Access and Connect Fund: Flexible Finance for the Recovery

The grant needs to be used to support charities and social enterprises that have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis to get back on track and rebuild their business model/income generation/impact as the economy begins to recover, with the goal of supporting those organisations to be more financially resilient.

The grant needs to be blended with repayable finance (either in investment vehicles/funds and/or in deals with charities and social enterprises) but will not come ready packaged with the repayable finance.

The products which fund managers develop with this blend should fill gaps in the supply of the sort of finance which charities and social enterprises need to re-establish their enterprise activity and income generation as part of the recovery.

The result of this should be that more charities and social enterprises are able to use repayable finance as part of their journey to resilience and therefore the reach of social investment is extended.

Engaging all parts of the charity and social enterprise sector

Beyond getting the product right, they want to understand what are the barriers which are preventing the breadth of the charity and social enterprise sector from being able to access the finance they need?

They would like to hear from anyone who feels they have particular plans, perspective, knowledge base or potential solutions that may help us design our programme well.

To be part of this process, you can submit a response, or find more details.

VAL partners with BHIB Charities Insurance

VAL has been helping voluntary and community groups, who provide a range of services for some of the hardest to reach and most marginalisted in society, to thrive for over fifty years. By engaging with the BHIB Charities Insurance team, it will be providing another element of support for thousands of charity groups of all sizes throughout the region.

BHIB will be offering advice across a wide range of topics as part of the partnership, including legal and HR guidance, risk management, health and safety policies, insurance insights, trustee protection support, and even social media and cyber best practice guidance.

On top of this, and unique to the VAL offering, the BHIB team will be providing free health checks on any charity insurance needs, making sure that they are receiving the correct advice while allowing them to both understand and identify any potential risk they may face.

Ajay Mistry, Partnerships Director at BHIB Insurance Brokers, said:

We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with VAL and tap in to their expertise within the voluntary sector as we grow and develop this partnership.

In the time that we have been working alongside the team, we have been proud sponsors at the inaugural VAL Awards, as well as exhibiting at a number of VAL-hosted events. It’s been a great opportunity to learn and we’re very much looking forward to what the next phase of the project will bring.

Kevin Allen-Khimani, Executive Manager – Public Sector Contracts and Projects at VAL, added:

Myself and the team at VAL are thrilled to have BHIB on board – they have an excellent reputation and we know we are in good hands. This partnership is set to be hugely beneficial for our sector and it’s great to know that we are further expanding what we can offer in terms of support.

A dedicated website is set to launch in the coming weeks to provide additional information and enable charities and community groups to request a tailored quote from BHIB. In the meantime, anyone interested in finding out more information is encouraged to contact VAL or BHIB directly.

About BHIB Charities Insurance

BHIB Charities Insurance is brought to you by BHIB Insurance Brokers. They are an independent, Leicestershire-based Insurance Broker with over 50 years of trading history. They provide insurance and risk management support to charities of all sizes, including community/voluntary groups, clubs/societies and hobby/interest groups.

They are passionate about supporting local communities, no matter how big or small, and they are strengthening their connections in the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector.

They work closely with Aviva, the UK’s largest insurer, and have access to unique funding opportunities. They are proud to support the Aviva Community Fund, which offers charities and voluntary organisations the chance to receive funding for upcoming local projects planned in their community.

To find out more about BHIB, please visit or call 0330 013 0036.

Celebrating 2019 and looking forward to 2020

Now we’re all back at work and trying hard to keep to our new year’s resolutions and avoid all that leftover office chocolate, we want to take a look back at the last year as well as looking ahead to some of the things we’re excited about in 2020.


In January 2019 the Work.Live.Leicestershire (WiLL) project launched, aiming to help people in rural areas throughout Leicestershire to overcome barriers to training, employment, and well-being. VAL is one of nine delivery partners on the project, which is led by Vista.


In February the YES Project hosted an awards event to celebrate the progress of some of the young people on the project. It proved to be an inspiring afternoon hearing the award winners’ journeys; the barriers they’ve overcome, their achievements and plans for the future. The ten award winners were decided by each of the YES Project’s Delivery Partners.


On 1 March 2019 the GREAT Project held their annual showcase event, Changing Lives Together, to celebrate the achievements of some of our participants both past and present. Over 100 delegates attended from various organisations across Leicester and Leicestershire, including project partners.

GREAT Project team members at the GREAT Project Showcase event, March 2019

In March VAL was awarded £18,200 through the £3 million Connect Fund programme to promote social investment, a means of funding which could be vital to the future of the local Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector.


In April VALUES launched a new site at Danbury Gardens Extra Care in Humberstone, Leicester. The new site means that even more people can access VALUES services and get support. VALUES has been helping people with learning disabilities to make friends, learn new skills and have fun for over 20 years.

VAL published an Economic Impact Report, detailing the financial impact that we had on Leicester and Leicestershire in the previous financial year.


In May, VAL ran its first funding fair of the year in Melton. 15 funders ran stalls for over 135 attendees, and the event was opened by Cllr Pam Posnett, Chair of the County Council and Melton.


Volunteers Week is a national celebration of all things volunteering, taking place every year between 1-7 June. As the Volunteer Centre for Leicester and Leicestershire, VAL took an active role in promoting volunteers week across the city and county, including multiple events, free drop-in sessions, a Volunteer Fair and a thank you event for our own volunteers.

The GREAT Project reached its target of 500 participants after a huge amount of hard work by the project team. It also launched its #BehindEveryGREATMan campaign to recruit more male participants.


VAL welcomed the National Youth Agency, one of very few national charities based in Leicester, who moved their offices to Newarke Street after leaving their previous office space.

In July the YES Project learned that it had been nominated for the National Lottery’s 25th Birthday Awards, a huge honour to be recognised alongside 9 other projects in the Community and Charity category.


In August we released our Annual Review for 2018-19, covering some of the highlights of the previous year.

We also held a stall at the Belgrave Mela where we talked to members of the public about volunteering and supporting the local community.


In September we were thrilled to find out that our YES and GREAT Projects had received funding extensions to 2022, enabling both projects to continue helping people across Leicester and Leicestershire to overcome barriers and find work, training or education.

We also hosted Future Focus, VAL’s annual conference for the voluntary sector. This year was our 7th Future Focus, and one of our biggest and best yet. The conference was opened by Dr Nik Kotecha, Director of Morningside Pharmaceuticals, and closed by Melanie Mills, Director of Big Society Capital. Over 120 delegates attended eight workshops, plus VAL’s Annual General Meeting.


In October VALUES opened the Sandwich Station, a training shop for VALUES clients to learn work skills and gain experience in a real-life environment. Jon Ashworth, MP for Leicester South, officially opened the shop and the opening was featured on GEM 106 and East Midlands Today.

People with learning disabilities standing outside a sandwich shop

We also welcomed the Dutch Embassy, who hosted a Brexit information event Dutch citizens living in the UK, which was livestreamed on Facebook.


On 5 November VAL held its first ever Voluntary Awards for Leicester and Leicestershire. The awards celebrated local individuals and organisations for their contribution to the local community. 11 awards were handed out overall in a ceremony hosted by Rupal Rajani and sponsored by Morningside Pharmaceuticals, with award categories sponsored by various local businesses and charities.

Winners for Woodhouse and Woodhouse Eaves Good Neighbour Scheme pose with their award

Every year Trustees Week celebrates the work that Trustees across the country do and highlights why they are so important. VAL supported Trustees Week in 2019 by sharing the experiences of our own trustees and holding sessions for potential trustees as part of the Leicester Business Festival.


In December we held our second Funding Fair of 2019, with over 130 attendees for the event hosted by Leicester City Council.

It was also announced that the WiLL project will be extended until December 2020.

Finally, six members of VAL staff gave up their valuable free time on 23 December to support LOROS with sorting out their donations and creating Christmas cards for LOROS patients.

Coming up in 2020

After such a big year for VAL in 2019, there are a few things we’re really looking forward to in 2020:

  • The launch of our InVALuable Network, an opportunity for charities and businesses to come together and find out how they can support each other
  • VALUES hosting the launch of Mencap’s Round the World Challenge on 29 January
  • The relaunch of our training programme
  • The YES Project’s stakeholder event in February
  • The second annual VAL Awards for the voluntary sector in Leicester and Leicestershire (date to be confirmed)

We’d like to thank everyone who supported VAL in 2019 and we hope you’ll stick around and continue supporting us with all the exciting things we have coming up in 2020!

Social Investment Ready Leicestershire

So far, we have delivered a number of events and workshops such as Let’s Talk Good Finance, a stall at VAL’s bi-annual funding fair a Trading Strategies workshop and a Financial Planning training course. CASE and VAL have also been providing one to one support to local VCSE organisations to develop their social enterprise business models and access social investment to develop and grow.

Social investment is the use of repayable finance to help an organisation achieve a social purpose. Charities and social enterprises can use repayable finance to help them increase their impact on society, for example by growing their organisation, using it for cash flow, or buying assets like a new building.

This month we wanted to tell you about the case studies function on the Good Finance website. Case studies are a great way to learn from others and include as evidence in your own business case for investment.

The Good Finance case study section has a search function that enables you to look at case studies relevant to the:

  • Amount of investment
  • Location of the VCSE
  • Financial products such as blended funding (grant and repayable finance)
  • Social issue

The site is very informative – it also includes videos and podcasts.

Please do get in touch with us if you need support to develop or look at your funding plans and income streams.

We can help you if:

  • You want to find out more about social investment
  • You have a trading idea
  • Any of the Good Finance case studies appeal to you
  • You need help to get investment ready.
To access support, please contact VAL’s sector support team If using the online form, then please select “support for your voluntary organisation” in the drop down box.

Melton Space

Melton Space is a non-profit community workshop – that provides social and creative workshop space equipped with a broad range of activities. It is a space to meet, make, fix, create and share ideas & resources.

VAL met the treasurer at the county funding fair in Melton. Previously the organisation had enquired about changing their legal structure but not acted on it as yet.

There was now a pressing need to convert from their existing structure, due to applying for a tender to formally manage a café and visitor centre at the country park at the end of Wymondham Way, Melton Mowbray.

The purpose of the tender, if successful, would enable them to continue to have use of a country park premises where they run a cafe and as a space to meet, make, fix, create and share ideas & resources.

VAL helped the committee consider the incorporated status options, initially by reviewing their existing structure. As a non-charitable unincorporated association, they were able to convert to a Community Interest Company (CIC). Support was given to decide which type of CIC – large or small membership – was appropriate and then completion of the M&AA governing document. Followed by advice on how to take forward a special resolution with members and then completion of the application paperwork CIC 36 and IN01 .

The organisation was successful with their tender and obtaining CIC status.

“I want to thank you for the support and guidance you gave to me throughout the registration processes for Melton Space CIC.

I am grateful for the authoritative advice and the challenging questions regarding the choice of our incorporated status and the completion of the necessary paperwork. I was not looking forward to making the electronic application but once I started everything was very straight forward and I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised at the speed of the approval… less than 24 hours!!”

– Lloyd Stevens, Treasurer, Melton Space

If you are intending reviewing your legal structure, or looking to set up a VCSE organisation, then please get in touch with VAL’s sector support team’s helpline for support We allocate referrals weekly on a Wednesday.  If using the online form, please use the drop down box “support for your voluntary organisation.

Stars of the local voluntary sector celebrated at inaugural Voluntary Awards for Leicester and Leicestershire

The awards took place at Leicester’s Morningside Arena and were sponsored by Morningside Pharmaceuticals Ltd, which manufactures and suppliers quality Generic and Branded medicines to the UK and International markets.

The ceremony was hosted by BBC Radio Leicester presenter Rupal Rajani and Voluntary Action LeicesterShire’s Kevin Allen-Khimani. Kevin is VAL’s Executive Manager for Public Sector Contracts and Projects, and he came up with the idea of the VALLs as a way to recognise the important role played by thousands of voluntary organisations across the city and county, and the vital services they provide within their communities.

Kevin commented:

“We were thrilled with the number of entries we had for the VALLs, especially as it’s only our first year, and the calibre of our finalists was outstanding. So much so, that we didn’t envy the judges having to choose just one winner in each category!”

“We wanted the awards to give the unsung heroes in our sector the recognition they deserve and have thoroughly enjoyed celebrating with all our finalists and winners this evening.”

Award winners

VAL received 432 nominations for 11 award categories – the winners and finalists are all listed below:

City Charity of the Year (Sponsored by Action Coach)
  • The Bridge Homelessness to Hope (winner)
  • Hope Against Cancer
  • FreeVA
City Small Charity of the Year (Sponsored by Next)
  • Sound Café Leicester (winner)
  • Leicester City of Sanctuary
  • Team Troupers Dance Academy
County Charity of the Year (Sponsored by Freeths Solicitors)
  • Bodie Hodges Foundation (winner)
  • Norton Housing & Support
  • Menphys
County Small Charity of the Year (Sponsored by BHIB Insurance Brokers)
  • The Well (winner)
  • The Heera Foundation
  • Quorn Mills Park Bowling Club
Trustee of the Year
  • Linda Jones (winner)
  • Eileen Richardson
  • Christine Ringrose
Volunteer-Led Organisation of the Year (Sponsored by Zinthiya Trust)
  • Woodhouse & Woodhouse Eaves Good Neighbour Scheme (winner)
  • Baby Basics
  • Help the Homeless
Volunteer of the Year (Sponsored by Dluxe Magazine)
  • Emma Hallam (winner)
  • Adrian Key (special recommendation)
  • Capt. Matthew Taylor
  • Azar Richardson
  • Prue Padmore
Social Enterprise of the Year (Sponsored by East Midlands Chamber)
  • Dear Albert (winner)
  • Soulful Group
  • Iconic
Voluntary Sector Ally of the Year (Sponsored by Business 2 Business)
  • Caterpillar UK Limited (winner)
  • Barrie Stephen
  • Nicola Bassindale
Overall Charity of the Year
  • Woodhouse and Woodhouse Eaves Good Neighbourhood Scheme (winner)
Lifetime Achievement Award (Sponsored by Voluntary Action LeicesterShire)
  • Rick Moore (winner)

Find out more

You can read more about the VALLs in the Leicester Mercury, or by following us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

If you’re a charity who would like support with anything from recruiting volunteers to funding a new project, or if you are a local business who would like to know more about how you can support our voluntary sector, contact us via or on 0116 257 5050.

Election 12 December

Now that the election has been confirmed for 12 December 2019, the Charity Commission has sent a reminder to all charities of their particular responsibilities in the weeks ahead.

The guiding principle of charity law in terms of elections is that charities must be, and seen to be, independent from party politics.

Charity law applies to all types of charities from ones that are registered with the Charity Commission –unincorporated charities, charitable companies and charitable incorporated organisations (CIO). To charities that are unregistered –charitable unincorporated associations.

The political context for this election is very different from what people may have experienced in the past. It is recommended that trustees read the appropriate Charity Commission guidance, to make sure their charity is complying with the rules.

In the Charity Commission guidance – charities elections and referendums it explains how to steer clear of comparing the views of the charity with those of political parties or candidates taking part in the election.

The key legal principles from their guidance on political activity (CC9)   is that charities should remember:

  • Charities cannot have political purposes, and campaigning and political activity must only be undertaken by a charity in the context of supporting the delivery of their charitable purposes
  • In the political arena, a charity must stress its independence and ensure that any involvement it has with political parties is balanced; a charity must not give support or funding to a political party, candidate or politician
  • A charity may give its support to or raise concerns about specific policies advocated by political parties if it would help achieve its charitable purposes as long as it makes clear its independence from any political party
  • Trustees must protect their charity and not allow it to be used as a vehicle for the expression of the party political views of any individual trustee or staff member or by a party or candidate

The chief executive of the Charity Commission has written a blog called Charities and political campaigning: a reflection on charities’ responsibilities,

In the blog, she states “If charities appear to the public to be engaged in political debate, not because they are representing their beneficiaries or bringing expertise, but because they are taking a position on one side of a political divide, this undermines public confidence in charity as something special, which can inspire trust where other institutions do not.”

The Charity Commission have also published lessons learned during the last election in 2017. This publication includes case studies they dealt with during 2017 election. Such as Scope who sought advice from the commission after the Labour Party’s manifesto referred twice to research carried out by the charity in 2013.

Finally, they advise charities to be aware of the rules on what is called ‘third party campaigning’ under electoral law, which may affect your charity. The Electoral Commission has worked closely with charities to produce Non-party campaigners: where to start, using real-life case studies to provide advice to charity campaigners.

The guidance is for anyone spending significant amounts of money on issues-based campaigns, who will need to ascertain if any of their campaign spending should be regulated.

If your charity would like any advice on this topic, please contact our helpline on 0116 257 5050.

If you are using the online contact form, please select “ support for your voluntary organisation” in the drop down box.

ESF Community Grants Programme

Round 2: 15th November 2019 to 15th December 2019
Round 3: 15th June to 15th July 2020

Jointly funded by the SFA and the European Social Fund, the Community Grants programme gives small, voluntary and community sector organisations (with a turnover of less than £500,000) an opportunity to access funding to deliver projects that engage ‘hard to reach’ individuals and help them to progress into employment.

Grants of between £5,000 and £20,000 are available for projects or initiatives in Leicester and Leicestershire that help people take steps towards reaching the labour market, and developing their future career potential, whilst reducing unemployment and inactivity.

Activities which are eligible for funding include:

  • initial help with basic skills
  • work experience, including voluntary work
  • training, advice and counselling
  • confidence building
  • job search assistance and other help necessary to secure employment
  • engagement activities

Priority will be given to applications that demonstrate an ability to target participants who are:

  • Over 50
  • With Learning Difficulties and Disabilities
  • From Ethnic Minority Backgrounds
  • Women
  • Unemployed for over 6 months
  • Furthest removed from the labour market with significant barriers to employment

The East Midlands programme is being administered by Futures, and more information can be seen on their website.

To find out more about the Grant programme and to receive support with your application, contact:
Ashley Wilkinson (Community Grants Coordinator – East Midlands)

Tel: 07483 120941

The Y – Funding for Heritage Projects involving Young People

The Y Heritage Project will offer grants of between £3,000 and £30,000 to eligible organisations in Leicester or Leicestershire who are able to help deliver local heritage projects, whilst hosting meaningful work opportunities for vulnerable young people, helping to develop and utilise the skills of these young people (who are residents at the Y’s homeless shelter).

As part of the funding programme, it will run a series of “Dragons Den” style pitches over the next three years, where shortlisted applicants will be able to present their proposals to a panel of young people from The Y.

The Y are very keen to engage with heritage projects across Leicestershire to promote this exciting opportunity.

For any group/organisation to be in with a good chance of being awarded funding, they need to be able to:

  • Develop / deliver a project which promotes local heritage or history. Examples could include restoring artefacts or producing historical exhibitions/displays
  • Engage young people in local heritage and history projects
  • Host a placement for a (vulnerable) young person to help run the project and learn/develop a range of new skills
  • Would be interested in applying for funding (up to £30,000) for such a project

Y Heritage will work to two commissioning and training cycles a year over a three-year period; one which takes place between September and December; and another which takes places between February and May.

Charity seeks Crowdfunding support for pet project

Based off Saffron Lane, the charity – RECOVERY Assistance Dogs (RAD) – hopes that its new crowdfunding appeal will raise more than £10,000 for a canine agility course that dogs and their owners can enjoy together.

Featuring hoops, tunnels, jumps and weaves, the outdoor gym would be set up on city council-owned land close to Aylestone Leisure Centre, providing a space where dog owners could meet up for a chat, and where dogs could improve their agility while socialising with other pets.


Any dogs and their owners would be able to use the facility – free of charge – but it would also be used by the charity to help train its assistance dogs, which do so much to improve the mental health and wellbeing of their owners.


Liz Maitland of RAD said: “Dogs are brilliant at getting their owners out of the house and into a more positive mindset, so we want to give them something that will help improve their own wellbeing too.

“This new canine agility course would provide a place where dogs could interact with other dogs or just have fun with their owners – and it would be the only such facility in the county.

“I hope that anyone who loves dogs, or who recognises the role that dogs can play in improving our mental health, will be able to support our crowdfunding appeal. Any donation – large or small – will help us reach our target and will be very gratefully received.”


The charity is seeking to raise a total £10,278 to fund the project.

It’s come up with a range of rewards to encourage people to support their appeal. The first 30 people to pledge £10, for example, will be sent a photo of a Recovery Assistance Dog puppy – while the first three backers to donate £150 will be rewarded with a five day-break in the charity’s seaside caravan.


City Mayor Peter Soulsby is hosting the appeal via his crowdfunding initiative, CrowdFund Leicester.

For the first time since CrowdFund Leicester was launched in September 2017, the City Mayor could support a project by giving it access to city council land.

The 0.2 hectare (2,000m2) site, close to Aylestone Leisure Centre, would continue to be owned and maintained by the council, but it would be made available to the charity for the canine agility course – providing it can raise the funds it needs.


“RAD is a local charity that does a huge amount of work to highlight the benefits of dog ownership on people’s mental health and overall wellbeing,”

said City Mayor Peter Soulsby.

“Their proposal for a pet-friendly facility that both dogs and their owners will enjoy is one that I’m pleased to support ­ – particularly as we have nothing else like this in Leicester.

“If RAD’s crowdfunding appeal is successful, and they raise the funds they need, I have pledged to provide them with the land they’ll need for their project.

“I wish them the very best of luck with their appeal, and I would encourage local businesses, organisations and individuals to have a look at the charity’s page on the CrowdFund Leicester site and to support the appeal, if they can.”


Anyone wishing to contribute to the appeal can make their donation here:

People can also make cash donations at the RAD charity shop on 10 St Andrews Road, LE2 8RD.


CrowdFund Leicester is hosted by crowdfunding platform Spacehive.

Through CrowdFund Leicester, the City Mayor’s community engagement fund is supporting ideas that bring communities together and improve Leicester for everyone.

More information is available on the City Mayor’s webpages at