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Levelling Up for the Voluntary, Community & Social Enterprise Sector

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC @luhc), ‘Levelling Up Fund’ (LUF) has, through rounds 1 and 2 brought approximately £120 million towards new capital development projects. By and large these are projects led by local government and worthy of the investment secured.

At the outset of LUF many VCSEs looked at the opportunity presented. Though the prospectus actively welcomed VCSE applications the criteria largely worked against them. In contract local government authorities were directly invested in by DLUHC to prepare their bids.  It’s not surprising then that the money secured to date has gone to local government.

DTNI has appealed to the Secretary of State for Levelling UP Michael Gove to ensure that civic organisations are given a fair wind in the final round of funding yet to be announced. We understand that a further £30m may be made available to NI. We are saying that the VCSE sector can easily absorb this total and should be supported with additional investment support from DLUHC to be ‘application ready’. 

Our case on behalf of members, and the wider civic sector in NI is a simple one. We are a propertied sector; we are to the forefront of meeting need within our communities and we are central to delivering social and economic justice for the communities we work for.  And, to do what we do better and sustainably, we need access to capital investment to build our infrastructure and revenue to manage the key services our communities require. 

Without doubt, the VCSE sector in NI plays a complementary role to that of local government. We have a shared agenda on social and economic development, on place and regeneration and on the provision of better public service and building community wealth and personal well-being.

Round 3 of LUF is anticipated to open soon. At DTNI we have been reaching out to our 11 local government Chief Executives. Our ask! ‘Let us work together to map, appraise, and select VCSE applicants to go forward as part of a consortium application led by local government.’ 

The demand for capital investment amongst civic organisations is phenomenal. The DLUHC Community Ownership Fund (COF) has revealed the scale of demand for capital investment; unfortunately, COF alone will not fill that demand, so we are calling openly for a new NI Executive to establish an NI Community Ownership Fund

In the meantime, we work with upcoming opportunities including LUF round 3. We must ensure the opportunity it presents is captured by VCSE’s. We are calling on our members and the wider body of organisations that make up the Voluntary, Community & Social Enterprise sector to reach out to your local government authority. If you have a business case for investment, if you are, as the saying goes, ‘shovel ready’, then present your case to your Council CEO, Directors & elected members.

If you are interested in a further conversation please contact Margaret Craig on 02890 311132 and