DfC: COVID-19 and our Partner Organisations

COVID-19: Partner Organisations

This page provides the latest information about COVID-19 and some of the Department's Partner Organisations. It will be updated regularly with the latest information.

This information is for Northern Ireland only, if you live in England, Scotland or Wales please visit GOV.UK

For general heath advice relating to COVID-19, please visit the Public Health Agency's website. Key information is also available in Sign Language on this PHA page.


Partner Organisations

    £15.5m fund to support charity sector

    Minister Hargey announced a £15.5million COVID-19 Charities Fund to help local charities facing financial difficulties as a result of the current public health emergency.

    £33million support for Arts, Culture and Heritage

    Communities Minister welcomes the news that the Executive will receive £33million as part of a support package announced by the British Chancellor and Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

    £300,000 to support businesses

    Minister Carál Ní Chuilín confirmed she is allocating £300,000 to Business Improvement Districts (BIDS).

    The funding will ensure that the eight BIDs operating here (three across Belfast City Centre, with one each in Ballymena, Enniskillen, Strabane, Coleraine and Newry) can continue to play a key role in bringing local businesses and other stakeholders together to help regenerate their areas and to improve their local trading environment. 

    BIDs are developed, managed and paid for by the business sector by means of a compulsory BID levy.

    Support for district councils

    Minister Hargey announced on 19 May 2020 that the Executive is allocating £20.3 million to local councils to assist them with their financial pressures as a result of Covid-19.


    On 24 September 2020 Communities Minister Caral Ni Chuilin welcomed a £40m Executive allocation to councils to help address their financial pressures as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.  This financial support will help ensure Councils can positively contribute to local economic, social and environmental recovery, and help to play a very vital role in that recovery.

    On 30 October 2020 Minister Carál Ní Chuilín welcomed the Executive’s allocation of a further £15m to councils bringing the total since the start of the COVID-19 crisis to over £75m.

    The funding ensured that local councils were able to continue to provide essential services and support those in need.


    Community Support Fund

    DfC has released £1.5 million to district councils to help citizens through the COVID-19 pandemic. The money will come from the Covid-19 Community Support Fund to target need and alleviate poverty by:

    • providing assistance to those at risk due to financial stress;
    • ensuring access to food for those most in need
    • helping to connect those living alone or in in rural and border areas that are likely to experience greater challenges in accessing services. 

    This £1.5 million is an initial tranche of money with more money to follow.

    £3.2m COVID funding boost

    On 5 August 2020 Minister Carál Ní Chuilín announced £3.2 million in additional funding to Councils to allow them to support the voluntary and community sector as it continues to recover and help citizens to get through the COVID-19 crisis.

    The funding boost will support local grassroots community and voluntary organisations across council areas working with individuals and communities during the pandemic and will be used for community support, access to food and financial wellbeing.

    Furloughing of Council Staff

    The Minister has also confirmed that Councils are eligible to apply to furlough staff through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

    Scheme of Emergency Financial Assistance

    The Minister has activated a Scheme of Emergency Financial Assistance for 6 months from 3 April 2020 to support district councils with their costs in preparing for and responding to  COVID-19. 

    Legislation is now in place to enable district councils in Northern Ireland to hold meetings remotely via telephone conferencing, video conferencing, live streaming etc, allowing council business to continue while adhering to public health guidance. It also provides for members of the public to attend remotely rather than in person.

    Where documents, notices, agendas, reports, background papers, minutes, etc, are “open to inspection”, this requirement is now satisfied by the documents being published on the council’s website. This provides for council members, officers and the public, to have access to documents without attending council buildings.


    COVID-19 - Community Helpline

    A Freephone Helpline has been established to assist those in vulnerable groups to access information, advice and support in relation to COVID-19. The Helpline, which is managed by Advice NI, is open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, the number is 0808 802 0020. Alternatively you can text ACTION to 81025, email : Covid19@adviceni.net or complete a form on the Advice NI website.

    Further details are available on nidirect.

    Armagh Observatory and Planetarium


    The Planetarium is currently closed to the public for ongoing renovations. For updates, visit www.armagh.space

    Arts Council NI

    Creative Support Fund


    The Organisations Emergency Programme (OEP) to help arts organisations cope with the impact of Covid-19 re-opened on 3 September 2020. This second round of funding for small to medium sized arts and creative organisations will enable them to continue to produce creative work, assist with operational costs, and help with planning for recovery.

    The programme is one of a number of interventions arising from the Creative Support Fund provided by the Department for Communities through the Arts Council.



    Re-opening of theatres and concert halls

    It was announced that theatres and concert halls can re-open from 8 August. The Department recognises that theatre and concert hall staff will need time to prepare for the safe return of their audiences, therefore, they will initially re-open on a restricted basis with a hope that audiences will be able to return to venues on 1 September 2020, as long as the appropriate social distancing measures are in place.

    The Arts Council had previously published on 5 August 2020 a comprehensive guidance manual, to support the safe reopening of arts performance venues, closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


    £29m support for the culture, language, arts and heritage sectors impacted by the coronavirus pandemic

    On 24 September 2020 Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín welcomed the Executive allocation of £29m support for the culture, language, arts and heritage sectors impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. This £29m allocation is in addition to other funds the Department has previously announced. The funding is to support the arts, culture, heritage, languages and the wider creative industries sectors and also includes support for libraries, museums, comedy, music and cinema.



      The Minister has allocated £10m to enable Co-Ownership to reopen to new customers. Co-Ownership is the Department’s main delivery partner for affordable housing and offers people the opportunity to enter home ownership through its products Co-Own and Rent to Own. More information on the two main products of Co-Own and Rent to Own are available on the Co-ownership website.

      Community Centres

      On 2 July 2020 the Executive agreed a forward work plan for bringing forward easements of the Health Protection Regulations, to include Community Centres. The relaxation date for the reopening of Community Centres was agreed as 29 July 2020.




      On 2 July 2020 the Executive agreed a forward work plan for bringing forward remaining easements of the Health Protection Regulations, to include Active Venues including Funfairs. The relaxation date for the reopening of Funfairs was agreed as 29 July 2020.


      Interpreter Now

      A free remote interpreting service for British Sign Language (BSL) and Irish Sign Language (ISL) users in Northern Ireland has been introduced to provide the Deaf community with access to:

      • NHS111 (Northern Ireland COVID-19 advice line) and
      • all health and social care services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

      This temporary service is provided by Interpreter Now and is funded by the Department of Health and the Department for Communities. Find out more on the DoH Website;

      Libraries NI

      In line with Coronavirus restrictions announced on 14 October 2020,  Libraries NI will remain open for a ‘book and collect’ service. For the latest information visit librariesni.org.uk.

      National Museums NI (NMNI)

      In line with Coronavirus restrictions announced on 14 October 2020, National Museums NI sites will close for four weeks including the Ulster Museum, The Ulster American Folk Park, The Ulster Folk Museum and the Ulster Transport Museum. For the latest information, visit www.nmni.com.   

      Public Health Agency / British Deaf Association

      The Department's Languages branch has partnered with the Health & Social Care Board to work with the Public Health Agency (PHA) and British Deaf Association (BDA) to provide key informaiton on COVID-19 in both British and Irish Sign Language (BSL/ISL).

      Visit the Public Health Agency website to view the BSL/ISL videos;

      Sport Sustainability Fund

      On 3 December 2020 the Minister announced the £25M Sports Sustainability Fund is to open tomorrow.

      The fund, administered by Sport NI, is designed to help those clubs and governing bodies who have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.



      Sport NI

      On 14 April 2020 the Minister launched a £500,000 Hardship Fund for the sports sector. Sports clubs and sporting organisations from the voluntary and community sector, which are unable to receive support from other Government Covid-19 Mitigation Funds, will be able to apply to Sport NI for a small grant of £2,000 to help with immediate financial commitments to maintain their facilities during the Covid-19 restrictions. Due to exceptional demand, the total fund was increased by a further £250,000 on 16 April 2020 and the scheme has been suspended pending the assessment of those applications that have already been submitted.

      A Framework for Return to Sport has been developed by SportNI and contains guidelines for sports' governing bodies who should continue to engage with SportNI for guidance.

      The Executive agreed that from 24 July 2020 some spectators can attend organised outdoor sports fixtures or events where the sports Governing Body, club or venue operator can ensure compliance with social distancing, control numbers accordingly and have appropriate hygiene regimes in place. The Executive also agreed that swimming pools can reopen.



        Volunteer Now - #HelpEachOther

        Volunteer Now has launched its ‘#HelpEachOther’ campaign to help safeguard those most at risk in the community.  And, in response to an increasing number of requests by people looking for opportunities to help their local community during these uncertain and changing times. 

        If you are an organisation who would like to involve more volunteers as a result of COVID-19 or if you are keen to volunteer,  find out more or register your interest at Volunteer Now - 'HelpEachOther’.


        Return to COVID-19: DfC Service Updates 


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