Funding story: Better news on the European front

Two new programmes running until 2013 are aimed at improving learning opportunities and helping young people.

Most of the news about European funding at the moment isn't very positive as far as the third sector is concerned; the Department for Work and Pensions is proposing to cut its structural funding stream and to distribute it through regional statutory bodies.

More positively, other funding streams have also been changed, with the stated aim of simplifying their application processes and getting funding to groups that previously didn't receive it. The two new programmes are the Lifelong Learning Programme and Youth in Action, which run until 2013.

The first replaces four programmes focusing on education, training and "projects on issues relevant to more than one programme". There is slightly more money available than the previous total - about £50m each year in total, £44.5m of it for Lifelong Learning, £5.5m for Youth in Action - with a a greater proportion now dedicated to adult learning in particular.

Applications can be for a wide range of activities, so long as they involve a network of three to five partner organisations from another European country and fall under the headings of "increasing and widening participation; encouraging greater use of exchanges; increasing the development of skills for employment; and/or promoting the transfer and recognition of qualifications".

Youth in Action, with a budget of £5.65m, brings together the previous Youth Exchange and Youth Initiatives programmes, and the European voluntary service. The aim is to "promote social cohesion, active citizenship and intercultural dialogue" among young people and organisations working with young people. Again, it makes a priority of disadvantaged young people, especially if they're not in education.

These changes will be of interest to young volunteers such as Marta Sosnowska. A graduate from Poland, she has been working with the Roma Support Group in London since September last year - the group works with more than 700 east European Roma refugees and migrants. Sosnowska provides support, assisting people with everyday tasks such as filling in forms and dealing with bills.

"Volunteering has been an enriching experience," she says. "I've learnt so much about myself and the world. It's really challenged my way of thinking."

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