Charity fund steps into Stormont vacuum to provide loans to community groups
A charity fund is stepping into the vacuum left by the Stormont negotiations to provide loans to community groups across Northern Ireland.
The £1 million Building Better Futures initiative was envisaged before the collapse of powersharing and will help charities and other organisations with unsecured loans of up to £25,000 for projects like building repairs.
Many voluntary organisations are struggling for official grants due to the lack of an agreed Stormont budget for this year, amid warnings some staff faced redundancy.
Paula Reynolds, chief executive officer of the Belfast Charitable Society, said the fund was a lifeline for some and enabled groups to take greater responsibility for their financial futures.
She added: "We are doing this at a time when groups are finding it difficult to be sure that they are getting their funding from Government."
The scheme is being funded over the next five years by the Belfast Charitable Society, one of Northern Ireland's oldest charitable organisations, Building Change Trust and Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT).
Organisations like the 174 Trust, which works with communities in North Belfast, are benefiting.
Ms Reynolds said the money had been a lifeline for some.
"It is a lifeline in many ways.
"It is a lifeline in that they are looking at their operations and taking a risk, albeit ... it is unsecured but it is looking at a different way of funding their work so it has been a lifeline for a couple of groups in North Belfast, 174 Trust and Jigsaw.
"But it is a way for us to invest at a time of uncertainty, to help to invest in the groups and the work that they are doing and to let them also look at the way they are funding their projects and giving them another option and to look at where their funding is coming from as opposed to it maybe always being a grant."