Northern Ireland news

£20.5 million fund from dormant accounts to be opened for community sector

Conor Murphy said the Dormant Accounts Fund is set to increase as further dormant funds are made available each year
Rebecca Black, PA

A £20.5 million fund from dormant accounts is set to be opened for community groups.

Multi-year grants of up to £100,000 will be available under the scheme to be delivered by the National Lottery Community Fund.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy spoke about the funding during a visit to Footprints social enterprise in west Belfast today.

Announcing details of the scheme in the assembly, Mr Murphy said the Dormant Accounts Fund is set to increase as further dormant funds are made available each year.

"Third sector groups are often limited to annual funding, causing constant uncertainty and hindering long-term planning," he said.

"By offering multi-year funding, this fund will give groups a bridge to become more financially sustainable.

"Ultimately this allows them to have an even greater impact on people's lives."

As well as providing grants, the Dormant Accounts Fund will also support larger, strategic projects, which may focus on a particular issue such as diversity and inclusion, social finance or volunteering.

Kate Beggs, The National Lottery Community Fund's NI Director, described the launch of the fund as a "milestone" for the community and voluntary sector.

"While 2020 has been a year of emergency funding, we know many organisations are trying to plan for the long term and thinking about the changes they need to make to become more sustainable," she said.

"Those changes require leadership, strategic planning, new skills and strong governance - and also time to stop and think.

"Those are things for which funding often isn't available and that's where the Dormant Accounts Fund comes in.

"It will provide flexible, multi-year funding and allow a diverse range of organisations to plan for a more secure future."

Former finance minister Mervyn Storey (DUP) and UUP MLA Roy Beggs queried the minister in the assembly over why the fund took years to be launched.

Mr Storey added: "It is disappointing that four years have elapsed since I left the department and we're only getting to the point where there is an announcement being made."

Mr Beggs said: "This has been floating around since the legislation in 2008, indeed I was briefed on it in the finance committee in 2008."

Mr Murphy responded: "I share his frustration, and indeed the frustration of the sectors that have been waiting on this... we only came back into post in January, and it would have been done earlier only for the pandemic overtaking an awful lot of the work within all of the department, including my own."

The minister also sought to reassure faith-based groups that despite the National Lottery administering the scheme, none of the money from the fund had come from gambling.

The Dormant Accounts Fund will open for applications at noon on Tuesday January 12.

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