Minister Paul Givan today outlined his vision for how the Department for Communities (DfC) will positively change the lives of individuals and communities across Northern Ireland.
Speaking from Stormont at his first appearance to the Committee for Communities, the Minister said: “The scope and scale of the Department offers a genuine opportunity to make a difference to the lives of individuals and communities. DfC manages a budget of almost £7billion and has some 8,700 staff – its work impacts on every residential area, community, village and town across Northern Ireland.”
In relation to the Department’s aim to provide access to good quality housing at reasonable cost, the Minister said: “Social housing is a vital element in ensuring people have a place they can make their home. In 2015/16 we exceeded the target for new build social housing with 1,568 new homes achieved last year. However we will not rest on our laurels, instead I have increased the budget for the Social Housing Development Programme with the aim of creating 1,600 new starts this year.
“In addition we will continue to look to the needs of existing tenants and helping our most vulnerable. Through our programme of maintenance schemes and regional housing services we will deliver home improvements and support people in their individual lives.”
The Minister continued: “While it would be easy to focus on the short term needs of our people and how this is delivered, I am extremely conscious that the current housing structures have remained fundamentally unchanged for 40 years. While there are challenges in any review of this nature, it is imperative that we look seriously at the possibility of reforms to housing structures. We must be mindful that any structure is able to deliver services efficiently and sustainably in response to the needs of those we all seek to serve – the people and communities of Northern Ireland.”
Highlighting the Department for Communities’ role in sports and arts, Minister Givan said: “Sport and the arts have a significant role to play in peoples’ lives. As well as being of value in their own right, there is widespread evidence that increasing participation in sport, physical recreation and arts can contribute to improved health, improved academic performance, reduced crime and socio - economic regeneration of communities. They can also assist in bridging community divisions.”
In relation to the Department’s work in implementing welfare changes. The Minister said: “My Department continues to undertake a comprehensive campaign to ensure people of working age have the information they need and are aware of the support available to them.”
Speaking about the new Programme for Government and the role of DfC in delivering its outcomes, Minister Givan concluded: “To contribute to the Programme for Government in a meaningful way, my Department will be more creative and innovative. It is also hugely important that we work collaboratively both within the Department and across Government, to interact with other stakeholders and partners right across society to achieve our common goals. I am confident that, working together, the Department and our partners will rise to the challenge and be a force for positive change across our society.”
Notes to editors:
- The Department for Communities has 8,700 staff, which is one-third of the whole Northern Ireland Civil Service.
- The Department manages a budget of almost £7billion, including expenditure of nearly £6billion on social security and pensions payments.
- Almost £270million has been channelled into regional housing services to help vulnerable people across Northern Ireland. This includes £10million on tackling homelessness and over £73million through the Supporting People programme.
- Improvements to 18,500 homes were supported through private sector grants, including a spend of over £25million on fuel poverty schemes and grants for private homeowners.
- Over £676million in Housing Benefit has also been administered in the last year to over 165,000 customers.
- For more information on each of the changes to the welfare system and the support available please visit nidirect
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