We are pleased to announce that the first grants have been awarded from the Inclusive Communities Fund with over £4.7 million awarded through 147 grants across the West Midlands.

One the first grants to be awarded is a grant of £200,000 to Active Black Country for water safety lessons for thousands of school children, teaching them how to stay safe around water and vital survival skills if they get into difficulty.

The grant has been awarded in response to an annual school swimming survey by Active Black Country that showed just half of primary school leavers across Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton were unable to self-rescue in water – despite nearly all children living within walking distance of open water. Being able to self-rescue is defined by swimming organisations as the ability to float on the back for a minute, tread water while waving and shouting for help, and swim for at least 15m. Across the West Midlands, there were 63 accidental drownings between 2018 and 2022 – around one in five were under the age of 18 years old, which is double the national average.

Thanks to this substantial grant, Active Black Country will work alongside local authorities, leisure operators and aquatics partners including the Association for Physical Education, the Canal and River Trust, the Royal Life Saving Society and Swim England to develop a programme of lessons in and out of the water for 80 schools alongside community family sessions. Thousands more in the area will get access to a new water safety website which will have resources for teachers, parents and community groups.

The Inclusive Communities Fund was set up to help to ensure the positive and long-lasting legacy from the 2022 Commonwealth Games is felt across the region by supporting locally-led projects that will unite communities across the West Midlands and promote the benefits of being more physically and mentally active. 

Tina Costello, Chief Executive at Heart of England Community Foundation, said:

“I’m delighted to announce one of the large grants made possible through the Inclusive Communities Fund. The school water safety scheme is a fantastic and vital initiative to improve water safety for children across the Black Country. I hope this offers a real opportunity for children to learn new skills and understand more about water safety which will ensure positive outcomes for their futures.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands said:

Right from the moment the West Midlands was chosen to host the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, I was very clear that the Games must leave a lasting legacy at grassroots level. That’s why I’m delighted to be announcing that we’ve added another £3 million to the Inclusive Communities Fund to ensure as many people as possible can benefit. Almost £5 million is already making its way into the hands of local people, including this £200,000 to teach vital water safety skills to thousands of school children across the Black Country. Too many young people tragically die each year from drowning. This vital training will not only help save lives and also teach young people how to enjoy the water safely.”

Amanda Tomlinson, chair of Active Black Country, said:

“We are delighted to receive this funding which will enable Active Black Country and partners to deliver this key lifesaving programme to children across the Black Country. The funding will enhance the excellent work already being undertaken by the Association for Physical Education, the Canal and River Trust, the Royal Life Saving Society and Swim England ensuring we are able to create a future generations or children who not only are safe but enjoy being in and around water.

Sports Minister, Stuart Andrew said:

“The record-breaking Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022 was a great success, bringing in millions of pounds to the local economy. The £70 million games underspend will create a lasting legacy in the region for generations to come, and this water safety scheme will do just that by giving children at 80 schools in the West Midlands a skill to last a lifetime.”

Cllr Kerrie Carmichael, WMCA portfolio lead for inclusive communities and leader of Sandwell Council, said:

“It’s exciting to see the first grants being awarded from this very special fund that will make positive changes to our communities for many generations. The water safety lessons that the programme will provide to school children across Sandwell are a great example, with the potential to have a significant impact over the course of their lives. It will also mean more will have the confidence and ability to enjoy the fantastic swimming facilities that we have at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre – a flagship legacy of the Commonwealth Games.”

Lee Heard, director at the Royal Life Saving Society, said:

“Less than two years ago the world watched some impressive performances of swimmers from across the UK home nations, just here in Sandwell. In contrast, community members from across the Black Country are included in an increasingly worrying narrative where access to water safety training and swimming, including statutory swimming provision through the PE National Curriculum, are reducing, and at a more alarming rate for some communities, especially lower socio-economic and ethnic minority groups. It is fitting that the legacy of an incredible Commonwealth Games, through the Inclusive Community Fund, is the catalyst for a project that will undoubtedly save lives and enhance opportunities for those most in need. The charity is delighted to offer its support and expertise.”

The Inclusive Communities Fund has been made available by the UK Government through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) are overseeing delivery of this investment, through the Commonwealth Games Legacy Fund – to enable a significant programme of Legacy projects to take place until March 2025. Heart of England Community Foundation, who are administering the Inclusive Communities Fund is a registered charity and the leading, independent grant making foundation in the West Midlands and Warwickshire. Since 1995, we have proudly awarded over £35 million to over 7,000 great causes across the region.

Update on Applications – Heart of England Community Foundation

In addition to the update that we shared in January 2024, we are continuing to assess applications for the fund each week working with our experienced assessors. Our community decision making panels are meeting weekly to review applications and assessments and to make decisions. We are communicating with applicants as soon as possible with an outcome from the community panel meetings, and we would like to thank everyone for their patience during this period.

West Midlands Combined Authority has confirmed an additional £3 million is being made available to the Inclusive Communities Fund – increasing the available fund from £9 million to £12 million. The additional funding for the Inclusive Communities Fund has been provided to the WMCA by Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). The additional funding will be used to address a backlog of applications to the fund. It is not anticipated that the fund will open to new applicants.

Find out who has received funding so far

All of the awarded organisations listed are up to date at 19-March-2024.

To date we have awarded £4,770,386 to 147 applicants. 

Photo Left to Right:

  • Ian Lane, Head of Operational Projects at Canal and River Trust;
  • Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands;
  • Jodi Adams, Strategic Lead for Active Communities at Active Black Country;
  • Tim Aldred, Strategic Lead for Education at Active Black Country;
  • Sue Wilkinson, Chief Executive at Association for Physical Education;
  • Gavin Passmore, Community Development Manager at Canal and River Trust;
  • Amanda Tomlinson, Chair at Active Black Country,
  • Robert Gofton,  Chief Executive at The Royal Life Saving Society;
  • Tina Costello, Chief Executive at Heart of England Community Foundation;
  • Lee Heard, Director at The Royal Life Saving Society.