Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey MLA.
Northern Ireland Executive Ministers and their officials have over the past 24 hours been involved in a number of initiatives and critical decisions relating to the Coronavirus emergency.
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey published a Community Response Plan today, setting out how her department will support grassroots community organisations helping the most disadvantaged during the pandemic.
The response plan, which has been developed in partnership with the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA), contains 15 actions and includes commitments to:
Minister Hargey said: “We are providing coordination, advice, guidance and funding to enable and support the response on the ground. We will continue to work closely with community organisations to ensure that efforts on the ground are being coordinated, supported and sustained.”
NICVA is leading communications and engagement between the government and a wide network of local community organisations and is building a database of active organisations on www.CommunityNI.org to help join up services and make connections.
The release of the plan followed the announcement from Minister Hargey that access to emergency financial support for those on low incomes during the Covid-19 outbreak was being increased.
After the Assembly approved a change to Discretionary Support legislation to provide increased access to emergency financial support for claimants in difficulty, the Annual Income Threshold will be raised to £20,405 (this is the level of income below which a person is eligible for Discretionary Support).
The amendment will ensure more people on low incomes will be able to access emergency support and a new living expenses grant is included for people affected by Covid-19.
Almost 1,300 living expenses grants for Covid-19, totalling approximately £219,000, have already been issued.
A significant decrease in child protection referrals in Northern Ireland concerned the Health Minister Robin Swann.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, children’s services remain open and are ready to help protect children and support families.
Minister Swann reported: “I am advised that the number of child protection referrals during the first three weeks of April 2020 was 38% lower that the weekly average of 2019. Normally social services receive referrals from a range of sources, including schools, GPs, extended family and hospital nurses. But with school closures, and potential reluctance to attend GPs or hospitals, there is a risk that children in need are not being identified. I would urge members of the public to contact Health and Social Care Trust Gateway Services or the NPSCC helpline if they have concerns about a child not being safe or receiving the care they need. Any concerns that a child is in immediate danger should be referred to the PSNI via 999 without delay.”