Unlocking potential starts early

THE CONFERENCE'S oldest and youngest delegates appeared on the platform together as Labour launched an initiative to give National Lottery cash to small-scale, grass-roots community projects.

Eighty-one-year-old Esme Lancaster, of Handsworth, brought four-year-old Jamarl Grant on to the platform to talk about the work of the Young Mothers' Relief Association, which the retired teacher set up to help ethnic- minority and disadvantaged communities in Birmingham.

Jamarl is one of the children helped by the group, which runs three day-care centres to look after children while their parents attend college or training. Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary, said it was exactly the kind of project that should win grants - it had just received Pounds 2,000 for books and equipment from the Lottery-funded People's Millennium Award Scheme, distributed by the Scarman Trust.

Mrs Lancaster, who has brought up 42 children and is godmother to 108 more, received a standing ovation after telling how her charity was helping unlock the potential of children like Jamarl.

Mr Smith, who also announced an extra Pounds 50m over three years for each of the Lottery's four good causes - arts, sport, charities and heritage - said the first grassroots pilot would be running in the East Midlands from November 18.

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