Deprived areas of North Down have received a community funding boost after Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie confirmed the extension to the Small Pockets of Deprivation (SPOD) programme.
Following an evaluation of the programme, Ms Ritchie confirmed that approximately £415,000 is being made available for 17 communities across Northern Ireland in the next financial year. This will include areas such as Rathgill and Harbour Ward.
The funding is targeted to help small pockets of deprivation in otherwise relatively well off areas. This level of spending will ensure that “existing projects and the salaries of those individuals employed through the programme will continue to be supported but no new projects will be considered”.
Spending will include: Running costs for community centres, and; l Salaries for those staff employed using programme funds to deliver services at a local level.
Ms Ritchie said: “I am aiming to make a real difference to our most deprived communities by working with local people and targeting resources where they are most needed.
“These small pockets of deprivation have problems which need to be tackled and they deserve as much as the larger areas currently funded through my department’s Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy. I want to close the gap between those who live in disadvantaged areas and those who do not and I am pleased therefore, to be able to continue providing that help by allocating additional funding up to March 31, 2011.”
The SPOD programme has been running for three years but there had been suggestions prior to the minister’s announcement from local political representatives that it could be scrapped when its original funding period was due to end in April 2010.
The move would have resulted in tens of thousands of pounds being taken away from local community groups and initiatives in North Down.
Karen Worrall, community work at Rathgill Community Association, said the loss of funding through SPOD would have had a “massive impact” on local community initiatives.
“The loss of this funding would have been devastating to Rathgill and would definitely impact on our work here,” she said.
“Programmes for social, physical, economic renewal and education would all have had to be halted as a result.
“All this work is done through a local community worker who would have also lost their job as a result.”
SPOD is designed to support deprived communities which are too small to receive funding under the Neighbourhood Renewal Investment Fund.
Rathgill and Harbour Ward in Bangor have both benefited from the SPOD scheme.
In the last financial year, £60,301 was allocated to Rathgill and £49,772 to the Harbour Ward area. In the current financial year, it is estimated that £117,874 will be spent in Rathgill and £62,776 in Harbour Ward.
To date, the department has also allocated £1,521,000 to projects in Kilcooley from the renewal fund with £638,599 allocated in the last financial year.
A Department for Social Development spokesman said that the Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy would also be continuing.