The community halls capital grant scheme was launched on 19 October 2016 at Salterstown Orange hall, Ballyronan. My Department aims to distribute individual grants of up to a maximum of £25,000 towards community halls minor works. There is £500,000 allocated to this pilot scheme in the current financial year. I can update the House and say that officials are in the process of assessing in excess of 800 applications.
I thank the Minister for his answer so far. I join others in extending sympathy and condolences to Austin Hunter's widow, Jean, and their children, Simon and Rachael.
I commend the Minister's initiative on community halls and welcome the response; indeed, I encouraged many to apply for the scheme. Will the Minister take the opportunity to acknowledge the huge need for investment in our community halls throughout Northern Ireland?
I thank the Member for his encouragement around the introduction of the scheme. The fact that well in excess of 800 applications have been received has demonstrated the need for investment in community halls. They support the hugely valuable work that is carried out across our community in Northern Ireland.
Many halls are dilapidated, and the pilot will reach only a small proportion of those that are in the worst condition. On the basis of the pilot scheme, the work merits future support in our capital programme over the years ahead. I intend to bring forward a future programme to allow us to continue to improve community halls and undertake larger projects to raise the standard of community hall facilities. As I indicated in my original response, half a million pounds of capital resource was identified in my Department to fund the pilot scheme. Given the huge response, that will come nowhere near meeting the need identified. However, I have tasked officials in my Department with identifying whether additional capital can be found to do more than initially envisaged. I have commissioned my officials to look at that.