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Support for families in crisis set to be withdrawn after Stormont collapse

Vital support for hundreds of families in crisis across Belfast is set to be withdrawn because of the collapse of Stormont, it has emerged.

Government funding for the social justice charity Extern is due to run out at the end of March and staff within the organisation's Intensive Family Support Service in the north of the city have been placed on notice.

The scheme provides support to children, young people and their families, and people who are homeless.

It has been warned that the withdrawal of services could have a "devastating" impact on the families the charity supports.

Catherine Arkinson of the union Nipsa, said the project currently delivers intensive support to 235 families each year in Belfast.

Since its inception in April 2014, until December 2016, they have worked with 515 families comprising 1,188 children and 826 adults, Ms Arkinson said,

"If this project ceases to exist due to the lack of funding from Stormont it will place an intolerable strain on social care across Belfast," she warned.

Nipsa believe that management have been doing, and continue to do, all in their power to retain this key service, Ms Arkinson added.

A member of staff commented that "although this is personally very difficult, I am more concerned with the devastating effect this will have on the families and communities we support".

The project is a jointly-funded endeavour which was previously sponsored by the departments of health, justice, social development and education and learning.

Nipsa has urged ministers of the relevant sponsoring departments to guarantee the funding so that this project does not end on March 31.

Last year Extern took on some of the work carried out by Fasa (Forum for Action on Substance Abuse), which was forced to suspend its services due to financial difficulties.

The charity also purchased a number of houses in north and west Belfast for the homeless.

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