T3. Mr Butler asked the Minister for Communities for an update on the sports hardship fund and any other work that her Department has undertaken, given that she has been very vocal and supportive of sporting groups at all levels and will share his fear that some groups, whether grassroots, amateur or elite, are coming under viability pressures at this time. (AQT 793/17-22)
I thank the Member for his question. I share his concern about the impact of what, indeed, David Hilditch raised. This year has been horrendous for many people, particularly young people, who have lost out on quite a lot of socialisation with their friends. There is no better example of when they are with their friends as when they are playing sport.
On sports hardship, I am sure that the Member will be aware that I have put a significant amount of money forward. Indeed, £25 million is going into sport. I met the governing bodies and the Northern Ireland Sports Forum last week, along with Sport NI. We want this process to be as straightforward as possible. The applications are open, and, hopefully, awards will be made at the end of January or the beginning of February to help people not just with their loss but with the impact of COVID. The best thing that we can do is to get this guidance sorted out as quickly as possible so that people can get back to doing what they want.
I thank the Minister for her answer. I have had a number of emails and letters from constituents who are concerned about the viability of the Belfast Giants at the SSE Arena, which has been a great success for Northern Ireland and one of the sports that truly unites us here. Can the Minister outline whether she has had any contact with Belfast Giants or if she is aware of any assistance that has been sought? Would she consider any application that was made?
Like many others, or maybe not, I was shocked to find out that the Belfast Giants have been here for 20 years. Time has gone in the blink of an eye. I will not receive any applications; it will be Sport NI. I am aware that they will make an application because I saw it covered in a local news bulletin. I will not mention the name in case I give them an unfair advantage. It is something that many groups have been talking about because they need some support. The Belfast Giants are more than aware of the application process.