HIWCF is delighted to announce that grant awards totalling £695,000 have been made through the Solent Supporting Employment (SSE) Programme, providing a boost to local employment projects run by organisations across South Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The programme was created by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership and part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF), with generous match funding provided by HIWCF donors, Hampshire County Council, Portsmouth City Council and Southampton City Council.

Grants have been awarded to 11 local organisations working in the Solent LEP area who are able to reach and work with individuals with complex barriers to employment, enabling them to move closer to or into employment including people in BAME communities, people with disabilities, long-term unemployed and those economically inactive. The aim is to help individuals move closer towards or into employment, particularly in areas where deprivation is high.

Organisation Solent LEP Area
Citizens Advice Bureau Gosport Gosport
Enable Ability Portsmouth
Footprints Project Gosport
Minstead Training Trust Portsmouth
Pompey in the Community Portsmouth
Romsey Community School New Forest
Romsey Community School Isle of Wight
Safe New Futures Eastleigh, Havant, Gosport, New Forest, Isle of Wight
Saints Foundation Southampton
Sovereign Isle of Wight
Abri (was Swaythling Housing Society Ltd) Gosport / Portsmouth
Abri (was Swaythling Housing Society Ltd) Southampton
WSX Enterprise Limited Portsmouth


One group receiving grant funding for their Blue Kitchen project is Pompey in the Community based in Portsmouth. The Blue Kitchen project will provide practical, into-work cooking course introducing and developing essential cookery skills and techniques for those that would like to begin working in the catering industry.

Gail Baird, Strategy Consultant at Pompey in the Community added “We are delighted to be awarded a grant from the Solent Supporting Employment Fund. This funding will make a real difference to our work with those in the local community facing complex barriers to gaining employment. Our 12-week Blue Kitchen training courses will provide participants not only with practical cookery skills but also a range of softer skills that will improve their life opportunities.”


Minstead Training Trust have received a grant for the ‘Step Up For Work’ Programme, supporting people in Portsmouth with learning difficulties who would like to be in employment.

Dawn Wood, Director of Development “We are delighted to have been awarded this grant from the Solent Supporting Employment Fund. It will mean that we can start to develop new partnerships in Portsmouth to deliver our successful Step Up for Work programme, and provide the support that people with learning disabilities need to level the playing field when it comes to finding employment. This couldn’t have come at a better time, when the job market will be even more challenging for people to secure work. Sixty percent of people with a learning disability say that they would like to have a job. However, only 6% are in employment, compared to 49% of the wider disability community. Experience shows that people with learning disabilities make great employees and we are looking forward to working with Portsmouth companies so that they can enjoy the many benefits of having someone with a learning disability on their team.”


A Solent Supporting Employment grant has been awarded to Sovereign, in partnership with Southern Housing Group for the Skills 4 Work Programme, supporting residents in deprived communities on the Isle of Wight. Participants will receive tailored, individualised advice and guidance services as well as a series of workshop and group based sessions to help them overcome the barriers they are facing when accessing the labour market.

 Erica Watts, Head of Employment and Training at Sovereign said: “Sovereign has a proven track record of providing employment and skills programmes to our residents, and we’re delighted to be working with our partners Southern Housing Group to access European Social Fund investment to help Island residents to take the next steps to fulfil their career aspirations.”


A Solent Supporting Employment grant to Romsey Community School (RCS) is providing one-to-one assistance for participants that find it difficult to engage fully within society, helping them to avoid social isolation and low aspirations through building individual, relevant actions plans to help them move closer towards or into sustained employment.

Wendy Masterson, Community Development Manager at RCS commented: “RCS Ltd have a long history of working with those who find it hard to gain work or training opportunities. We are delighted to have received funding from the European Social Fund through the Solent Supporting Employment Programme, it will change people’s lives within the New Forest Area giving them one to one support and encouragement to participate and believe that anything is possible.”

Photograph: RCS New Forest Support Workers Julie Pearce and Craig Hurle


Abri, one of the south’s largest housing providers, has been awarded a grant to help people in the Southampton areas of Millbrook and Mansbridge to get back into work. The project, called Unlimited Potential, is offering employment and wellbeing training and support, regular one-to-one support with an employment advisor and access to a careers hub, helping people to professionalise their CV, search and apply for roles, take part in mock interviews, anxiety and wellbeing sessions and understanding and use of mindfulness techniques.

Michelle Dawson, Managing Director of Community Services Company at Abri, said: “This project will allow us to provide life changing support, helping those people most in need to overcome challenges and improve their long-term job prospects. As well as helping improve people’s immediate wellbeing, these projects will help participants address the root causes of long-term unemployment.”

Grant Cornwell MBE, Chief Executive of HIWCF said: “We are delighted to be working with the European Social Fund, together with our local authorities in Hampshire, providing this vital opportunity to help and encourage local people to find their way into work. Our communities have been massively impacted by Covid-19 this year and this funding will increase the prospects of vulnerable people in our region making a lasting difference to their lives. I would like to thank our funding partners and our HIWCF donors for supporting the Solent Supporting Employment Programme as our work would not be possible without their goodwill and generosity.”

The second round of Solent Supporting Employment funding worth £791,000 will open early 2021, and all eligible groups in the Solent LEP will be able to apply for a grant of £30,000 to £60,000 via the HIWCF website www.hiwcf.com/grants/