EALING'S hardworking volunteers were given room to breathe this week after winning a grant of just under £1million - the largest amount in the country.
Ealing Community and Voluntary Service (Ealing CVS), based at the Lido Centre in Mattock Lane, West Ealing, was awarded £965,000 from the government for an 'ambitious' collaboration with the four neighbouring boroughs of Brent, Harrow, Hillingdon and Hounslow.
The cash is to help volunteers become more effective at delivering public services at a time of severe pressure on council budgets, and follows cuts to other areas of voluntary sector funding.
It was given out by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of central government.
Ealing CVS chief executive Andy Roper said: "This tremendous vote of confidence by the Big Lottery shows the high quality work being done by the voluntary sector in Ealing and with our community partners in neighbouring boroughs.
"It was a particularly ambitious and innovative bid and hopefully that's why we got the budget."
The charity already has close links with the other boroughs, as well as Hammersmith and Fulham, through the West London Network, a group of voluntary services working closely with councils and the private sector.
Ealing CVS was one of 72 voluntary groups in England to win part of a £30m pot set up by the Cabinet Office. Nick Hurd, the minister for civil society, said the pot was designed to make 'it easier to run a charity' and allow charities to support local infrastructure.
One local initiative is the new Ealing Involved website, through which people from all walks of life are encouraged to volunteer.
Mr Roper said: "It's a web portal that brings people all together and gives people the chance to get involved with a host of volunteering criteria. It brings the Big Society rhetoric into being."
Volunteers can offer their time, skills or goods through an interactive notice board, while residents can make donations and find out how to become a school governor or special constable.
The collaboration between boroughs aims to get more local businesses involved in projects and sponsorship. Training and mentoring schemes will support new voluntary groups and a business support hub will help on the administrative side. Equalities charities representing disability, refugees, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups will also be offered help.
Ealing Council leader Julian Bell said the government was 'taking with one hand and giving with the other', as around £1m of funding had previously been stripped out of the council's voluntary sector budget.
"It's not unmitigated joy," he said.
The new programmes will begin in April. For more information contact Andy Roper, firstname.lastname@example.org.