SDLP representatives have expressed serious concern that over 1,300 jobs could be at risk due to a loss of European Social Fund (ESF) money in March.
SDLP South Belfast MP Claire Hanna has challenged the Secretary of State to outline what is being done to protect the jobs of staff at voluntary and community organisations.
SDLP Social Justice Spokesperson Daniel McCrossan said the North’s voluntary and community sector would be decimated without confirmation around funding.
West Tyrone MLA Mr McCrossan said:
“Voluntary and community organisations across the North are rapidly approaching a cliff edge with ESF funding set to end in March and no guarantees around funding to continue the employment of 1,369 staff. The British government had promised that the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) would replace this money, but with the ending of EU funding on the horizon our community groups are none the wiser about their future.
“The difference that these groups make to the lives of people right across the North cannot be overstated and it’s absolutely disgraceful that we are now in a position where many staff have been put on notice due to the lack of clarity around funding. We warned that Brexit would harm the North and this is yet another broken promise from the British government that could impact the lives of thousands of people here.”
Ms Hanna said:
“The SDLP has repeatedly raised our concerns around the lack of confirmation around UKSPF funding with ESF funding running out in a matter of months. Our community and voluntary groups should not have been left in this position and this is yet another example of how little regard the UK government has for people here and the issues affecting them.
“I have challenged the Secretary of State to immediately clarify the situation facing these groups and their staff, it’s completely unacceptable that thousands of people are currently living in fear of losing their jobs, with services hanging in the balance. Chris Heaton-Harris needs to confirm what actions his department have taken to minimise the number of staff facing redundancy and confirm that the government will honour its previous commitments to these groups, their staff and service users.”