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Northern Ireland charities have funding guaranteed until 2018

Community groups across Northern Ireland have had their financial future guaranteed into 2018.

In the past week charities and other organisations that provide vital local services have received letters from the Department of Communities extending their funding up to March of next year.

With Northern Ireland's executive collapsed, the department had been guaranteeing funding on a rolling three-month basis - which came with the stipulation that because funding was being given at that time, this was not a guarantee that it would continue.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, the Department of Communities has confirmed that the 76 organisations that it supports have been sent contracts to extend funding through to September 30, 2017, along with confirmation that funding will be extended until the end of March next year.

The Strabane Ethnic Communities Association, which provides support to migrants and people from black and minority ethnic communities, is one of the groups now able to plan for the medium-term.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the group's project coordinator Kamini Rao said: "You have to plan for these things to last quite a while."

"It was just luck that the funding came in last week. That covers running costs and salaries and the more central things, so it allows us to continue our operation."

She said that there had been some panic as they were uncertain where the money would come from for a forthcoming summer scheme and projects planned for the autumn.

Another group that is set to benefit is the Londonderry-based Irish Street Communities Association.

Speaking prior to funding being restored, the group’s projects coordinator said that they had experienced difficulty in finding someone to perform maternity cover.

“We are trying to employ short term staff and we can’t employ anyone through the summer,” she said, “people don’t want three-month contracts.”

Despite groups receiving reassurance that their core funding will be continued into next year, there is still a lockdown on new projects being funded.

In a statement, the Department of Communities said: "The department receives new potential project proposals for funding from a wide range of groups and partner organisations on an ongoing basis. Due to current financial circumstances no new projects are being funded at the present time."

Difficulties being faced by groups that depend on central funding has been highlighted over the past two weeks due to the plight of South Belfast Sure Start, which is part of a network that looks after around 1,600 infants and young children up to the age of four.

The organisation - which is funded through the Department of Education - was required to issue protective redundancy notices to its 50 employees, as its funding had not been guaranteed beyond July 31.

It was confirmed at the end of last week that the group would have their current level of funding guaranteed for another year - but with a 4 per cent cut on what they currently receive.

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