Deprived areas of south Belfast 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 approximately £415,000 is being made available for 17 communities across Northern Ireland in the next financial year. This will include areas such as the Benmore estate in Finaghy.
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 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 fears prior to the minister’s announcement 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 south Belfast.
Over the last two years the Benmore estate in Finaghy has received £33,685 through the scheme to pay for a community development worker's salary, running costs and various projects.
Balmoral Councillor Bernie Kelly said Benmore would have suffered a “big loss” if the scheme was pulled.
“There are certain areas that sit outside the Neighbourhood Renewal area that are deprived and would miss this funding. Losing this funding would have been a big loss to the Benmore estate,” she said.