Children in Northern Ireland (CiNI), the regional umbrella organisation for the children’s sector, has today published an open letter, signed by 51 community and voluntary organisations, calling on the Minister of Health, Robin Swann MLA, to restore his department’s Core Grant Funding Scheme urgently.

The funding was slashed in 2023, as part of budget-savings plans implemented while no Northern Ireland Executive ministers were in place.

The letter expresses ‘profound concern regarding the harm and uncertainty’ caused by previous cuts to funding and references the Minister’s praise for many of the groups that have supported vulnerable citizens throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

These organisations say that they have experienced significant challenges since then and that the Department of Health has failed to value their work properly. They say that the 50% cut last year ‘led to staff redundancies, reductions in services and some organisations no longer able to operate.’

A CiNI survey of 34 core-funded organisations in 2023 showed that if the grant scheme ceased entirely in 2024/25, nearly two thirds (62%) were at risk of collapse.

Community and voluntary groups are calling on Minister Swann to restore full core funding, which, they say, underpins the sustainability and role of this sector in the wider health and social care system.

They want the Minister – and the Department – to recognise the care, support and advocacy services that these organisations provide to the most vulnerable in society and argue that, at such a critical time, they cannot afford to lose more experienced professionals or allow specialist supports to disappear. The groups listed are concerned that this will pile more pressure on statutory services, leading to worse health outcomes and direct harm to children, disabled and older people, and other vulnerable groups, including victims and survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.

In the context of the overall health budget, as well as government spending more widely, the Core Grant Funding Scheme is a small investment that generates a huge return and helps to maintain diversity and expertise throughout community and voluntary sector. Without such expertise, government will face challenges supporting those in need.

You can read the open letter to the Minister on CiNI’s website.

The full list of signatories to the open letter, in alphabetical order, is as follows:

Accord NI, ACET, Action Mental Health, ADD-NI, Adopt NI, Age NI, Autism NI, Aware, Cara Friend, Carers NI, Cedar Foundation, Childline NI, Children in NI, Children’s Law Centre, Contact, Community Development + Health Network, Crossroads, Cruse, Down’s Syndrome Association, Epilepsy Action, Family Care Adoption Services, Family Routes, Fostering Network, Greater Shankill Partnership, Harmony Community Trust/Glebe House, Home-Start NI, Include Youth, Informing Choices NI, Inspire Wellbeing, Life NI, LightHouse Ltd, Mencap Northern Ireland, MindWise, Nexus NI, NI Music Therapy Trust, NICMA, NI Hospice, Northlands NI, Parenting Focus, Positive Life, Rainbow, Relate NI, RNIB, RNID, SENSE, Society of St Vincent de Paul, Stroke Association NI, VOYPIC, Volunteer Now, Women’s Aid Federation NI, Women’s Resource Agency