Funding delay causing hardship for community relations group

In the dark - Kathy Wolff says she's heard nothing from OFMDFM about when the Community Relations Forum might receive its funding.
In the dark - Kathy Wolff says she's heard nothing from OFMDFM about when the Community Relations Forum might receive its funding.
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A LOCAL organisation which works to promote better community relations within the borough is struggling to keep going due to a delay in funding from Stormont, it has been revealed.

The Community Relations Forum (CRF) has been waiting on its Core Funding from the Community Relations Council (CRC) since April 1. But the CRC has confirmed that it cannot release grant payments to organisations until it receives a letter of offer from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM).

According to CRC officials, a total of 27 groups are affected by the hold-up, including the CRF and several others which operate in the local area such as the Rural Community Network and Groundwork NI.

Kathy Wolff, Co-ordinator of the Glengormley-based Community Relations Forum, said: “I know that the Community Relations Council is doing everything they can, but without the First and Deputy First Minister taking personal control of this situation, I am looking at yet another month without a salary.

“I have a mortgage to pay, a car to tax and other bills to pay; would an MLA or an MP accept not being paid for three months?”

She added: “I love the work that I do and consider it to be very valuable, but it is demoralising when yet another month goes by and I have to make other arrangements to pay my bills. If I don’t do the work the project suffers and we have all invested so much in this initiative that I’m not prepared to let that happen.”

South Antrim MLA Danny Kinahan has called on OFMDFM officials to resolve the issue and approve the funding payment immediately.

“I am outraged by this total disregard for our hard-pressed community sector. We put a high premium on the peace-building work that groups like the Community Relations Forum do, but OFMDFM do not see fit to ensure that they are fairly treated.

“No-one I know goes into community development because of the excellent working conditions and the generous salary, but rather because they have a strong sense of community and a commitment to making things better for us all. The least that OFMDFM can do is to accord these key community workers the respect they deserve by immediately releasing the relevant budget to the Community Relations Council,” he commented.

The Times asked OFMDFM officials why allocation of the Community Relations Council’s funding was being delayed and when the letter of offer is likely to be forthcoming. However, despite repeated requests for answers, they had failed to respond at the time of going to print.