A DARLINGTON project which aims to improve the lives of vulnerable people will be able to expand thanks to a windfall of almost £300,000.

The WM Morrison Darlington Enterprise trust, run in partnership with Darlington Credit Union, has been awarded £299,345 from the Big Lottery Fund’s reaching communities programme, which aims to help people most in need.

The trust exists to help people find more secure employment and prevent those struggling with debt from falling prey to loan sharks and door-step lenders.

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The project will deliver in-depth information, advice, guidance and training - in particular awareness of the labour market, job search methods, completing application forms, CV preparation and interview skills.

It will help about 1,100 people who have been unemployed for less than 12 months and who are not eligible for statutory employment programmes.

Diane Woodcock, chief executive of WM Morrison Darlington Enterprise Trust, said: “This grant from the Big Lottery Fund is fantastic news to start off the New Year. Funding like this is crucial in the current climate and economic downturn.

“We’ll now be able to expand our existing project, in the Northgate and Central wards, to operate throughout the rest of Darlington.

“It will focus on people who want to develop their confidence and skills to find work, and do not qualify for Government support programmes.

“We will also work with Darlington Credit Union to provide financial coaching workshops for people who are vulnerable to using loan-sharks and door-step lenders.

“We want to help people become more financially stable and equip them with the skills to secure sustainable employment.”

James Turner, head of North-East Region for the Big Lottery Fund Head, said: “January can be a grim and financially tough time but it’s good to know that projects helping older people and jobseekers struggling to find work will have a bright start to the New Year with these grants.”

The Darlington project was awarded the largest slice of Big Lottery cash, with three other projects in the region – one in Northumberland and two in Newcastle - taking a share of funding worth a combined total of almost £800,000.