�300,000 Lottery grant to help Norwich’s unemployed back to work

A new centre to help unemployed and homeless people in Norwich back into the world of work will open this week – thanks to a �300,000 boost from the National Lottery.

The city centre-based project aims to help at least 300 people over the next three years to get back into training and work.

And bosses hope the initiative will also help build the self-esteem needed so those people can go on to live independently.

The LEAP – Learning, Employment and Accommodation project – opens tomorrow and is a partnership between Norwich City Council and St Martin's Housing Trust.

It aims to build on a project established by the city council in 2009 following government funding and has been made possible thanks to a �311.000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

Derek Player, manager of St Martin's Housing Trust, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, said: 'Money from the Big Lottery Fund for the next three years will enable us to deliver a programme tailored to an individual's specific needs.

'The goal is to get as many unemployed, homeless people as possible equipped with new skills, into tenancies and into work.'

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New premises for the LEAP team has been created in Upper Goat Lane by six people taking part in the Skills Start Here community-based project.

To carry out the refurbishment, four people have completed their first contract as self-employed workers, five have done volunteer work, four have achieved construction site health and safety training and two taken steps towards their CSCS (construction skills certification scheme) card.

Victoria MacDonald, cabinet member for housing on Norwich City Council, said: 'Since the council launched this innovative project first in 2009, more than 200 people have benefited from work focused opportunities and training.

'To be able to work so closely with St Martin's, to offer practical help to even more people that need it, is fantastic. By joining forces and working with clients to get an even better understanding of the support they need, we are confident we are able to provide an excellent service that is making a real difference to individual's lives in these difficult times.'

Bishopgate-based St Martin's Housing Trust started life as the Norwich Night Shelter Project. In 2000, the Evening News backed a campaign to raise at least �100,000 towards a new hostel in Gas Hill.

The result was the 30-bed Bishopbridge House, which opened in 2002.

Has your life been turned around thanks to help from a Norwich charity? Tell us your story by calling reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk