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£500k project for funding NI sports clubs unveiled

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Boost: Deirdre Hargey

Boost: Deirdre Hargey

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Boost: Deirdre Hargey

Community and voluntary sports clubs and organisations affected by the coronavirus crisis can avail of a new £500,000 fund.

The scheme, announced by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey, will enable groups to apply for a grant of £2,000 via the sports' council body Sport NI.

The hardship fund is for those clubs and organisations which currently cannot access other government sources of financial assistance.

It will enable groups to maintain facilities during the Covid-19 restrictions.

Ms Hargey said it is imperative sporting organisations receive support during this unprecedented crisis.

"I recognise that sporting organisations at every level, from grassroots to those who compete at an international level, are facing serious financial challenges as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions and the impact that this has had on them," she said.

"This fund will provide a grant of £2,000 per application and will help eligible sports clubs and sporting organisations to meet essential costs which still need to be paid, even when their facilities are closed.

"I want to ensure that, over the next three months, that there is help available to cover costs such as rent, essential utility bills and to assist with the cost of basic maintenance of outdoor sports facilities."

The minister added: "Sport will have a crucial role to play in helping communities to get through this crisis and to help society come out of the lockdown period.

"It is therefore essential that sporting organisations and clubs are in a position to offer communities and individuals access to sport and physical activities as soon as it is safe to do so," she said.

The announcement comes days after the Communities Minister unveiled a £1.5m funding boost to councils across Northern Ireland.

The money will come from the Covid-19 Community Support Fund to target need and help alleviate poverty.

The support funding will aim to assist citizens experiencing financial stress, require access to food or help those living alone to connect with other.

Mrs Hargey said she expected the initial £1.5m to be followed by more funding.

Meanwhile, the Department of Communities is also over-seeing the Volunteer Now scheme, #HelpEachOther in an effort to support those impacted socially by the virus.

Roles include telephone befriending, undertaking light shopping, walking the dog, packing food hampers, along with many others.

Individuals and organisations - which require help from volunteers - can both avail of the service which is being run by Volunteer Now, the leading body for volunteering, explained Minister Hargey.

"My department is working closely with Volunteer Now to support a co-ordinated response to the need for community support for those most vulnerable and isolated within our communities, particularly at this time," she said. "Volunteering is vital to the fabric of our community and this has been demonstrated by the generosity of giving shown to date."

To date around 3,000 people have signed up to the scheme.

For more information about the hardship fund, visit: www.sportni.net/funding/our-funding-programmes/sports-hardship-fund

Belfast Telegraph