NatWest bank has created a new £2.5m fund that will give grants of up to £35,000 to local charities, social enterprises and community groups in the UK and Ireland.
The Skills & Opportunities Fund is aimed at supporting disadvantaged communities by helping people to learn new skills, find employment or set up their own businesses. State-funded schools and colleges are also eligible to apply.
The funding will be distributed across seven regions in the UK and Ireland: London, south-east England, south-west England and Wales, the midlands and east England, northern England, Scotland and Ireland.
Organisations can apply for the 2015 round of funding by completing the online application form before 12pm on 22 May. They are encouraged to check the priorities for their specific region to make sure their applications address them, the website says.
Each application will be assessed and a shortlist produced in each region. These will be considered by a judging panel in the respective region and put to a public vote, the results of which will count as one judge. The successful projects will receive funding in mid-July.
Ross McEwan, chief executive of RBS, the parent company of NatWest, said in a statement: "We’ve been helping to make a difference in our communities for generations. Now, through our new Skills & Opportunities Fund, we want to help more people learn new skills, get into work or start a business. By helping people help themselves, we build stronger communities and we can all grow. If it matters to our local communities, then it matters to us."