Lo hits out at OFMDFM for lack of ethnic minority funding

Alliance MLA Anna Lo has hit out at the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) for “not honouring promises” made about funding to ethnic minority groups.

The South Belfast MLA said several organisations were now facing the “very real prospect” of staff redundancies and even folding in the wake of funding first being delayed and then cut due to constraints on public finances.

OFMDFM previously stated the Minority Ethnic Development Fund (MEDF), which supports ethnic minority groups, would be ring-fenced for 2015-16, as in previous years. However, in April, groups were forced to re-apply for funding, with successful applicants confirmed in May and funds to be backdated to April. But after three months of silence and no core funding since the spring, groups were informed funding would only be provided until September.

Ms Lo said groups were now facing severe difficulties as a result.

“I wrote to OFMDFM earlier this year to outline my concerns at the mismanagement of the fund, with potentially devastating consequences any delay would have. Organisations doing great work have been left without the ability to plan long-term and in the most severe cases, may have to lay-off staff.

“While the Department has said it hopes to make the remaining funding available later in the year, there is no guarantee that will be the case. Rather than alleviating any financial pressures for groups, this news has increased them.

“Other parties not facing up to the responsibilities they signed up to in the Stormont House Agreement has led to this outcome. They need to join Alliance in addressing welfare reform and implementing the wider Agreement in order to restore integrity to public finances. This is extremely valuable funding that ethnic minority organisations are dependent upon. Delivering it late and in half-measures is simply unacceptable.”

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