Innovation Fund despair

Cath Hill
Cath Hill

THE town remains on target despite a major bid for funding to help hundreds of young people into employment being rejected.

The Government’s £30m Innovation Fund was set up to support social investment projects with the aim of supporting disadvantaged young people at risk of becoming long term unemployed.

The Tees Valley had been identified as one of the areas most in need, with Hartlepool’s youth unemployment rated the third highest in the country.

But an application for funding has been rejected.

The decision was taken towards the back end of last year but a report was presented to Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee this week.

The Innovation Fund was commissioned via two rounds, the first of which focused on 14 to 24 year olds.

The second round, which Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU) bid for on behalf of the region, focused on helping hundreds of disadvantaged young people aged 14 and 15 years to improve their attendance, attitude and behaviour at school and reduce their risk of becoming long term not in education, employment and training (NEET).

In May 2011, the Government announced a package of measures to help address youth unemployment, one of which was the three-year Innovation Fund.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said bids could be submitted for up to £3m per year over a period of up to three years.

A cabinet report said: “Targeted geographical areas were said to be those where youth unemployment/not in education, employment and training rates were particularly high.

“Within the initial DWP documentation, ‘Teesside’ was specifically identified as one of those areas most in need.”

Independent councillor Cath Hill said: “We are one of the highest areas for unemployment among young people, yet we are turned down.

“I can’t wait to hear the places that have got this.”

The report added: “It was confirmed by TVU that their bid was the only one submitted for the Tees Valley sub-region and as it was unsuccessful, there will be no Innovation Fund provision delivered within this geographical area.

“However, if any future tendering opportunities become available through the Innovation Fund then cabinet will be informed.”

Labour councillor Marjorie James, chair of the council’s scrutiny co-ordinating committee, added: “We need to understand why the bid has failed.”

The TVU application outlined that Stockton Borough Council be the contract holder and it would be a three year, Tees Valley wide project aimed at providing intensive support to those 14 to 15 year olds.

The aim was to help a minimum of 500 and maximum of 1,500 young people and there would have been dedicated mentors to support the youngsters.