Nine budding entrepreneurs are turning ideas into reality thanks to funding from a council-backed scheme. The Sandwell Entrepreneur Programme offers financial help and general support to people who come up with business ideas that also tackle social issues. One of the winners Michael Sinclair is setting up a service of affordable sporting activities for residents, while Jayde Lewis will give support to isolated older people in hospital.

Council leader Councillor Darren Cooper said: "Social enterprises are an innovative and positive way to provide services in the current economic climate.

"I am pleased we are able to help creative people start up new ventures which will also create new job opportunities for people.

National charity UnLtd, the leading provider of support to social entrepreneurs; Skills Work Enterprise Development Agency (SWEDA); and Sandwel Council are running the scheme.

The nine winners were Gurbax Bajwa, Melissa Fox, Sharon Jenkins, Jayde Lewis, La’Toyah Lewis, Daniel Pearce, Lucky Rai, Michael Sinclair and Theresa Theper.

Gurbax is to provide courses to help autistic children and lone parents; Sharon will open a second Murray Hall Community Trust charity shop and train volunteers; Daniel is to provide sporting equipment for under-16s.

La’Toyah is to sell low-cost, second-hand furniture to vulnerable and low paid people; and Melissa will generate funds to develop activities for older members of the Great Bridge community.

Lucky plans to provide theatre training for local people, leading to live performances; and Theresa will promote arts in schools and colleges and start a website to promote the arts.