Coalfields Regeneration Trust (COA 24)

1.  EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  The Coalfields Task Force report of 1998 recommended that Government invest in a "ring-fenced fund to support coalfields regeneration" (page 52 para 6.40). The Coalfields Regeneration Trust is the result of that recommendation.

  The Trust is an independent charity and limited company that supports coalfields communities through grant-making investment and strategic interventions. To date it has invested £69 million in over 1,000 projects.

  As a product of the Task Force report, and as a key player in regeneration of coalfields communities, the Trust would like to comment upon its own role, responsibilities, policies and practices and the lessons that have been learned over the past 4 years relating to community regeneration. In particular, this evidence continues to support the argument that:

    —  The social or "people" side of regeneration, whilst often undervalued, is vital to the success of coalfields regeneration, and is equal in importance to "hard" economic strategies.

    —  A commitment to Government funding for the support of regenerating coalfields communities is essential and should provide for a medium term 10-year strategy.

    —  Detailed local knowledge is essential to an effective targeting of funds.

    —  Community development and capacity building is an essential ingredient to grass-roots project investment.

    —  Special projects and partnership initiatives, which ensure ownership of change by local people, are needed in addition to grant making.

—  As pit closures still continue—an early response combined with specialist knowledge of the mining culture, can lessen the blow to both workforce and surrounding community.

    —  The supportive and informal environment provided by the community and voluntary sector makes it a good place to engage in regeneration initiatives dealing with learning, health and welfare.

    —   Special efforts need to continue to make sure that coalfields communities receive maximum benefit from land reclamation and inward investment.

2.  THE ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITY OF THE COALFIELDS REGENERATION TRUST

2.1  Defining "the coalfields"

  When the Trust was launched in 1999, it was primarily as a grant-making body, supporting "coalfields communities".

  In order to invest funding in line with its brief and comply with the Charity Commission requirements, the Trust had to come to a definition of a "coalfields community", as distinct from other communities. The definition adopted was based on research by Sheffield Hallam University. This research defined coalfields wards as those having 10% or more of the male population in 1991 involved in the energy industry. This research, combined with the Indices of Multiple Deprivation informs the Trust's funding strategy but it is tempered by detailed on-the-ground information based on local knowledge.

  2.2  To explain: electoral wards are, logistically, the smallest area that agencies can easily target. However, a ward that is not designated as being a coalfields ward under the Sheffield Hallam definition (because overall only a small percentage of people were involved in the energy industry) may contain an estate or village that is almost wholly inhabited by former mine-workers and their families.

  The Trust would look more closely at an application from such an area in the initial stages of application, in order to determine that a coalfields community was genuinely being targeted. This ensures that relevant communities do not miss out on funding because they fall foul of the strict definition of "coalfields community", which is based on ward-wide data.

  Equally, an electoral ward that is, on average, affluent (and therefore not a priority according to the Indices of Multiple Deprivation) may contain pockets of deprivation. The local knowledge of the Trust's on-the-ground staff again ensures that such pockets are not put at a disadvantage by their proximity to more affluent areas.

2.3  Lessons learnt:

  From the outset, the Trust has accepted that ward boundaries do not necessarily define communities in a way that is meaningful either to the communities themselves, or to regeneration professionals. The Trust has adopted a flexible system to address this issue, and this is enabled by detailed local knowledge, supplied by a network of regionally located staff.

3.  MISSION STATEMENT AND POLICY APPROACH

3.1  Mission statement:

  Working with partners, our mission is to lead the way in coalfields regeneration and to restore healthy, prosperous and sustainable communities.

  Within this mission, the Trust has two key objectives:

    —  To complement the work of RDAs and other economy-driven agencies by focusing on the so-called "softer", or social side of regeneration.

    —  To inform and influence policy-makers with regard to coalfields issues, and bend mainstream spend into needy coalfields communities.

3.2  Social regeneration:

  Economic and social regeneration must go hand in hand. By working with other agencies with a focus on physical regeneration, the Trust provides added value in ensuring the communities are connected to new opportunities in their areas.

  It is now well documented (Joseph Rowntree research being the best cited example), that "trickle-down" arguments, where physical change naturally translates into economic growth do not work in all cases.

  Our approach is to make regeneration programmes more cost effective by bringing local communities closer to wider strategies in their areas. Supporting the social economy also results in improvements to the fiscal economy. The Trust therefore seeks to award grants to grass roots projects where social needs are met by local people with stakes in the projects' success. This policy helps to ensure that money stays in the locality, to the benefit of the local population.

  3.3  This "bottom-up" approach to coalfields regeneration demands a consequent investment in community support, or capacity building, and the Trust provides this in two ways:

    —   Locally based Regeneration Managers help groups to develop ideas into deliverable projects, which can be put forward to Trustees for possible funding.

    —  If Trustees decide to offer a grant, the in-house Grants team takes a problem-solving approach to issues that crop up throughout the life of that grant, ensuring that ongoing support is maintained.

  This approach illustrates value for money provided by the Trust's staff. In working directly with communities a network of people is created. By working directly with a team in one project, and linking them with people in other projects, the Trust is developing extensive social networks, often across several geographical areas. This is particularly valuable in areas where capacity is low. The Trust is increasingly engaged in developing special projects to stimulate local activity in response to specific problems or circumstances.

3.4  Lessons learnt:

  Supporting the social economy can help to reach areas that other strategies cannot, but it can be difficult to find support for this approach within competing mainstream policy-making and resourcing—especially when results are likely to be qualitative and relative rather than quantitative and absolute. Investment in coalfields communities through grant-making alone is insufficient. The Trust is implementing approaches which are imperative to kick-start activity in some areas.

4.  RESPONDING TO PIT CLOSURE

  4.1  The Trust began by assisting communities that had suffered closure during the last quarter of the 20th century. Now, in the 21st century, a new wave of closures has begun. During 2002, the Prince of Wales colliery in Yorkshire was closed. Clipstone colliery in Nottinghamshire is undergoing the same fate. The Selby Mine Complex (once the jewel in the crown of the British mining industry) is scheduled for closure in Spring 2004.

  4.2  One of the Trust's responses, has been to devise SKILLSbuilder—an innovative programme to re-skill miners for a career in the construction industry, an industry enjoying a boom and where there are fundamental skills shortages. Through the SKILLSbuilder programme, each miner receives a detailed assessment of his skills, and what will be needed to commence a suitable new career in construction. The miner is then accepted onto a retraining programme, with a guarantee of work with a local employer on completion. The Trust pays the miners a tapering wage in the retraining period in line with increased competence, with the employer picking up the full wage on qualification.

  SKILLSbuilder is a particular labour market intervention offering a preventative approach. It intervenes at the point of need preventing long-term unemployment. This reduces public outlay in benefits, and ensures that the work ethic is still strong in participants.

  4.3  In the case of the Selby mine closures, the Trust has been involved in a number of ways, in addition to SKILLSbuilder. Namely:

    —  As a member of the Government's Selby Task Force, the Trust helped to broaden the Task Force agenda, to include a consideration of social/community aspects.

    —  The Trust's cross-boundary approach helped to ensure that coalfields issues were discussed sub-regionally, across all affected areas, rather than just in the locality of the pit.

    —  The Trust played a key linking role, to ensure that the decisions of the Task Force filtered down to officer level, and that the various agencies involved acted in a co-ordinated way. Initiatives such as the Pit-head Information Points, containing information on activities by the relevant agencies facilitated this.

    —  The Trust utilised its understanding of the mining work culture to foster trust between agencies, workforce and union representatives.

    —  The Trust's independent charity status enabled it to step in to fund and organise activities such as retraining when statutory agencies were bound by the 90-day rule (ie they could take no action until a redundancy notice had been served, despite the fact the 90 days would be insufficient to retrain staff prior to redundancy). Even when the 90-day rule was waived the Trust still played a significant role. Trust-organised programmes were successful largely because they recognised the need for free on-site training, timed to fit around shift patterns.

4.4  Lessons learnt:

  In the case of pit closure, an early response is vital. The Trust's independent charity status and ability to co-ordinate action across agencies can ensure that "gaps" in provision are successfully filled. Reskilling programmes can provide a cost-effective route to alternative work, but a flexible approach, which takes into account individual circumstances and mining work culture, is required. In terms of the wider community, cross-boundary thinking is vital, as the "reach" of pit closure is likely to extend well beyond the immediate locality.

5  THE TRUST'S FUNDING BASE

5.1  Current funding arrangements

  All three Governments offer the Trust funding in discrete "Rounds" of differing length:
Funding Government Length of current funding roundAmount (£) Operational period of current funding round
ODPM3 years£45m April 2002—end March 2005
Communities Scotland2 years £3.1mApril 2002—end March 2004
Welsh Assembly3 years £4.26mApril 2003—end March 2006

  Taken across the Trust's whole operation in three countries, 93p out of every pound goes into community support. Overhead is kept within 10% of total funding.

5.2  Developments in the funding base

  In the past 18 months, the Trust has attempted to diversify its funding base and add-value to its development activities by appointing an internal fundraising team. This team has succeeded in drawing down European funding valued at £1.3m, corporate funding valued at £150k, and funding from other organisations eg: Football Foundation valued at £470k.

  5.3  It is the intention of the Trust to increase influencing levels on policy and spend by establishing joint venture initiatives to maximise the use of regeneration resources.

  However, currently the Trust has to work on the assumption that its operations will close at the end of each funding round—a situation which has a profound impact on planning. In effect, the Trust is bound to select projects early in each funding round, to ensure that spend is achieved before deadline, and monitoring performed in a timely fashion. This means that the majority of funding must be allocated within the first 18 months of the round, creating frustration amongst communities, and amongst Trust staff who must turn down viable applications that are presented later on. Because funds must be allocated quickly, it is difficult for the Trust to support "spin-off" projects that arise out of existing projects once capacity has developed to a sufficient level.

  5.4  The Trust wishes to create stability in being able to support communities in a consistent manner. This will also ensure better planning of spend and policy. The Trust is discussing with the ODPM the possibility of a "rolling programme" of funding which would mean that at the end of each financial year, the Trust would know for certain that it has a further 3 years of operation.

5.5  Lessons learnt:

  Discrete funding rounds, over short-term periods, limit the Trust's ability to respond effectively to community needs as they develop over time.

6.  WELFARE

  6.1  Welfare is a cross-cutting theme for the Trust, as all of its activities are directed towards improving the quality of life for coalfields communities in some way.

  However, particular programmes could be said to relate directly to this theme. For example:

    —  The Trust funded a special programme through seventy-five Citizens' Advice Bureaux to provide money/debt advice in coalfields areas.

    —  The Trust upgraded and extended the activities of miners' welfare organisations, helping them to provide a more rounded service to the community, often including a "one-stop-shop" advice service to signpost local people to appropriate welfare services.

6.2  Health

  Taking account of the Durham University Analysis of indices of multiple deprivation, which highlights poor health in mining communities as a common thread, the Trust has recently extended its charity objectives in order to assist with certain elements of mining-related healthcare. The Trust's policy and practice focuses on two aspects:

    —  Preventative Programmes.

    —  Dealing with the legacy of mining-related ill health.

PREVENTATIVE

  Under this theme, the Trust invests in programmes to promote healthy living, fight substance abuse and prevent teenage pregnancy. However, it also recognises the immeasurable value of family support programmes which contribute to the relief of household stress. The policy ethos here, as elsewhere, is to recognise the contribution of the voluntary and community sector in providing an environment which can tackle personal health issues.

DEALING WITH THE LEGACY

  The Trust provides funding for ancillary projects which impinge on health, for example, funding community transport schemes to enable those who are housebound to lead a fuller life.

  The Trust is currently working with Partners in the Primary Care Trusts to investigate the feasibility of an innovative centre caring for those with severe mining-related illness such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

6.3 Education

  The Trust's policy is not to fund projects or initiatives that should, ordinarily, be funded by statutory provision.

  The Trust also recognises that learning can be a daunting prospect for some people. The voluntary/community sector can provide a level of informal participation that builds confidence, and may lead to more formal learning in time.

  This being so, activity in education focuses on:

    —  Initiatives to foster lifelong learning—particularly with young people.

    —  Supplementary activities that help to make statutory learning more effective. For example funding breakfast clubs or after-school clubs in deprived areas.

    —  Projects that build life-skills.

    —  Providing assistance to schools in improving the reading abilities of pupils aged between 11 and 16.

    —  The Trust also recognises the importance of accrediting learning gained through volunteer work.

    —  With this is mind, it has formed a partnership with the Regen School to provide community activists in coalfields areas with workshop-based learning on key issues such as project sustainability and planning, and mentoring support via a network of successful coalfields community entrepreneurs.

6.4  Social issues

  The Trust recognises that there is a wider definition of poverty—ie poverty of opportunity and aspiration operating in coalfields communities. This understanding underpins funding decisions, and grants are awarded to groups and projects that will increase opportunities for those taking part.

7.  CREATING EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES

  7.1  The Trust has supported Intermediate Labour Market (ILM) projects as an important tool to tackle long-term unemployment. In considering applications from ILM projects, the Trust takes the following into account:

    —  The ILM should genuinely provide a nurturing environment, as well as learning opportunities.

    —  The project should attempt to address social need, as well as helping people back into work.

    —  It should generate wealth for the local community.

    —  It should be based on good hard targets (ie it should tackle those—ex-offenders, long-term unemployed, those with problem backgrounds—who would find it difficult to get work any other way.

7.2  Lessons learnt:

  ILM projects are one example of efficient labour market initiatives but they should tackle the hard-to-reach to have value and aim to address social need. Other Transitional Labour Market programmes can and should also be used preventatively to ensure that long-term unemployment is minimised (see SKILLSbuilder section on responding to pit closure).

8.  RECLAMATION OF SITES

  8.1  The Trust believes that there must be integration between major physical investment on former colliery sites and the existing communities. To contribute to achieving this synergy ensuring that inward investment does lead to opportunities for local communities, the Trust has joined forces with English Partnerships.

  By the end of 2003, the Trust will employ a three person roving team, funded by English Partnerships, to target areas within the National Coalfields Programme.

  The team will consist of:

    —  a community development worker, who will keep communities informed, and help them to take an active part in the regeneration process.

    —  a social enterprise co-ordinator who will help to develop an enterprise strategy for local people, based around each site.

    —  a jobs and training broker who will forge links with inward investors and companies involved in regeneration to translate the "local jobs for local people" ethos into practice.

8.2  Lessons learnt:

  The Trust's partnership with English Partnerships will combine social, economic and physical approaches to regeneration for best effect, enhancing the work of both agencies. Such joint ventures to focus on tackling problems collaboratively should be encouraged.

9.  ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

  9.1  Recently, the Trust has complemented its grant-making investments with partnership initiatives, drawing together different agencies to look at regional and national regeneration problems in a more holistic way. It has always maintained the importance of leverage of additional resource and energy and has aimed to ensure the participation of the community in this process both in decision-making and in sharing responsibility.

  9.2  The Trust is currently undertaking a major planning process, initially in England. This planning will look at each region in terms of need and what blend of activity, grant-making, partnership initiatives and special projects will best support a total regeneration package. As part of this process, the aim is to work increasingly alongside other regeneration agencies to maximise both resource and impact.

  9.3  In tandem with the planning activity, the Trust is embarking on an independent evaluation process. A central focus of this is to establish better qualitative evaluation methods to demonstrate the contribution of the activity generated by the Trust to increased quality of life.

9.4  Lessons learnt:

  As a new and emerging organisation the Trust has needed to ensure that it had the appropriate formal structures in place to operate in a manner that has given confidence to communities and funders alike. Working more closely with other partners is now seen as a priority.

Annex 1

SELBY MINE COMPLEX—A CASE-STUDY IN "JOINED-UP" REGENERATION

  It is fair to say that when the Task Force was convened to look at the issues surrounding the Selby mine complex closure, many questioned why the Trust had been included, and what it could "bring to the table". In the event, the Trust won recognition and respect for its contribution under a number of headings.

A different perspective

  Rightly or wrongly, there is a historical lack of trust between agencies and miners. Statutory organisations (for example, Job Centre Plus) are seen by the workforce as dealing with unemployment and benefits, rather than routes into employment and financial support. The Coalfields Regeneration Trust is not viewed in this way—partly because of its independent charity status, and partly because many Trustees and some staff share a mining background. This unique understanding of the workforce culture facilitated better working relationships with men and union representatives at Selby.

  In addition, the Trust represented the social agenda within a Task Force dominated by major economic agencies. The result has been to broaden the agenda of the Task Force, and acknowledge the important role of the community and voluntary sector in responding to mine closure.

Real "joined-up" thinking

  Inevitably, Task Forces involve high-level people, who can speak for their organisation, and make decisions. However, what matters is how those decisions filter down to officer level, as it is here where joined-up action does—or doesn't—occur. At Selby the Trust played a linking role, ensuring that the decisions of the Task Force were delivered on the ground.

  By organising Pit-head Information Points, and lobbying for members of the workforce to be trained as Advice Workers, the Trust also helped to provide consistent and trusted points of contact for the workforce.

  With its unique focus on coalfields (rather than local authority boundary areas), the Trust understood that the Selby closure would affect those communities where mine-workers lived—not just Selby itself. As a result, the Trust has pushed for "cross-boundary" thinking—arguing that the response to the Selby closure should be co-ordinated sub-regionally to avoid the man being penalized by the postcode.

Cutting through "hands-tied" situations

  Due to the 90-day rule, statutory bodies could not step in to provide assistance until a redundancy notice had been served. This was problematic because miners needed to begin retraining courses well before this, in order to get the necessary skills/qualifications prior to redundancy. Due to its independent charity status, the Trust was able to provide the necessary funding at the time when it was needed—overcoming the "hands tied" difficulties faced by other agencies.

Breaking down the barriers on training

  The Trust's guiding principle is "what works". At Selby, this involved recognition that college courses are difficult to fit around shift patterns, and that re-skilling the workforce would be better accomplished through free training, flexibly delivered on-site, amongst the peer group. The Trust funded and facilitated such training, thereby contributing to a higher participation and success rate than could otherwise have been expected. The following outlines the barriers that the Trust funding was able to overcome:

    —  Jobcentreplus training will only support vocational courses of up to 1 year. Courses which impact, for example, on community development and local confidence such as youth and community work programmes are not regarded as vocational.

    —  College provision is often problematic. It is often geared towards the younger post-16 age group, does not provide practical experience which employers demand, and does not fit around shift-work patterns, which prevents regular attendance. For example, many men would have preferred to have "chipped away" at a qualification during the 21 months from closure announcement in July 2002 to the expected closure itself in March 2004. However, there are no courses available leading to a significant qualification, and including practical experience. What provision does exist could only be accessed after redundancy.

Developing innovative programmes

  The SKILLSbuilder programme has helped Selby miners to re-skill for the construction industry, where there is a skills shortage. At a cost of under £4k per participant, this represents good value for the public pound.

  SKILLSbuilder is innovative in two ways:

    —  Participants can enter the programme without having been long-term unemployed. Most intermediate labour market projects insist that participants have been unemployed for six months before joining, which adds to the cost to the public purse, and reduces effectiveness as participants get out of the habit of work.

    —  It is highly flexible, and geared to the individual's needs. If a miner only needs a few weeks of retraining before he can take up work, then that is all he does, and a new participant takes up the training place. This differs from most college courses, which have a "minimum" viable attendance level, and who are often loathe to take on workers who will leave part-way through a course to take up employment.

Annex 2

REVIEW AND IMPACT, 1999-2002

  The recently printed "Review and Impact 1999-2002" document is submitted as an Annex to our submission. It clearly sets out the Trust's progress over the last three years, and in particular, the impact we are making to people's lives. It also contains details on the outputs achieved over this period against contracted targets. Members are encouraged to read this short document.

Achievements against contracted outputs




 
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