Ethnic minority and LGBT groups are among 286 organisations who have been awarded grants by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The Equality Act 2006 allows the EHRC to give financial assistance to organisations concerned with promoting equality and diversity, good relations and human rights.

Stonewall, the Bristol Lesbian Gay Bisexual Forum, the Consortium of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Voluntary and Community Organisations and The Lesbian and Gay Foundation are among the recipients.

For a full list click here.

The EHRC came into being last year and this is its first grants programme.

More than £10m has been handed to organisations across England, Scotland and Wales to “promote the values of fairness and good relations.”

Law centres in Glasgow, community action projects in Lancashire, race equality councils in Essex, and disability groups in Cardiff have all received financial support.

Funding has been awarded in three priority areas: encouraging good relations, promoting equality and human rights and supporting the development of legal cases.

The commission announced yesterday that it will prioritise legal cases in new areas of equality such as sexual orientation, in order to build case law.

Nicola Brewer, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“This is about helping those organisations that make a real difference at local level.

“They have both the knowledge and expertise to bring real benefits to their local communities.

“Through our unique grants programme we can help ensure this good work continues.

“Support for these organisations is critical if we are to succeed in extending equality and fairness to all people in Britain.”

The commission also announced a Capacity Development Programme to help local organisations develop the services they provide for the public.

The programme will look to plug the gaps in funding and service provision particularly in less well established areas of work relating to age, sexual orientation, religion and human rights.

The EHRC is designed to promote a fair, equal and diverse society and tackling illegal discrimination.

It was established by the Equality Act 2006 and began work at the start of October 2007.

It brought together the three existing equality commissions – the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission.

The EHRC incorporates three new human rights strands – age, sexual orientation and religion and belief.

It caused controversy from the start when the general director of the Evangelical Alliance was appointed as a commissioner.

Joel Edwards was a controversial choice for some gay rights groups.

The Evangelical Alliance are one of the most strident voices against gay rights in the UK.

They launched large-scale campaigns against the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which ensure equality of gay, lesbian and bisexual people when accessing goods and services.

Jim Herrick, chairman of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, said that his appointment will distort the concept of human rights and put gay rights in danger.

However Stonewall, whose chief executive Ben Summerskill is also a commissioner, said that Mr Edwards has obligations to ensure equality for all people, including lesbian and gay people.