Agenda item


            It was reported that the Council was expected to be invited to apply for and administer the Department for Communities’ Access and Inclusion Programme 2023-24 on behalf of Belfast based arts, culture (including leisure) or heritage organisations in early July 2023.


            The Director of Economic Development explained that the Department expected to formally launch the programme as a competitive process in late June 2023 and the Council had been advised that a total fund of £624,000 was available for this programme.


He advised that the Department for Communities’ Access and Inclusion Programme aimed to:


i.        Improve access to arts, culture and active recreation venues across NI for people with disabilities;

ii.      Make arts, cultural and active recreation venues more inclusive across society; and

iii.     Increase participation in arts, culture and active recreation activities by people with disabilities.


            The Director of Economic Development highlighted that the Council oversaw the assessment and recommendation of projects via a competitive open call internally and externally and would be responsible for delivery of all projects in receipt of funding.


            The Culture Development Unit managed the 2018/19 and 2019/20 Access and Inclusion Programme within Belfast and received support for 24 projects with total value of £412,554, of which five were Council projects. In 2020/21, they administered 11 Access and Inclusion grants with a total value of £185,443 and 9 Programme grants in 2021/22 with a total value of £143,667.


            The Director of Economic Development pointed out that the total fund available in 2022/23 reduced by almost 50%, they administered 3 external projects and one Council project with a total value of £99,701. Examples of projects supported included improved access to the City Hall and the Tropical Ravine; easier access for audience and participants to not for profit cultural venues across the city; installation of new specialised playground facilities and changing spaces; and provision of equipment to provide immersive theatrical experiences for children with complex needs.


            He explained that capital works and equipment costs were eligible under this programme. The maximum grant available was £30,000, (the maximum project cost could not exceed £80,000), and applicants were required to contribute at least 10% of the total project costs. To receive a £30,000 grant, therefore, applicants must provide a contribution of at least £3,000.


            He advised that, this year, the Department for Communities was particularly keen to welcome applications for Changing Places facilities, accessible equipment for play parks and projects that would impact positively on sustainability and climate change. Projects must be completed on or before 31st March, 2024. The Department for Communities had advised that no extensions would be considered to the project completion date.


            He confirmed that contribution of at least 10% of project cost was an eligibility condition. This resource would need to be sourced by the applicant and the Council had staff resources to oversee the administration of the Programme.


            During discussion, one Member raised concerns in relation to the time constraints of the programme and the need for the Council to have projects prepared for the anticipated annual funding for successive years. It was suggested that the Council write to the DfC to highlight this reoccurring issue.


            After discussion, the Committee agreed that the Chief Executive exercise his delegated authority to grant permission for the Council to apply for, promote, assess and manage the Access and Inclusion Programme 2023-24.


            The Committee also agreed to write to the Department for Communities to reaffirm its concerns in relation to the short timeframe available for the delivery of the Fund.


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