Thursday, 25 August 2011

New support could help churches to work with rural communities to reverse decline in their areas

As you’ll know, churches often represent the hub of the rural communities, having been at their heart for centuries, and often acting as a focus for community identity and activity. Many rural areas are suffering decline as vital services like village shops are lost.

But rural communities are now being urged to take advantage of a brand new advice line, expert support and Lottery funding that will help them take control of the problems of rural decline in their communities by setting up community enterprises like library services, transport schemes or community shops. With churches often playing a key role in the provision of these services – for example Yarpole community shop in Herefordshire – there is an opportunity for church groups and communities to take advantage of this new support.

Village SOS Active is a new campaign by the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) in collaboration with rural communities charity the Plunkett Foundation and its partners, which sees rural communities being offered advice and support on a level never before seen.

The campaign includes a UK-wide advice line for people in rural areas looking to set up and run new community enterprises that will breathe new life into their communities, from community-owned shops and pubs to rural transport schemes. The advice line will pool the resources of the UK’s leading organisations in the rural, social enterprise, and co-operative spheres to ensure that all communities – whether they have a fully-formed business plan or have an initial idea – are given the best possible support.

The campaign will also see a series of regional events take place across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as a national conference, to give communities needing help in putting their enterprise plans into action the chance to talk face-to-face with experts. The events will also showcase successful community enterprises, including some of the 260 community-owned shops that exist across the UK today.

Alongside this support, the Big Lottery Fund has also set up a £5m funding competition that communities can enter for a chance to win a Lottery award to kick start their enterprises. The awards will be in the region of £10,000 and £30,000 per enterprise.

The three steps for getting help with setting up a community enterprise are:

1.  Go to and register your details.
2.  Call the Advice Line on 0845 434 9123
3.  Come along to one of the UK wide road show events.

Village SOS Active is a campaign by the Big Lottery Fund which is being delivered with rural communities charity the Plunkett Foundation, in partnership with Co-operatives UK, Locality, and Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE). It was launched on 10th August 2011 as part of the BBC six-part series, Village SOS, which follows the journey of six villages as they use a Big Lottery Fund grants to set up a new community enterprise. The campaign will see dedicated expert advisers provide support and guidance to people inspired by the BBC1 series to set up and run their own community enterprises, from shops and pubs to broadband services and transport systems.

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