Diversity Voice, based in Bridgwater, champions intercultural integration through initiatives and events, providing support and services that help the inclusion of migrants and incoming workers, in and around Somerset.
In 2018 the group was awarded a grant of £180,000 over three years from the HPC Community Fund, to work with those directly connected with Hinkley Point C (HPC) and the wider community in Sedgemoor and the west of Somerset. The key aim was to help provide legal and welfare advice, and deliver events and training to bolster intercultural integration and English language support, for migrant workers and their families.
Val Bishop, Programmes Director at Somerset Community Foundation, which manages the fund, said: “Diversity Voice’s grant award is part of our Strategic Grants Programme, which aims to strengthen community cohesion. With the impacts of Coronavirus increasing loneliness and isolation across our communities it is more important now than ever before to support charities such as Diversity Voice to bring all parts of the community together and celebrate the breadth of experience, knowledge and understanding that different cultures bring. Diversity Voice, as with other groups Somerset Community Foundation fund, provide both support and connections, which make our wider Somerset communities stronger.”
Tanya Lawler, CEO at Diversity Voice added: “The grant funding from the HPC Community Fund has been invaluable. Over the last year our advice service has been busier than ever, as the communities we represent have been not only disproportionately affected by the pandemic, but many have also had to deal with their obligations under the EU Settlement Scheme. Our English lessons and events to promote intercultural understanding have been especially important since Brexit.
“Of course, we’ve only managed to do all this thanks to our close working relationships with our friends in the fantastic voluntary sector in Somerset, including SPARK Somerset, Somerset Diverse Communities, and Citizens Advice among many others.
“Keeping everything going during the pandemic has been a huge challenge for our small team but we’re delighted to have been able to help so many people. We’re really looking forward to meeting everyone face-to-face again, hopefully in the coming year, including at our English club and our drop-in advice service, where support is available in any language.”
Andrew Cockcroft, Senior Community Relations Manager at Hinkley Point C, said: “Whether they are linked directly to the HPC Project or not, Diversity Voice is providing a valuable service to people and communities from across Somerset. We are delighted to be working in partnership with the team at Diversity Voice in building stronger, more cohesive communities.”
Over and above its work with Hinkley Point C, Diversity Voice is providing support for communities across the region; according to the latest Home Office data, applications made by EU applicants (all EAA, but excluding those from other non-UK born origins) for status to remain in the UK beyond June 2021 are at 7,140 in Sedgemoor and 6,780 in Somerset West and Taunton, showing a clear need for the important work that organisations such as Diversity Voice deliver.
Tanya continued: “People are often surprised at the linguistic diversity in Somerset; speakers of over 25 different languages have registered with us in recent years. But language is certainly not the only barrier to opportunity and wellbeing. Equally important is how we, as a society, understand each other’s cultures. Community cohesion relies on mutual understanding and as the makeup of our community has changed, there’s been a need to both develop this and ensure opportunities are available for all.
“Thanks to our grant from the HPC Community Fund, we’re here to offer a warm welcome and provide the help needed to ensure that everyone can take advantage of all that Somerset has to offer.”
The HPC Community Fund is part of a wider £20 million commitment of funding, provided by EDF through Section 106 agreements, for communities that are affected by the development of the new nuclear power station, to promote their social, economic and environmental wellbeing and enhance their quality of life.
More information about grant funding from the HPC Community Fund is available online at www.hpcfunds.co.uk or by calling Somerset Community Foundation on: 01749 344949.