Taskforce backs £25m investment in Province

An annual fund of £25m should be set up to boost the development of the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland, a government-sponsored report has said.

A taskforce on the future of the sector in the province has recommended that the Government set up a Community Investment Fund.

The fund would provide the core costs of local community development programmes aimed at helping communities move away from violence.

The report, Investing Together, also advocates the establishment of a £5m fund to help voluntary organisations get more involved in the delivery of public services.

But the report says that voluntary groups must demonstrate they have good governance arrangements in place to receive public funding.

Seamus McAleavey, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, said the report was of critical importance.

"This has been a missing link in Northern Ireland. Community development work here has always had to dig funds out of a whole variety of other programmes. There has been no specific funding for the essential foundation work in local communities," he said.

The report also calls for a register of charities in Northern Ireland and the establishment of a charity commission for the least regulated part of the UK's charity sector.

A review of charity law in the province, due to be published in the next few weeks, is also expected to recommend the creation of a Charity Commission-style regulator for Northern Ireland's charities.

Social Development minister John Spellar praised the report as "thoughtful and challenging" and said he would consider it in full.

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