Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council have agreed advance funding of £280,000 to support community led responses to assist the most vulnerable as the Coronavirus pandemic continues.
The investment builds on the work undertaken by Local Community Planning, neighbourhood renewal groups, rural networks and the community based volunteer initiatives that have emerged over recent weeks.
Members received a report on the Resilience Support Programme at a briefing to Full Council this week, and warmly welcomed officers' recommendations to introduce a raft of interventions representing a significant £280k commitment from Council in the response to COVID19.
Members heard that consideration had been given to the wider needs of the voluntary and advice sectors and were advised that following consultation around the growing pressures, urgent additional investment and flexible approaches to the delivery of such funds is now needed.
The funding package will see an initial £15,000 for each of the District Electoral Areas to support local responses and a further investment of £80,000 will be released on a rolling basis subject to need and the availability of other regional funds.
Council will work with the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland's Acorn Fund to deliver an additional £50,000 in order to ensure the swift delivery of the support and allow local service providers to deliver services in a way that best suits local communities.
It's hoped that a further package of support from the Department of Communities will be confirmed within the coming days.
The money will enable some groups to offer additional assistance within community areas, including out of hours services and additional welfare support and advice.
Welcoming the announcement, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Michaela Boyle, said she hoped the move would increase the capacity for community organisations to meet the growing demands of the public over the coming weeks and months.
"I am delighted to see the response within our community areas where local people have moved quickly to establish a network of vital services," she declared.
"However there is much more to do in ensuring the most vulnerable get help. I want to commend the community led volunteer responses that are mobilising right across the City and District. It's heartening to see so many people come forward to assist the wellbeing of their neighbours and communities during this time. These services will come under increasing pressure in the coming months so I want to ask that everyone who is fit to do so considers offering their help if they can.
"This is a rapidly changing situation and as a Council will continue to be proactive and to work with all our partner agencies and organisations to support local people and ensure they have the information, services and assistance they need to stay safe, well and adequately provided for through the very challenging times ahead."
At the meeting members discussed the possible delivery mechanisms for the effective allocation of resources, as well as the governance and coordination required to support the local community and voluntary sector.
It was agreed that Council would advance with the necessary governance arrangements in place to deliver annually agreed support to these services. This will include committing funds to support service level agreements and an extension of the community venues funds which have been in place for the last three years to ensure core costs will be in place to continue services. Council officers will contact impacted groups directly with letters of offer and advance payments as quickly as possible.
An additional joint funding package is also being developed with the Department for Communities to support the continuation of the advice tribunal service, increasing telephone capacity and extending working hours. Council is hopeful that this investment will be confirmed shortly.
During the meeting Council members paid tribute to local service providers Advice North West, Dove House and Resource Centre Derry and the work they are doing reaching out to the community under growing pressure, and stressed the importance of stepping up assistance at this stage.
Councillors strongly welcomed these and other measures put forward, and agreed to further review demands on services and to lobby government for the necessary financial support to maintain and strengthen community services as needed to respond to the ongoing COVID19 emergency.
A spokesperson for the three local service providers welcomed the news, saying: "We are delighted that these resources are being made available. Demand has been unprecedented and our staff have been working around the clock to meet the needs of local people who are naturally very concerned for the welfare of themselves and loved ones at this time.
"We will channel this support into the effective delivery of services and supporting our staff throughout this crisis."
The full report from today's meeting is available to view now at https://bit.ly/2xnnv0v
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