Support for the Historic Environment during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns had a major impact on the historic environment, particularly for those places that rely on visitors or customers to survive. HED responded by meeting regularly, albeit remotely, with heritage stakeholder groups, as well as with colleagues in heritage agencies across the UK. These meetings helped us to fully understand the impacts being felt and the potential solutions that could be developed.

Research with colleagues in Historic England

In April 2020, HED commissioned research in partnership with colleagues in Historic England. This was compared with separate research undertaken by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Northern Ireland Environment Link.

We found that:

  • larger heritage organisations and voluntary groups had immediate issues in ensuring flexibility from funders and coping with the loss of income expected from sales etc.

We responded to this by extending our existing letters of offer.

  • craftspeople, professional services, architects, and surveyors were pessimistic over survival beyond six months.

The Government furlough scheme helped the issue faced by professional offices but did not address individual traders.

COVID-19 Culture Arts and Heritage Programme 2020-21

HED worked with colleagues in both Arts and Culture and within the voluntary sector to develop a support programme. As part of this, a £5.5m Heritage Recovery Fund was administered for us by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This was aimed at heritage individuals, organisations or businesses impacted by COVID-19. It provided support to cover operating costs, and to assess and adapt business models. This had the aim of helping organisations and businesses to become financially viable.

50 organisations and 41 individuals received grants totalling £5.3m in the financial year 2020/21. A list of the Heritage Recovery Fund recipients is available. Individual grant awards were between £3,000 and £5,000.

Community Heritage Fund 2020-21

A £0.2m Community Heritage Fund was also dispersed by the Lottery as part of our 2020/21 COVID-19 support package. This aimed to use heritage to encourage renewal projects that helped communities deal with the impact of the pandemic.

29 organisations across Northern Ireland received grants for local projects. Awards ranged from £3,000 - £10,000. A list of Community Heritage Fund recipients is available.

Community Culture Arts and Heritage Fund 2020-21.

£2m was also made available to support renewal projects that related to culture, arts and/ or heritage. This was administered by Community Fund NI. 17 of the 151 projects supported, related to heritage activity. This was an investment of £147,707.

Architectural Heritage Fund and National Churches Trust support

HED also supported the Architectural Heritage Fund and the National Churches Trust to adapt their existing grant schemes to support renewal projects that helped communities deal with the impact of the pandemic.

  • £270,000 was delivered by Historic Churches Trust. 33 Churches were helped to carry out development work. This included £200,000 invested in capital works to carry out repairs or improve facilities at 12 churches
  • £270,000 was delivered for by the Architectural Heritage Fund. This was mainly to support communities to investigate the viability of developing local historic buildings for uses to benefit renewal. 5 communities were also supported from the allocation to carry out holding repairs as they awaited investment delayed by the pandemic. £150,000 was invested in this   

COVID-19 Culture Languages Arts, Heritage, Sports, Charities and Social Enterprise Support Programme 2021-22

The support programme for the second year of the pandemic was coordinated across a wider range of areas by the Department, but the National Lottery Heritage Fund delivered a similar heritage scheme to 2020 on our behalf. £1m was made available through its Heritage Stability Fund. 10 Organisations received support totalling £331,560 and 9 individuals received grants totalling £18,000. A list of their Covid Recovery Programme for Heritage (Northern Ireland) decisions recipients is available.

Covid Recovery Employment and Skills Initiative 2021-22

Funding for heritage organisations to create employment opportunities for individuals who wished to enter, or progress within, the heritage sector was also delivered for the Department by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2021-22. The support aimed to provide funding for training in key roles to assist the sector to fully recover from the impacts of the pandemic. Organisations could apply for £50,000 - £100,000 to fund one role over three years. Priority was given to roles that could become sustainable in the long term. 27 heritage organisations were supported:

  • Historic Buildings and Monuments – 7 Posts
  • Community and Intangible Heritage – 3 Posts
  • Museums and Archives – 5 Posts
  • Industrial Maritime and Transport Heritage – 1 Post
  • Landscapes and Natural Heritage – 11 Posts

More information on the COVID skills initiative for heritage is available.

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