Wilson denies threat to 700 community worker jobs in Northern Ireland
Claims that almost 700 community workers in Northern Ireland face redundancy because of a shortage of public funds were hotly denied by the Executive today.
Frontline services in disadvantaged areas could be devastated with elderly people and those in poor health suffering if staff at many projects lose their job, the Save Community Services Campaign warned.
Finance Minister Sammy Wilson pledged there would be money for neighbourhood renewal schemes as he outlined details of the draft budget at Stormont today.
Campaign spokesman Manus Maguire said cuts in services could negatively affect more than 200,000 of the poorest residents.
He said: "We are calling on all parties to continue support for deprived communities to ensure that frontline services are protected beyond March 2011."
The group presented Social Development Minister Alex Attwood with a Christmas card highlighting uncertainty around funding at Stormont today. The 107 other Assembly members will also receive a copy of the card amid expectations 695 people will be given redundancy notices on Christmas Eve.
Neighbourhood renewal targets the most deprived communities in Northern Ireland. It aims to bring together the work of all government departments to tackle disadvantage and deprivation in all aspects of life.
Neighbourhoods in the most deprived 10% of wards across Northern Ireland were identified. The scheme works with one in six people in the region.
The areas include 15 in Belfast, six in Londonderry and 15 in other towns and cities.
Neighbourhood partnerships have been established with representatives from politics, government, the voluntary and community sectors as well as local businesses.
Mr Wilson said: "The current proposals include a range of measures such as grants for business starts in neighbourhood renewal areas, contact centres, food processing sector, social enterprise, knowledge process outsourcing, enhanced enterprise support to disadvantaged young people and a propel programme for export starts."
Social Development Minister Alex Attwood said people will receive a protective notice from their employing organisation which relies on neighbourhood renewal funding. This is a legal requirement for them until they know for certain their funding position from April 2011.
The minister added: "I have made it unambiguously clear that neighbourhood renewal will be funded. To hint or suggest that services funded by neighbourhood renewal might be withdrawn completely contradicts the evidence and the facts. People should be more responsible."