Amicus creates community arm

A housing association in the South East has set up a charity to help combat social exclusion.

Amicus Group, which houses a variety of tenants including the unemployed and the elderly, is to launch Amicus Vision, a charity arm that will fund community projects in the South East.

"It's our first foray in to the charity sector. We're adding a new dimension that's not in our traditional remit, said Paul Gee, strategic business director of Amicus Group. "We want to generate cash from various sources to make grants to projects."

Amicus Vision hopes to raise funds from businesses that are socially aware and involved in their local community. It also wants companies to supply equipment and volunteers for projects.

"It gives them a chance to put something back into the community to which they sell."

The types of projects the charity will fund include youth clubs, mother and baby groups and help for the unemployed.

The charity believes that businesses will come forward to support projects if they see a direct link with a scheme. For example, if a large part of a company's workforce have children it may be an idea to lend financial support to a nursery scheme.

It hopes to encourage employers to join forces to finance projects.

"We don't just build houses - we build communities, said Gee. "We want to bring people together by injecting cash and energy to become a catalyst for making things happen."

The charity will identify schemes that need funding, as well as receive proposals from the community. "Ideas for funding can be brought to us, said Gee.

"If the demand is there, people can make their case for support."

Tim Sweeney, a retired Bank of England director and former member of the British Bankers' Association, becomes chairman of the charity.

A further three trustees have been appointed and three more are to be recruited. "There are no qualifications needed apart from their commitment and integrity, together with a passion for a cause, said Gee.

Amicus Vision also requires a fundraiser, who will be supported by the group's marketing, finance and HR departments. Gee said: "We'll use the support of the group on an 'as and when basis' in order to launch direct marketing appeals and organise events, for instance."

Amicus Vision plans to hold an official launch to drum up support. Gee said: "Ten-year plans are difficult, we need to get the pieces in and get started but we'd be delighted if in our first year we managed to raise £100,000.

All the money will go direct to good causes and not on administration costs, he added.

Amicus Group has an existing scheme called Neighbourhood Partnerships.

The partnerships bring people together who have an interest in a particular community.

The housing association has a portfolio of 15,000 houses in south London and east Kent, and has just taken on stock from East Sussex housing association 1066 following a recent merger.

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