Mid and East Antrim partnerships prove key to £700k community support during pandemic

“Well-established relationships and partnerships” have been credited with the success of Mid and East Antrim’s Covid response in distributing more than £700,000 Department for Communities funding.

Friday, 19th February 2021, 6:23 pm

The borough council’s Direct Services Committee was told that during the first lockdown, in response to the Covid pandemic, a community hub was established for distribution of 4,000 food parcels to 532 referrals.

The hub also supported the delivery of groceries, prescription collections and befriending services.

The Direct Services Committee also heard that the council has continued to work in partnership with the statutory, community and voluntary sectors to help and support the most vulnerable in Mid and East Antrim.

Slow cooker kits were delivered.

The sum of £175,378 was delivered by the council through a Community Support Programme with a third round of £162,000 being finalised.

The Covid Food Partnership Fund of £51,764 was used for the delivery of a slow cooker scheme, storage support for Foodbanks and for Fareshare NI.

Plans are progressing to establish a Community Fridge Scheme for Mid and East Antrim to be located in Islandmagee, Carrickfergus and Ballymena and with a fourth location being considered at Larne Market Yard.

A ‘community fridge’ can be accessed by anyone in the community and anyone can give to or take food from the fridge. Retailers can contribute by distributing surplus food.

Commenting at the committee meeting, Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Danny Donnelly said: “I think they are a fantastic scheme using food that would be wasted otherwise.”

A Covid Financial Inclusion Fund of £45,456 is being allocated by MEA Community Advice Service (MEACAS) and a Food and Essential Supplies Fund received almost £138,000. This included a Chilled Meal Project which was delivered during Christmas and is being extended to March.

Almost £70,000 was allocated to a Food Pallet Scheme which will be delivered through MEACAS to provide a “tailored response” to individual and family needs, including food, hygiene and cleaning products and to food banks in Larne, Carrickfergus, Whitehead and Ballymena.

MEACAS can also order on behalf of Poverty Action Group members such as baby banks.

A Volunteer Support Fund of almost £34,500 was established to cover expenses including PPE equipment.

A Warm Well and Connected Fund of almost £32,000 was used to supply Keep Warm packs and to provide fuel top-ups and a heater loan scheme.

The report also noted: “The council has welcomed the DfC funding but it has required significant staffing resource to administer and manage the different funding schemes which also require ongoing monitoring and reporting back to DfC.

“The staffing resource was discussed with DfC and Mid and East Antrim Council along with SOLACE requested a minimum of five per cent of any future new funding streams to be allocated to the staffing resource.

“The most recent funding allocation, Community Support Programme, includes an amount of £8,101.76, equivalent to five per cent of the total amount for administering the funds.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

Click here to read: Larne community supporting vulnerable neighbours

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