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Women's enterprise support group WEETU shuts down

PUBLISHED: 11:50 06 November 2013 | UPDATED: 11:50 06 November 2013

Lucy Hogg

Lucy Hogg

The boss of an organisation that has supported enterprising women for 25 years has blamed government cuts for accelerating its closure.

Weetu. PHOTO: IAN BURTWeetu. PHOTO: IAN BURT

Norwich-based Women’s Employment, Enterprise and Training Unit (WEETU) has been forced to shut after changes to its payment conditions and a reduction in central government funding starved it of finance.

Lucy Hogg, director, said the announcement comes despite evidence that it outperformed government-led programmes and helped hundreds of women across the east each year.

And she fears that Norfolk women will now not have a place to turn to without an organisation like WEETU if government public sector cuts lead to more job losses.

Mrs Hogg said: “WEETU, like many voluntary sector organizations, has lost vital central government funding for women-focused employment and enterprise support and training.

“Current provision of employability training and support is delivered by large private sector organizations, and contracts are designed on a payment by results model, which is completely unsuited to small voluntary sector organizations.

“So despite the fact that we have supported hundreds of local women into training and employment, or to set up their own businesses, we are unable to continue our work.

“Yet, with further local government cuts in the pipeline, women’s unemployment is set to rise in Norfolk as elsewhere at a time when demand for our services has never been higher.”

WEETU, which was based on Bank Plain in Norwich, was formed in 1987 and went on to help about 1,500 women a year.

Meanwhile, over the past three years it has delivered a number of employment-boosting schemes, including:

• A National Careers Service contract, enabling us to guide and support over 500 women back into employment, education and training

• A women only Work Club, with funding from the Norfolk Community Foundation

• A Skills Funding Agency funded programme of short accredited training courses, which supported 1 in 3 clients into work – compared to an average of 3pc for the Government’s Work Programme.

Ruth Pearson, chair of WEETU and long term member of the management board, said: “We need an economic strategy that supports the social infrastructure of the country. We need not just new roads and houses and high speed rail systems, but investment in skills and support networks, in the care sector, the education sector and in communities.

“When it comes to skills the UK ranks poorly against its international peers, we need a skills strategy that recognizes the need for people to retrain and develop new skills and knowledge, whatever their age, so that everyone can participate economically. “Women should be seen as a resource necessary for the proper functioning of society, and their role in the economy should be valued and rewarded.”

• WEETU will hold its last event next month when it reveals its research into the impact of local authority cuts on women’s employment. The meeting, hosted by the UEA Norwich Business School, will be held on December 2, Room 2.04, 4.30pm at the Thomas Paine Study Centre, UEA.

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