Robin Swann, Ulster Unionist Party MLA for North Antrim, has expressed his concern that the Minister for Employment & Learning may be considering using European Social Fund monies to subsidise areas of expenditure within his Department.
The Employment and Learning Committee Chair raised the issue when the Minister appeared in front of the Committee on Wednesday afternoon.
Mr Swann said:
"There are concerns in the Voluntary and Community sector that groups currently supported by the Department of Employment and Learning, via Social Investment Fund funding, have been told that due to budget cuts, their Departmental funding will cease, and they have been directed to the European Social Fund.
“As a result, many of these training programs which deal with re-engaging those young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEETS) will have to look elsewhere for match funding to enable them to access the European Social Fund package.
“It will be extremely hard for many of the smaller voluntary or community organisations to compete for the same funding pot as the Department. The system up to now has been that many training projects have been delivered through part funding by the both the European Social Fund and the Department for Employment and Learning.
“I have asked the Minister to look at this whole area again. He needs to ensure that adequate support is given to these groups, to assist them in the vital work they are doing in the community.”