04 July 2015

Some of the attendees at the Emergency Fund Report launch including Junior Minister Jennifer McCann MLA (centre). 

Emergency Fund report launched

A report into the impact of an Emergency Fund for migrants and other groups who cannot avail of state benefits has been launched.

As reported on the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland website last week, the launch took place at Stormont and was attended by a number of MLAs including Junior Minister Jennifer McCann, Sammy Douglas and Roy Beggs Jnr.

Junior Minister McCann delivered a speech at the event, outlining the need for this fund and how it needs to be the 1st step toward providing support and a welcoming society for those who arrive in Northern Ireland from overseas.

An abridged version of the speech can be accessed here and you can watch a short video of Junior Minister McCann speaking about the initiative here

As well as politicians, the event was also attended by representatives from organizations such as Women’s Aid, the British Red Cross, and the Ballymena Inter-Ethnic Forum.

Over 600 vulnerable migrants, with a further 600 dependents, with limited or no access to conventional state support, have received financial help through a new pilot Emergency Fund.

£43,000, released by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, has already been provided through the Fund, which is administered by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and the British Red Cross.

To date, clients from 54 different countries, including Poland, Romania, East Timor, Somalia and Sudan have accessed the Fund, helping provide food, clothing and temporary accommodation.

Jude McCann, Policy Officer at the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, believes: “This pilot has shown the real value and impact a relatively small amount of funding can have on people’s lives.

“Our Foundation believes there is a definite need to establish this Fund on a firm footing, with significantly greater expenditure and a more rigorous action/research element to monitor its impact.

“The Community Foundation remains dedicated to trying to help the most vulnerable in our society.”

Jude McCann was interviewed on BBC Radio Ulster about the launch. You can hear the interview by clicking here. 

The idea for the fund came from the experiences of voluntary organisations in dealing with migrant individuals and families who were either struggling to or not entitled to access public services.

The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and the Red Cross worked with a range of other organisations, including the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, South Tyrone Empowerment Programme, Ballymena Inter-Ethnic Forum and the Craigavon Intercultural Programme to disburse the funds.

Mr McCann continued; “The pilot project was designed to test whether small sums, provided at key moments of transition after losing work, reduced hours or family breakdown, could provide a significant bridge to allow people to get back on their feet, avoiding destitution and homelessness.

“We’ve managed to help over 1200 people so far, so there’s no question the Emergency Fund has had an impact and beneficiaries have came from many different parts of the world including Europe, Africa, South America and Asia.”

Les Allamby, Director of the Law Centre (NI), said; “Access to social security, housing, social services and other support can be a maze. Entitlement often depends, along with other factors, on immigration status, family composition and employment circumstances.

“Some migrant workers who lose their jobs can have their status and rights to support altered overnight. This poses real challenges for the public authorities who provide financial and other support.

“This fund is not the solution to all the difficulties faced by individuals and families who fall through the cracks in the paving. However, the pilot has shown the value of offering an important bridge to prevent destitution and homelessness.

“To this extent, the fund money is well spent on saving displacement costs elsewhere”.

A short film, featuring some of the people who have benefitted from the Emergency Fund was produced. A portion of that film can be viewed here.  

A copy of the report can be downloaded here