£50k boost to help fund Antrim and Newtownabbey debt support service

Community Advice Antrim and Newtownabbey has been given a funding boost of £50k to assist clients with financial and debt management advice.

The Department for Communities funding is to be awarded through the borough council.

The charity has been anticipating a reduction in funding by the Department which could mean a loss of £1.5m to the advice sector in Northern Ireland and £76,000 per annum to Community Advice Antrim and Newtownabbey.

DfC has been funding the advice sector since 2016 “in recognition of the complexity of welfare changes”.

Cash (stock image).

Community Advice has reported that during a 12-month period, the organisation can receive as many as 8,000 welfare benefit and appeal inquiries from clients in Antrim and Newtownabbey which has resulted in the return of £1.3m.

Among clients in the borough, 40 per cent have reported reduced income as a direct result of the Covid pandemic with a “high level of poverty” in some households.

Meanwhile, the provision of mental health programmes, food and essential supplies and fuel poverty were the top priorities identified as community needs in a recent council survey of community and voluntary groups.

An open call by the local authority for applications under the Community

Recovery and Tackling Fuel Poverty Fund was due to open on Monday, November 15, to the Covid-19 Community Support Fund.

Speaking at last week’s meeting of the council’s Community Planning Committee, Antrim DUP Councillor Paul Dunlop BEM said: “There are uncertain times ahead. This has to be welcomed.”

The local authority has been asked to submit details on current Covid-19 recovery needs within the borough and  proposals on how an additional £147,416.48, allocated to the council under the Community Support Programme to meet such needs, could be spent if approved by the Department.

It is proposed to provide £15,000 in financial support to the Newtownabbey-based Thrive Project for 2021/22.

The Thrive Project is a partnership of parents, schools, community and voluntary organisations and statutory agencies working together to help children and young people in Rathcoole and Monkstown achieve their full potential and have the best start in life.

The proposal was welcomed by Threemilewater Alliance Councillor Julie Gilmour  who noted that the proposed funding was from the Covid Community Support Fund.

She reported that last year, the borough council provided Thrive with £15,000 funding.

Cllr Gilmour said: “I would like to propose we provide £15,000 from DfC and top it up with £10,000 from the council. Kids will have missed so much school. This would be very valuable.”

Her proposal was seconded by party colleague, Glengormley Alderman Julian McGrath.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter


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