Together: Building a United Community

Oral Answers to Questions — The Executive Office – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 29th November 2016.

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Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP 2:00 pm, 29th November 2016

1. Mr Beggs asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister to outline the assessment made of the knowledge, skills and strengths in local communities before developing action plans through Together: Building a United Community. (AQO 774/16-21)

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

Together: Building a United Community is an Executive strategy that places responsibilities on all Departments. The development of the summer camp programme and the United Youth programme adopted a co-design approach with key stakeholders and young people. Local engagement with residents, community groups and stakeholders has informed the development of strategic frameworks for each Urban Village area. Young people are receiving training and mentoring to deliver the cross-community youth sports programme. This approach of local community engagement is at the heart of Together: Building a United Community. We will continue to work with communities to identify local needs, address local issues and deliver positive outcomes for all.

Photo of Caitriona Ruane Caitriona Ruane Deputy Speaker

I call Gordon Lyons. Gabh mo leithscéal. Excuse me. I call Roy Beggs for a supplementary.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I thank the Minister for her answer. Does she acknowledge that having a wide range of bodies for Together: Building a United Community — the social investment fund (SIF), the small pockets of deprivation programme (SPOD), neighbourhood renewal funding, the Housing Executive and councils — means there is a danger of overlapping and duplicating services? Yet there are areas in my constituency, such as Craigy Hill and Antiville, where there is very weak community support and they seem to have missed out. What are the First Minister and deputy First Minister doing to ensure that areas are not missing out on support and that where there is a need it is addressed?

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

I thank the Member for his supplementary question. Many of these schemes are open to applications, and if the applications are put in, they are then assessed. In East Antrim under T:BUC, there have been many good interventions. There have been summer camps at Larne. The Education Authority (EA) has run a Larne rural youth project and engaged with Monkstown Boxing Club under the summer camp programme. Money has been distributed through the district council good relations programme, which will have an impact on East Antrim as well. The Community Relations Council (CRC) through T:BUC has been able to allocate over £10,000 to projects in East Antrim, including the Cairncastle Ulster-Scots cultural group and the Carrickfergus historical re-enactments group. Indeed, there are many other organisations that have been able to avail themselves of CRC's core funding. In many cases, it is about an application process. Applications are then looked at to make sure they meet the required methodology and the governance needed to pay out the money. If he has any particular groups in mind that have not been successful in their applications, we are happy to work with him to see whether there is any way we can build capacity in that area, but it is done mostly by application.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I thank the First Minister for her answer and for all the good work that is being done through the T:BUC programme. She will be aware that the social investment fund is delivering for people in East Antrim through the building to employment through education programme. Does she agree with me that that is an excellent use of resources? It helps people who are in work or out of work to improve their employability through —

Photo of Caitriona Ruane Caitriona Ruane Deputy Speaker

I think the Member has asked his question.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

— free courses. Does she not agree that that is a fantastic use of the social investment fund?

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

Indeed. There are four SIF projects that benefit East Antrim: the community transport project; the mental health project; the fuel poverty project, which had to be re-scoped to make sure it did not overlap with projects already in place; and the building to employment through education project, which he just mentioned. That project has an investment of £3·2 million. It has two elements focused on increasing employment through education. It is a very good example of the work SIF is doing on the ground through early intervention and making sure people have the appropriate skills, education and employability so that they can then move into the world of work.

Some of the employability schemes that are happening across Northern Ireland have really made an impact and will continue to do so.

Photo of Sean Lynch Sean Lynch Sinn Féin

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire as an fhreagra sin. I thank the First Minister for her answer. Will she provide an overview of the Executive Office funding programmes?

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

As I said, we have the T:BUC programmes. Under that, of course, there are seven headlines — it is really a framework, with seven different frames under that. We have the following: the shared and integrated education programme; the United Youth programme; Urban Villages, of which there are five; the shared neighbourhood programme; the interface programme, which is trying to remove barriers and walls, and we have been able to move from 59 down to 50; the cross-community youth sports programme; and, of course, the summer camps, which I have spoken about as well.

Under T:BUC, those seven headline programmes are working very well. Some of them will come to a natural end, and we will then be able to see the outworkings of them through the evaluations.

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance

I thank the First Minister for her answers so far. How can she provide assurance to the communities that she engages with that that engagement extends beyond the client base of her party, the DUP, and Sinn Féin given the recent issues around Charter and other issues that have raised concern in the community at this time?

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

I am not quite sure what "other" things he is talking about. Perhaps he can be more specific in a follow-up. In terms of the SIF programme, all organisations that receive public money are subject to robust checks to ascertain their capability to manage the funding and to make sure that they do it in an appropriate fashion. That is still the case. It is organisations, not individuals, that are subject to checks. The Department would not be aware of which individuals in an organisation would be working on any project. It is the organisations that we are concerned with. If he is talking about Charter NI, which is quite a segue from East Antrim, I have to say, that organisation has been in existence with a very robust board for 10 years and we have no difficulty in working with it.