Government announces £57m funding package for Northern Ireland groups to replace EU support

Funding announced for range of Northern Ireland charities.

Around 100 organisations across Northern Ireland are to receive £57million in government funding to replace lost money from the EU.

The money will go to 18 projects to help people into work.

Funding from the European Social Fund (ESF) comes to an end on Friday due to Brexit.

Some charities in Northern Ireland have warned they would have to cut staff and support programmes if their funding was not replaced.

Northern Ireland has the lowest number of disabled people in the UK in employment. That's despite the efforts of the many organisations who provide vital support in helping people find jobs.

Some of those groups told UTV they faced difficult decision and having to lay off staff because of the funding black hole they faced.

On Friday, the Department for Levelling Up announced it was increasing investment from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund by £15m. This takes the total amount of UK Government funding to £57m.

A department statement said this was up on the £42m announced in December.

The successful bids, the department said, will support over 25,000 economically inactive people in Northern Ireland – offering them support to find high quality jobs.

The UK Government has said that all organisations can start planning to use the funding from April when current money from the European Social Fund ends.

Levelling Up Minister Dehenna Davison said: “We are making the most of opportunities outside the European Union to deliver for people in Northern Ireland.

“It is fantastic that organisations have come together in new partnerships to deliver creative solutions to economic inactivity through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

"In recognition of the huge impact charities, businesses and colleges are having on the ground, I’m delighted to announce that we are boosting the original funding pot for this competition by an additional £15 million to help them support even more people into fulfilling jobs.

“This is an important milestone in the investment we are making to level up Northern Ireland and the whole of the UK.”

The successful projects were allocated the money following an open competition for organisations across Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Secretary, Chris Heaton-Harris said: "The £57 million funding will support the vital work of community and voluntary organisations, enabling them to support people in Northern Ireland into secure and sustainable employment.

"Through its People and Skills strand, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will invest in skills training and interventions to support economically inactive people in Northern Ireland. This is key to boosting productivity and harnessing Northern Ireland’s growth potential."

Those Successful projects include:

  • Action Mental Health and six partners including Mencap, NOW Group and the Royal National Institute of Blind People will receive around £12million to deliver a programme of specialist employment preparation and training for over 4,500 people across Northern Ireland with significant disabilities or health conditions who face multiple barriers in accessing employment.

  • Triangle Housing Association and its partners will provide a wrap-around support for economically inactive people, including women, those with disabilities, neurodiversity, autism and/or mental health issues to move towards sustained employment. The project will benefit from almost £4.8million to support each person with holistic, wrap-around support through ongoing assessment and a personal development plan.

  • Network Personnel Limited, along with its partners, will receive around £2million for a partnership targeting economically inactive people through holistic interventions to increase their skills levels, move closer to mainstream provision, and take steps to secure sustainable employment or self-employment. Delivering across Mid Ulster, Mid and East Antrim, Antrim and Newtownabbey, Fermanagh and Omagh, Causeway Coast and Glens and Derry City and Strabane council areas, it plans to support over 1,300 people over the next two years.

  • The Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders will receive over £1.5 million towards a project to support over 1,500 people across Northern Ireland with convictions in prison and the community to find sustainable employment over the next two years. Services will include one-to-one mentoring, employability support, advice and training.

  • Women's TEC and its partners will support women across Belfast and the rural Newry, Mourne and Down region, through their £872,000 ‘Building Futures’ project. The aim of the programme is to support women furthest from the labour market to feel confident, motivated and empowered to find and sustain employment, improving their confidence, self-efficacy, and life and work skills.

  • Extern Northern Ireland’s ‘Moving Forward Moving On’ project will receive £648,000 to provide intensive mentoring and employability support to young people in Belfast and Antrim and Newtownabbey who are furthest from the job market. It will include accredited courses in employability skills, life skills and personal development, as well as mentoring support and soft skills training .

Each organisation will receive a notification on Friday setting out any project conditions that they need to meet before funding will be released.

The money confirmed by UK Government to improve economic activity represents 45% of the total UKSPF allocation for Northern Ireland, in recognition of the need to tackle the high levels of economic inactivity across Northern Ireland compared with the UK average.

This builds on the UKSPF Investment Plan published last year, which was developed in close collaboration with partners in Northern Ireland including representatives from the voluntary sector, local councils, businesses and higher education. The investment is designed to improve pride in place, increase life chances and support growth by investing in key priorities for Northern Ireland.

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