Minister announces cash boost for voluntary and community sector

Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín is to make a further £10.8 million of funding available to the voluntary and community sector to assist recovery from, and prepare for any possible second wave of Covid-19.

The grant funding will be made available in October with £9.7 million to cover six months salaries up to March 2021 for groups and the remaining £1.1 million to cover running costs.

This follows previous payments totalling £13 million which were issued in early April to around 400 organisations to enable the continued delivery of key services to those most vulnerable and at risk within our communities.

The Minister said: “It is clear from evidence to date that the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted on the most vulnerable in our society. The support my department has provided has allowed the sector to focus on supporting many of those in our communities who most needed help, with many of our partner organisations adapting service delivery to meet the challenges arising from the pandemic.

“The flexibility measures introduced to date have been well received and have facilitated the sector in responding to Covid-19 but we know that challenges continue. The Department is continuing to work with organisations across the community and voluntary sector and we are determined to continue to provide vital support to communities across the North.

“It is clear as the pandemic remains there is a need to ensure that organisations have the capacity and support in the event of a second wave. As well as planning normal delivery alongside the challenges associated with social distancing, evidence to date shows that while many organisations can continue to provide services, capacity will be reduced but costs in terms of salaries and running cost will be broadly similar.”

In essence the Department will make further advance payment of £9.7m towards six months salaries covering the period October to March to those organisations, and £1.1m for three months running costs covering the period October to December. This element is usually paid in arrears. The proposal of 3 months would allow the Department to complete light touch vouching in the last quarter.

The Department intends to make advance payments by mid October 2020 to enable community and voluntary organisations to continue to deliver essential programmes and projects to those most vulnerable within our communities.

In response to the emerging needs of Covid-19, the then Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey introduced grant funding flexibilities, for a period of up to six months. This was to provide breathing space to enable organisations to focus on supporting many of those in our communities who needed help more than ever given these extraordinary circumstances.

The grant flexibilities included:

Advance payment of up to 6 months of the contracted discretionary grant payment. This allowed the continuation of salary contributions and running cost. The advancement was for the period 1 April to 30 September 2020.

Temporary suspension of grant monitoring arrangements such as vouching and requiring organisations to seek prior approval for re-profiled spend within already approved budget.

The Department to date has advanced around £13 million to ensure funding was available to some 400 organisations to help those most vulnerable within our communities.

To date the majority of organisations have responded by adapting to provide Covid 19 related services within their local communities, such as:

Food delivery/supply
Childcare for key workers
Telephone/On line support including good morning service

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