First groups awarded grants from Dormant Accounts Fund NI

A number of organisations across Northern Ireland are set to benefit from the grants. Credit: UTV

A faith-based charity, an Irish language group and a theatre company are the first organisations to be awarded grants from the Dormant Accounts Fund NI.

East Belfast Mission received a £99,921 grant to support the long-term sustainability of its Hosford Homelessness Services.

An Gaelaras in Londonderry is receiving £76,000 to improve financial resilience, and Pintsized Productions Ltd in north Belfast will receive £2,700 to improve the skills of board members.<

Dormant accounts are UK bank and building society accounts that have been untouched for 15 or more years, where customers who own the accounts cannot be traced.

More than £20 million is currently available and money will continue to be released each year to support the long-term sustainability of community organisations.

Kate Beggs, Northern Ireland director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said there has been a lot of interest in the fund.

"We know many organisations are trying to plan for the long term and thinking about the changes they need to make to become more sustainable," she said.

"Those changes require leadership, strategic planning, new skills and strong governance.

"Those are things for which funding often isn't available and that's where the Dormant Accounts Fund comes in.

It will provide flexible, multi-year funding and allow a diverse range of organisations to plan for a more secure future.

Kate Beggs

"There is also support for larger investments that will enable collaboration and develop new and creative Northern Ireland-wide or sector-specific approaches to sustainability."

Finance Minister Conor Murphy hailed the first awards.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy Credit: UTV

"This funding will support these projects with longer-term sustainability and resilience which are at the very core of this fund," he said.

"I look forward to further awards being made in the near future and seeing the positive longer-term impact the Dormant Accounts Fund has within the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors."

Aidan Byrne, homelessness services manager at East Belfast Mission, said the funding would help strengthen what they do.

"It will make our existing services better and give us the space and resources to develop new projects that will directly benefit people who are homeless and improve their lives," he said.

"Over the past 10 years we've been reacting to current needs and challenges, but we were always aware that we didn't have the resources to do any long-term planning.

Applying to Dormant Accounts has given us the funding to make the changes we need over the next three years to help the people that we serve and plan for the challenges that lie ahead.

Aidan Byrne

An Gaelaras , which runs Irish language education, music and cultural activities, is using the funding to become more sustainable to reduce their reliance on grants.

Chief executive Padraig Mac Congail said: "We currently receive funding from quite a few funders, but one of our ongoing goals is to become more self-sufficient.

"We want to be able to provide a valuable community hub and services into the future as we develop our educational, cultural, social and employment opportunities."

We want to be able to provide a valuable community hub and services into the future as we develop our educational, cultural, social and employment opportunities.

Padraig Mac Congail

Pintsized Productions Ltd, a theatre company in north Belfast, is using the grant to improve the skills and confidence of their board.

Chairwoman Emma McCabe said: "Our organisation has been led by volunteers for over 10 years, many of us being founding committee and board members.

"From the beginning it was always a goal of ours to offer specialist training, but we haven't had the funding.

"This grant will allow us to upskill our board members to continue working in the background, completing funding applications, updating policies and procedures, fundraising and marketing, to help ensure a future for the organisation and for the emerging artists we employ."

There is no closing date for Dormant Accounts Fund NI and organisations are asked to consider carefully what they need before making an application.