Northern Ireland news

Health and education among Stormont funding beneficiaries

Finance Minister Conor Murphy. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

AN UNDER-PRESSURE health sector battling the coronavirus is the main beneficiary from a fresh round of Stormont funding unveiled by Finance Minister Conor Murphy.

Around £250 million has been re-allocated to executive departments, including money for free school meals and childcare over the summer holidays plus additional funds for public transport.

The Sinn Féin minister also pledged £2.5 million to establish the pension scheme for people injured during the Troubles. However, the long-awaited scheme has yet to go live, remaining mired in a controversy over who should benefit from payments.

The latest so-called monitoring round, which sees the redistribution of money not spent by Stormont departments, is dominated by addressing pressures brought about by the Covid-19 crisis.

Accordingly, the health service will receive an additional £90 million, which Mr Murphy said would help elective care and the Mental Health Action Plan.

"The allocations made today will provide vital funding for our health service, vulnerable people and businesses," the finance minister said.

He said the fresh funding included more than £15 million to "help meet increased benefit delivery costs, assist vulnerable people to live independently and will provide support for the homeless".

"I am also allocating £20 million for business start-ups and investment in tourist attractions," he said.

"In addition, I have allocated £4 million to assist the arts sector and £2 million for the sports sector."

Other allocations include:

:: £35.5 million for infrastructure, including £20 million for Translink;

:: £25 million for Ulster University;

:: £13.5 million for the NI Courts Service, PSNI and NI Prison Service.

Notably, the funding tranche includes £15 million secured as part of the 2017 confidence and supply deal between the DUP and Theresa May's minority government.

Mr Murphy said he would continue to press the Treasury for the "outstanding £195 million" relating to the 2017 deal.

Education minister Peter Weir welcomed an additional £39 million for his department – £12 million of which will fund a summer food scheme.

The scheme, which was retained in England following a high-profile campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford, will benefit around 102,000 children over the summer holidays.

"These payments will help ensure that those children most in need do not go hungry during the summer months," Mr Weir said.

The Department of Education also received £12 million for learning support programmes and summer activities, and £10.5million for childcare.

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