Derry City and Strabane District Council unanimously agreed to allocate up to £50,000 to the joint Christmas campaign of the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul as part of its wider commitment to helping to alleviate hardship experienced by local people. Elected members attending the Council meeting also agreed that Council would commence the process to seek an additional £50,000 towards hardship support, including writing to the NI Executive.
Councillors recognised the urgency for some form of intervention in the run up to Christmas and were keen to urge local businesses and individuals who are in a position to assist, to support the joint Christmas campaign of the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul, or any other charity of their choice.
The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Brian Tierney speaking after the meeting welcomed the proactive role played by Council on behalf of those in serious need at this very difficult time and urged the wider public to do what they can to help alleviate the situation at what is a very difficult and challenging time for many.
He said: “Everyone is aware of the additional financial pressures of the Christmas period and especially this year as we navigate our way through the economic and social effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Welfare Reform Group on behalf of Council considered how best to get immediate support to those in need, and it was regarded as a matter of urgency that we take some form of immediate action within our remit as a Council to help those in difficulty..
“This is obviously a much wider issue and one that will require careful consideration and the Council is committed to working in partnership on how we collectively can address hardship in the longer term. There are many community and voluntary organisations already providing exceptional support and the best way forward is to build on our partnership approach and utilise the first class expertise already there. We do not want to replicate the good work that is already been done, but rather reinforce and support that work as resources allow.”
He said the Council is very impressed by the level of support and participation given in abundance by local communities and businesses to those in need and that despite the huge challenges that 2020 has brought us, we have witnessed individuals from all backgrounds reaching out to help their neighbour, and not just in the geographical sense.
“As we approach the final weeks before Christmas I would ask that where possible individuals and businesses who are in a position to help people in hardship provide support to our local charities and assist in whatever way they can and your donations will help these charities into the New Year.
Council members voted unanimously in favour of a two stage approach to approach whereby in Stage 1 immediate support could be given to people in hardship and Stage 2 would seek to establish partnerships with local organisations in the development and delivery of a hardship fund, working with external partners including other Councils over the coming months. Council is also working closely with community partners to design and co deliver a dedicated food poverty strategy, the Access to Food programme, supported by the Department for Communities.
Members took the opportunity to praise the work that is currently being done by Local Community Growth Partnerships, Neighbourhood Partnership Boards, Advice Services, local Food Banks, businesses and charities and all the volunteers working tirelessly to address the growing need for advice and support at this time. Further information on the joint Christmas appeal by the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul can be found through the following contacts:
Salvation Army 028 71264895
St Vincent de Paul 028 713773118