CAMPAIGNERS have launched a drive to secure future funding for voluntary and community groups throughout the North-East, as a vital source of cash dries up.

The Invest 2006 Campaign, unveiled yesterday, is in response to the withdrawal of key European and Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) funding in 2006. With changes in other programmes, it will reducefunding available to the region by about £50m.

Jane Streather, campaign co-ordinator for the Voluntary Organisation's Network North-East, said: "Voluntary and community groups are part of the lifeblood of the North-East. They are important players in building and sustaining vibrant inclusive communities.

"This could result in projects being shut down, which would put at risk services for children, older people, those with disabilities and those on the margins of the society."

Invest 2006 Campaign is calling for a recognition from all parts of government and One NorthEast of the essential role voluntary and community groups play in the social and economic regeneration of the region.

One of the many groups threatened is the Darlington YMCA, which has 31 self-contained flats for homeless young people and a volunteering project with 480 young people.

Chief executive Ann Bateman said: "Our main concern is the lack of funding to develop new aspects of the project.

"We had plans to open an Internet caf and to extend the foyer, but without European or SRB funding, we don't know where we are going to get the cash."

Another group, Groundwork East Durham, in Easington, manages programmes across Durham, Easington and Sedgefield, creating employment and other opportunities.

Employment programme co-ordinator Steven Roberts said: "Losing SRB and European funding will have a significant impact on employment prospects and wider regeneration programmes."