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Funding boost for advice services to help alleviate Covid pressures

12 November 2020
Local Advice Service providers were praised today by members of Derry City and Strabane District Council's Health and Community Committee who endorsed the proposed allocation of £80,085 to three local advice agencies.
The funding has been awarded to Council through the Department for Communities' Covid19 Financial Inclusion Partnership Fund. The fund aims to support vital services as part of the Department's wider Covid19 Community Support Fund.
The Committee were told by Council's Head of Community Development and Leisure, Barry O'Hagan, that the support would assist in the development of a local programme which would help build financial resilience and improve overall financial wellbeing.
Over the past few months, officers have been working closely with the Council funded Advice Providers, Advice North West, Dove House and the Resource Centre Derry, together with Williamson Consulting, to develop a suitable proposal for submission to Council.
Members heard that the proposal would target local people most adversely affected by the economic impact of Covid19. It will also address concerns over Employment Rights, an issue which has been high on the Council agenda in recent weeks, by providing relevant advice about rights and entitlements.
The proposal will be delivered through a number of mechanisms including a dedicated marketing campaign, effective targeting of support, referrals to debt advice, employment information, access to responsible lenders and targeted benefit advice.  
Vice Chair of the Health and Community Committee, Cllr Raymond Barr, welcomed the additional support which he said would both acknowledge the vital role and increase the capacity of local advice service providers.
"The Financial Inclusion Fund will help support these agencies in providing essential advice and information and help alleviate the growing pressures on providers who have been working around the clock in recent months," he stressed.
"As a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic many people have experienced the harsh realities of redundancy, furlough, job insecurity and a reduction in working hours and are not aware of their basic employment rights and how to enforce them. Lots of people who have never had to rely on government support have had to enter the benefits system for the first time, relying on advice services to navigate the often complex pathways to support.
"Our advice service providers have been doing a remarkable job in the most difficult circumstances. This fund will make services even more accessible and, working closely with our Local Growth Partnerships, ensure the increase in demand can be met without putting additional stress on staff over the coming months."
Once awarded advice agencies will have the capacity to provide additional evening and Saturday opening hours, thanks to extra staff and resources.  
The advice agencies will work through the local structures put in place through the Local Growth Partnerships to enhance the referral mechanism, while the Growth Partnerships will work in partnership with the agencies in order to enhance availability of advice services locally. Council has also been working with the advice agencies in order to develop a marketing campaign to ensure residents are aware of the enhanced support available.