MORE than £780,000 has been made available to volunteer and arts organisations across Dorset.

A new fund will be established to replace all historical grant programmes offered by Dorset Council. In future, community organisations and charities will be able to apply for funding by demonstrating how they will achieve outcomes for local residents, aligned to the Dorset Council Plan. Funding will be allocated equitably across the Dorset Council area.

Voluntary sector organisations from the entire Dorset Council area will have the opportunity to bid for a share of £372,359, while organisations in the 'Arts, Culture, Leisure and Museums' sector will be able to bid for part of £413,223.

Councillor Jill Haynes, Portfolio Holder for Customer and Community Services, said: “Throughout the Covid pandemic, we have seen an incredible response from many charities and community organisations across Dorset, from large sector organisations right through to small grass-roots groups which emerged during the pandemic to deliver food and medicines to vulnerable neighbours.

"These organisations and their volunteers came together to support the most vulnerable people in our communities during this challenging time. We want to support them to continue the great work already out there, helping people with their health and well-being and working in our local communities over the coming years.

"We have already had informal discussions with the voluntary sector about this way forward and have had strong support. The work they do is vital and the five year term for services will provide much needed stability.”

The cabinet also approved a five-year procurement of an 'information, advice and guidance service' for residents, which will help with benefits claims and support those facing redundancy, housing problems, debt and other issues.

A spokesperson added that support services for the arts and culture voluntary and community sectors and the social voluntary community sector have been approved to "provide advice on managing and training volunteers, making funding bids, governance arrangements and more." This is also for five years.

Cabinet also approved a further one-year commitment to support those museums and community centres in which Dorset Council has an interest. The museums in which the council is currently considered to have a reversionary interest are Dorset County Museum in Dorchester, Bridport Museum and Priests House Museum in Wimborne Minster. The community centres are the Allendale Centre in Wimborne and the Barrington Centre in Ferndown.