Sunderland charity helping city’s ethnic minorities find ways into work

Release Date: 12 October

A Sunderland charity supporting black and minority ethnic families in the city is helping more people into work thanks to funding from Newcastle Building Society.

The International Community Organisation of Sunderland (ICOS) received a grant of £2,941 to set up a new employability project which will provide one-to-one work, education and training support for around 25 local people over the next 12 months.

It will focus on overcoming the barriers that can prevent migrants and people from ethnic minorities from getting into the workplace, providing the skills and knowledge that individuals need to get the jobs they want and improving their financial situations and general well-being.

The project funding is being provided through the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which offers grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society's branch network.

Founded in 2009, ICOS works to improve the quality of life of black and minority ethnic people in the North East and to enhance community cohesion and intercultural understanding.

Much of its work focuses on those who lack access to information and services to ensure equal access, with the aim of focusing on both the assets of its communities and the issues that they are facing.

It has particularly strong links to the Eastern European community, but also works with refugees, asylum seekers and black and minority ethnic people born in the UK, as well as a range of partners across the region.

ICOS manager Michal Chantkowski says: “As well as facing the same issues that everyone looking for work has to address, the people we’re supporting have to overcome a range of additional barriers that can stop them get into the workplace.

“This can be anything from having the required language skills and putting together a job application to understanding how the interview process works and knowing how they might get to their workplace if they get the job they’re going for.

“We’re providing one-to-one support for each of our service users that’s tailored to their individual needs and trying to connect them to opportunities that will enable them to fulfil their potential and build better lives.

“As a small charity, it’s difficult for us to fund all the different activities that we’d like to undertake, and without Newcastle Building Society’s generous support, we wouldn’t have been able to take on a project that we hope will make a real difference to the well-being of dozens of families around our city.”

Newcastle Building Society has been directing its support this year to a range of projects tackling issues linked to employability, as part of its commitment to help its communities recover from the impacts of Covid-19.

David Pearson, area manager at Newcastle Building Society, adds: “As our communities recover from the impact of the pandemic we felt it was important to focus our grant giving where it will have the greatest long-term impact and support people right across our region.

“ICOS’s commitment to people living in its communities is extremely impressive and we’re proud to be supporting their work to improve outcomes for families in Sunderland.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has also contributed over £2.1m in grants and partnerships to a wide variety of charities and projects across the region, including the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Prince’s Trust.

The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.