The National Lottery Community Fund has today announced a roll-out of £2,138,400 for 34 charities and community groups across Northern Ireland, supporting local people in these uncertain times.

Projects funded include those that help people with health conditions, assist children and young people, and allow organisations to safely provide vital services within the current guidance and restrictions.

Addiction NI is using a £499,420 grant to deliver its ‘Recovery Together’ project in Fermanagh, Omagh and Belfast, which aims to reduce substance abuse among people over the age of 18.

Alex Bunting, Director of Addiction NI, said: We are all living in unprecedented times, with people under severe pressure due to rising unemployment, reduced support networks and structure in their lives. During lockdown, we have seen a significant increase in people drinking more alcohol than they would normally do. It is extremely important that programmes like this are there to help people enter recovery but more importantly stay in recovery. The pandemic brings issues like isolation, anxiety and stress to the fore. It is crucial that support is available when people reach out for help.

This grant ensures we can continue to support those in need and meet future challenges and we want to thank National Lottery players for making it all possible through buying tickets each week.

Lagmore Youth Project, based in west Belfast, is using an £8,050 award to socially distanced activities, including a health treasure trail, cinema events, community clean-ups and art programmes providing entertainment for all members of the community. This helps them stay connected, reduces loneliness and promotes positivity and general wellbeing.

Colm Fanning from Lagmore Youth Project said: Our families and the community have really struggled during lockdown and getting this money has been amazing for the Lagmore and Mount Eagles area. It gives people a chance to come together again as a community and help build connections, while having great craic. Our treasure hunts have been a way to get people active too. We have been keeping in touch online with young people hosting chats about things like mental health and looking to the future, and this money helps us put things we planned in action. A big thank you to National Lottery players for making this funding possible.”

North Coast Community Transport’s ‘Wheels to Wellbeing’ will run over the next four years thanks to its grant of £500,000, with fully adapted buses and vehicles providing transport for older and vulnerable adults living in rural areas. The scheme helps users to attend appointments and other activities, improving their lives and keeping them in touch with, and active in, their areas.

HERe NI is using a £499,861 grant to support young people from same sex families over the next five years. The project will work with young people to help them address social isolation through support from their home and school/employment and produce resources to help those engaging with young people from a same-sex family.

The National Autistic Society is using a £10,000 grant to introduce a Northern Ireland specific helpline to support people with autism, providing them with much needed information and support relating to COVID-19. The funding is also being used to reopen the playground at their Autism Centre in Carryduff each weekend for children and families to use.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, over £300 million of National Lottery money has been given to help projects like these in communities across the UK.

Kate Beggs, Northern Ireland Director of The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “The wide range of projects funded today demonstrates the strength of their members and communities and the importance of staying connected with each other in these unprecedented times. It’s inspiring to see all these groups, staff and volunteers rising to the challenges of COVID-19 and looking to the future, supporting people in need.

These awards, made possible by National Lottery players, recognise the incredible work happening across Northern Ireland. National Lottery players can be proud to know that money they raise is continuing to make such a difference.