Belfast Telegraph

Stormont crisis: Voluntary groups are facing cuts over Northern Ireland talks impasse

By Victoria Leonard

At least 154 voluntary or community groups across have had some of their public funding cut or fear they are at risk of cuts because of Stormont's Budget uncertainty.

The fallout from the political stalemate has resulted in no agreed Budget for the next financial year, meaning that some voluntary and community organisations could be forced to make staff redundant and rein in services to survive.

A Funding Watch survey for the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (Nicva) revealed that 88% of the 175 organisations in receipt of statutory funding who responded have received cuts or are at risk of funding cuts.

Almost one in 10 reported that funding cuts for the next financial year had already been confirmed, while 52% estimated that between one and five jobs were at risk.

Almost a third of the groups have already put staff on notice due to confirmed or potential statutory funding cuts.

In order to cope with the situation, 43% of organisations said they might implement staff redundancies, 45% may consider reducing hours and 42% may freeze or cut pay.

Respondents drew down funding from a number of statutory agencies, including government departments, councils and non-departmental public bodies such as Policing and Community Safety Partnerships.

Despite the new financial year approaching, Nicva chief executive Seamus McAleavey said that the "vast majority" of organisations hadn't heard anything from the Government.

"There are 40,000 people employed by voluntary and community groups in Northern Ireland, half of them full-time, and over £500m of government funding goes into voluntary organisations which provide a wide range of services," he explained.

"This issue will affect all areas of life in Northern Ireland's youth services, mental health services, helping people to live independent lives in the community, children, support to vulnerable people and end-of-life care."

Mr McAleavey said that he planned to meet with Department of Finance permanent secretary David Sterling.

One group due to be hit hard by the Budget crisis is east Belfast youth centre Ledley Hall.

One of its workers, Michelle Fullerton, said that seven of the centre's 14 part-time posts would be axed if no solution was found by Friday.

"Seven staff have been put on protective notice, which finishes on Friday, as we have received nothing in writing from the Education Authority," she added.

"We have over 300 members in our youth service and the young people know that extended provision at weekends, late nights and our education projects and boxing projects will be affected."

Michelle stressed she is concerned there could be "massive consequences" for the community because of a loss of services provided by her group.

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