FILE PHOTO: Michelle Donelan (Photo by Leon Neal - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

TO support the young people hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, £18 million will be distributed among 12 regions under the Opportunity Areas programme which supports the most disadvantaged parts of England.

Minister for the opportunity areas Michelle Donelan has said that expanded programme in its fourth year will address the impact of coronavirus, building on the successes across each of the 12 areas by ‘twinning’ them with places facing similar challenges.

The scheme targets to help youngsters to make up lost learning time due to the pandemic, as well as levelling up their education outcomes and tackling barriers to skills and employment.

The funding allocation for each areas will be- Blackpool (£1,970,000), Bradford (£1,730,000), Derby (£1,430,000), Doncaster (£1,440,000), F&EC(£1,430,000), Hastings (£1,250,000), Ipswich (£1,450,000), Norwich(£1,460,000), NYC (£1,200,000), Oldham (£1,580,000), Stoke-on-Trent (£1,670,000) and West Somerset (£980,000).

According to a statement, these 12 areas have already made a difference by improving the quality of careers advice, work experience, digital and other skills for employment as well as providing opportunities to develop confidence, leadership and resilience.

“Around the country, the response to the pandemic has been heroic, and each of the 12 Opportunity Areas has co-ordinated its approach to help those who need it most respond to immediate challenges. Now as we chart a course to recovery, we will build on the programme’s success so far to benefit young people in new areas and level up their life chances,” said Michelle Donelan.

“We know that we can tackle these barriers more effectively when we come together across our different policy areas and by harnessing the expertise and experience of these dedicated professionals.”

The priorities this year include early speech and language development and help pupils catch up on lost learning time while schools were closed. Besides, it aims to help narrow the attainment gap. Teacher recruitment and training is another focus area this time.

In many of these regions support initiatives such as funding for holiday clubs, online maths and English tutoring for pupils, career and work opportunities for secondary pupils and support for pupils at risk of exclusion have already started.

Launched in 2017, the programme had already made an impact in a wide range of areas from early years education to employment, following an initial £72 million boost.