FUND FEARS FOR CENTRE
Wednesday, 12 April 2017
Dungannon women's group faces bleak future as political parties face Stormont election
A DUNGANNON centre providing critical support to disadvantaged women is in limbo as the impasse at Stormont continues.
The First Steps Women's Centre, based on William Street, is only guaranteed funding up to the end of June.
And all involved with the centre will be watching with interest this week as politicians at Stormont reach another talks deadline this Friday and the very real possibility of another election.
The result of this latest round of talks will decide whether the current cloud continues to hang over the centre's future, or if funding for the next year is guaranteed.
To try to combat the financial uncertainty facing the centre, a 'Local Giving' page has been set up to help bridge the gap.
The centre currently employs 16 members of staff but has already had to make one member of staff redundant as financial cuts start to bite.
And if funding to the centre is not extended beyond the end of June, the centre's Chief Executive Michael McGoldrick says they will have to close.
However, he says the centre isn't planning to go anywhere and is doing all it can to survive their current problems.
"We are trying to make savings now so we are fit for purpose next year," Michael told the Courier.
"We have just been given money from the Department for Communities for three months so basically it's a stay of execution.
"I'm here 10 years and this has never happened before.
"There's no guarantee beyond the three months, which means it is very difficult to plan.
"We are going ahead with promoting courses for after Easter.
"If at the end of June the government withdraws the money, and they have said it is not guaranteed, then it's imminent closure.
"There's 16 staff and you're talking redundancy of 13 staff straight away and the other three would have the job of winding the place down.
"But the board's position is we are planning to get the funding, but we still need the donations".
First Steps Women's Centre provides a range of services for women of all backgrounds, ages and skill sets.
These can include counselling, childcare, education and a benefit checker service, which last year allowed women in the area to receive £87,000 in previously unclaimed benefits. This included one local woman who received £10,000.
The Centre has been a model of success in the voluntary and community sector and has twice received an Investor in People Silver Award winner and has used its strong track record to attract funding from various areas.
However, funding from Stormont is essential to the centre's future.
For every £3,500 awarded to the centre from Stormont, and it receives £95,000 each year from the Department for Communities, they are able to draw down funding from Europe which brings it to £10,000.
But without that initial £3,500, they can't get the additional £6,500.
Speaking to the Courier, Michael stressed the tremendous value the centre is to the community in Dungannon and further afield.
"It's a really nice setting to learn for women. Our atmosphere means people want to learn.
"Last year we helped 45 women into employment, we helped hundreds of women with counselling.
"The women who use the centre see that we care and we care with all our heart."
And Michael has appealed to business owners in the community to help the centre meet its funding requirements.
"I would invite some of the local businesses to sponsor us. I know they get repeated requests from different groups but we do a good job here.
"If anyone wanted to sponsor diesel for the mini bus or counselling sessions feel free to contact me."
You can contact Michael by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or to donate money to their Local Giving page, visit https://localgiving.org/appeal/firststepswomenscentre/
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