As the First and deputy First Ministers attend a seminar in Brussels celebrating the success of PEACE III funding, Ulster Unionist Leader Mike Nesbitt has hit out at the SEUPB and Department of Finance and Personnel for what he calls, “a lack of leadership and transparency" in their dealings with the Training for Women Network and their 22 partner organisations, which has led to the premature end of TWN'sPositive Relations Project.
Mr Nesbitt said, “Having met with Training for Women Network on a number of occasions, I raised serious concerns surrounding their funding, including the puzzling refusal to provide continuity, which reduced the programme from six to four years.’
"Equally baffling was the decision to encourage TWN to present an Options paper for an extension to their Phase Two funding, only for them to expend huge energy and resource on an 84 page document, which was dismissed within a week on the basis there was never any funding in the pot to back any options!’
“This is an unacceptable waste of time and resources for an organisation working hard to deliver high quality programmes and training in some of our most divided communities, right across Northern Ireland and the border region.’
“The loss of this programme will affect many of our most deprived communities - 15 community workers face redundancy and crucially thousands of women who currently partake in the various projects will lose out. I call on SEUPB to identify underspend as a matter of urgency in order to ensure that the positive benefits of such a vital programme are not lost. £600,000 would allow TWN to implement a proper exit strategy allowing for a more controlled end to the project in line with other PEACE III funded projects.’
“To add insult to injury, TWN recorded an underspend of £64,000 from the FirstPhase of the project, which would be of huge benefit now. Plus, the rules force them to spend £20,000 on a closing conference, money that could help existing projects continue for even a little longer which is of particular importance in the current economic climate.’
“I appeal to SEUPB and DFP to at least release that £84,000 to TWN so that they can use it to give their project a soft landing.’