A BUSINESS using dance to give older people exercise is set to benefit from a new £1.8m European-backed project.

Sustainable Enterprise Strategies (SES) will use reconditioned shipping containers to build a business support hub in Hendon, Sunderland, offering incubator and managed workspace facilities, as well as start-up support for small and medium sized enterprises across the region.

Among those taking advantage of the Sunderland centre will be social enterprise Sit n’ b’ Fit, run by Lynn Summerside, which delivers therapeutic exercise, movement and dance tailored to older people and those with mobility or other health issues.

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Funding for the Sunderland project, and a similar facility in North Tyneside, includes £914,000 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) secured through regional development agency One North East.

The other half of the investment has been put up with a combination of funds from SES, Sunderland City Council and the Northern Rock Foundation.

SES works directly with 77 North-East social enterprises with a combined turnover of £12.74m and about 750 employees.

These include the £3m turnover social enterprise Sunderland and North Tyneside Home Care Associates (SHCA). SHCA, which was built up by local woman, Margaret Elliott, plans to move the business to the Sunderland centre when it opens.

It is expected that the project will develop 192 social and traditional enterprises and create more than 200 jobs in disadvantaged areas.

The project is also the launchpad for the delivery of enterprise coaching for individuals and groups in deprived communities.

SES director Mark Saddington said: “We will get involved right from the word go, from pre-start-up and ideas stage through to development and growth, providing more early stage hands on and intensive support than mainstream providers.”

Tim Pain, One North East’s head of business, enterprise and skills, said: “The development of enterprise talents, the growth of self-employment and successful social enterprises all offer people alternative routes out of inequality and poverty.”