Local community computer centres nationwide are today awarded grants totalling almost£3m from the National Lottery by the New Opportunities Fund, a distributor of 'good causes' money.
The New Opportunities Fund is pushing out£200m to bring computers to communities. Half the funding is for local computer centres that will offer information and communications technology (ICT) learning opportunities to local communities, and the other£100 million is creating a People?s Network of computer technology in public libraries.
Stephen Dunmore, chief executive of the New Opportunities Fund, emphasised the importance of reaching out to disadvantaged groups: 'Lifelong learning is important to those wanting to improve their employment prospects, but is no less important to those wanting to improve the quality of their lives. Understanding and having access to the internet, email, and the wealth of information there at your finger tips must be available to all communities, not least to disadvantaged groups.'
Hospice day-therapy centres in Cambridge, north and south London, and West Yorkshire will be linked by a network of information and communications technology (ICT) arts centres, through Rosetta Life.
Links will also be forged through a Community Grid for Learning that will consist of a secure extranet, and a publicly-accessible website. The extranet will create a virtual community that will provide a platform for communication, self-expression, shared experience and lifelong learning for a client group that is often socially excluded.
A constantly evolving gallery space will display artwork - video, poetry, fiction, photography, painting - by the terminally ill and the bereaved. Chat rooms and bulletin boards will allow creative collaboration and exchange of ideas and experiences. The website will act as bridge between the hospice environment and the wider community, with a curated gallery space and links to a vast range of online resources - medical, educational and cultural.
Lucinda Jarrett, creative director at Rosetta Life, said: 'Rosetta Life hopes that the shared website will create a voice for hospice users on the net and in their local communities. We believe that making multimedia art works will empower a group of people who are often excluded from cultural and social debates.'
Gateshead residents are now in line for free online computer training and internet access in their local communities. The Gateshead Lifelong Learning Partnership today receives£230,000 to set up a vital project that will provide training at: Blaydon Computer Learning Shop, Blaydon Town Centre; Kingsmeadow Lifelong Learning Centre, Dunston; Thomas Hepburn Lifelong Learning Centre, Felling; Learning World, Metro Centre; Broadway Centre, Deckham; Shipley Art Gallery, Saltwell; and at Lyndhurst Centre, High Fell.
Other centres will also be opening at the Baltic Art Centre and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. People will also be able to use computing and internet facilities at over 30 access locations linked to these centres.
Kim Davies, deputy principal at Gateshead College, who submitted the bid, said: 'This will help people in Gateshead get the skills they need, both at work and in their family and social lives. It is a real example of what the Gateshead Lifelong Learning Partnership can achieve by working together.'
The award of£35,000 will support a mobile resource and learning centre that will go out to rural areas of Dorset, bringing opportunities to learn basic ICT skills. The North Dorset Volunteer Action (NDVA) group are liaising with the other mobile outreach service in the area to ensure that services going out to rural communities are spread as wide as possible. A crucial factor is the size of the van. Instead of being a pantechnicon that cannot manoeuvre down some narrow lanes, this project's van is the size of a 16-seater minibus so can reach hitherto inaccessible rural corners.
NDVA chief officer, Ieke van Stokkum, said: 'Anybody living in a rural area has suffered over recent years with the decline in village services - the loss of village shops and post offices. This year, of course, country areas have been ravaged by foot-and-mouth.
'The loss of information centres in villages has been sorely felt, and has contributed to the hardship already experienced by country people. Our mobile information and skills centre and other similar centres that go out to Dorset rural areas will also take information on benefits and other agencies. We hope to alleviate some of these problems.'
Access to ICT training in this area is limited and accessible only by means of private transport. The project partner is Bournemouth and Poole College of Further Education, which has a proven track record of experience and success in delivering training at all levels.
Another project links ICT with football. The Vernon Sangster centre, backed by an award of£49,911 from the New Opportunities Fund, will provide learning opportunities for the local community aged over 16 years relating to football. The site will be an outreach centre from Liverpool football club and is also acting as a pilot for Granada Television's e-learning initiative in the North West which will involve not only football but also rugby league and cricket. Granada Learning will develop learning materials to encourage improvement in basic skills and in IT. The football club will brand the centre and provide incentives and rewards for successful learners, aiming to attract young or long term unemployed, lone parents, and the over 50s.
Vic McLellan, Project Manager of IT's Never Too Late, Granada Television's e-learning campaign says: 'The potent mix of football, television and Information Technology in informal surroundings will bring back into learning those who were not able totake full advantage of opportunities while at school. We hope the project will help build self-confidence and personal esteem as well as take the fear out of new technology and eventually lead to employment.'
There are 31 very varied projects across England with awards from the New Opportunities Fund this month, totalling£2,912,429. Regional figures are:
Eastern region 11/3 projects £ 67,066
London181/3 projects £ 2,008,405
North east 2 projects £ 260,000
North west 6 projects £ 424,891
South west 1 project £ 35,000
Yorkshire and Humberside 2/3 projects £ 117,067
TOTAL for England = £2,912,429
The New Opportunities Fund distributes National Lottery money to health, education and environment projects across the UK. We support sustainable projects that will: improve the quality of life of people throughout the UK; address the needs of those who are most disadvantaged in society; encourage community participation; complement relevant local and national strategies and programmes. Funding for programmes is divided between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales on the basis of population weighted to reflect levels of deprivation.
NEW OPPORTUNITIES FUND EDUCATION PROGRAMMES ACROSS THE UK
COMMUNITY ACCESS TO LIFELONG LEARNING -£200m launched Jan 2000
The programme will enable adults to access information and communications technology (ICT) learning opportunities. The programme will support the development and running of a network of ICT learning centres with online computer access to information and community resources. To date (including projects covered by this announcement) over£55 million has been awarded to over 530 UK projects.£100m has been set apart for the People's Network which is putting computer technology into public libraries. The People's Network is a comprehensive programme of public ICT provision co-ordinated by Resource: The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries, a strategic agency working with museums, archives and libraries. Resource has three main objectives, to provide strategy, advocacy and advice. The organisation undertakes work in all three of these areas to improve the context in which museums, archives and libraries operate and to improve services for users and potential users. Resource provides expert advice and guidance on the development and implementation of the New Opportunities Fund Digitisation of Learning Materials Programme as part of its work with the Fund on the management of the People's Network project.
ICT TRAINING launched 1999
£230m for ICT training for teachers and school librarians;£20 million for ICT training for public library staff.
More than 150 grants have been awarded by the Fund through its£50m digitisation programme (2nd July 2001). A range of national, regional and local organisations are now developing a rich and imaginative range of electronic learning materials and information reflecting cultural heritage and community wealth and diversity UK-wide, which will support lifelong learning.
OUT OF SCHOOL HOURS LEARNING -£205m launched April 1999
Is available to create and develop regular out of school hours learning activities involving half of all secondary and special schools and a quarter of all primary schools around the school day, weekends and in the holidays.£25m has been specifically dedicated to creating new summer school places for 250,000 pupils. The programme is closed for applications (except for summer schools and these are due in by 3 September 2001).
OUT OF SCHOOL HOURS CHILDCARE -£220m launched March 1999
£220m is available to create new childcare places for 865,000 children across the UK by 2003. The programme complements the government's National Childcare Strategy, and the equivalent strategies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
* A further£198.5m is available for childcare projects UK-wide. Part of the funding will go towards extending the programme: grants will be offered for two and three years in areas of particular disadvantage.