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Assembly Delivers Resounding Cross-party Mandate Against Conversion Therapy

Ban Conversion Therapy NI welcomes the significant cross-party majority in the Northern Ireland Assembly which has today passed a motion rejecting conversion practices and the harm they have and continue to cause the LGBTQIA+ community.

It is of course regrettable that the DUP attempted to undermine today’s motion and debate with a poorly judged amendment which has caused much hurt and offence in recent days. It is reassuring that this amendment was so overwhelmingly defeated.

In recent days we have seen over 5,000 people from across all parts of Northern Ireland writing to their MLAs to urge them to take action and support a ban. This builds on a petition with almost 25,000 signatures that was presented in the Assembly just a few weeks ago.

A Resounding Mandate

The Minister for Communities has now been given a resounding mandate from the Assembly to bring forward legislation before the end of the current term. That work should continue at pace.

We welcome the Minister’s contribution in today’s debate and are reassured by her pledge to deliver a meaningful and effective ban on conversion practices.

We are committed to continuing to work constructively with the Minister, her Department, and all those willing to engage with us to develop comprehensive proposals to end sexual orientation and gender identity conversion therapy practices in Northern Ireland, in all of their forms, in every setting in which they occur.

Following the Assembly vote, Aisling Twomey, Policy & Advocacy Manager at The Rainbow Project, a member of the Ban Conversion Therapy NI campaign said:

“The outcome of today’s Assembly debate is a positive one and we’re pleased that such cross-party support exists to ban conversion therapy. We now need to see work get underway at pace to bring forward legislation before the end of the current Assembly term to ensure conversion practices are banned without delay. We look forward to working with the Minister to deliver on today’s mandate from the Assembly in a fair and robust way.”

Dr Andrew Cunning, Director of Left Side Up, a member of the Ban Conversion Therapy NI coalition added:

“As progressive Christians we are so encouraged to see such widespread support, within the Assembly, for the proposed ban on Conversion Therapy. It is now clear that the majority of our Politicians are in line with a huge swathe of the people in the pews. Freedom to do harm is not a freedom that people of faith need.”

First Government on These Islands to Deliver

Fergal McFerran, Northern Ireland Programmes Manager at Stonewall, a member of the Ban Conversion Therapy NI coalition said:

“For years, LGBTQIA+ people here have relied either on Westminster or the Courts to deliver progress for our community. Today is a signal that provides hope that the Executive can and should be the first Government on these Islands to deliver a ban on conversion therapy practices in every setting in which they occur.”

Kathryn Kerr, LGBT Lead for Northern Ireland Humanists, a member of the Ban Conversion Therapy NI coalition added:

“We welcome today’s debate as recognition that the human rights of LGBT+ people are the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive to protect and advance. Conversion Therapy is a highly coercive practice that can be deeply harmful to those who experience it. International human rights law is clear that the right to freedom of religion or belief does not limit the state’s obligation to protect the life, dignity, health and equality of LGBT+ persons. Additionally, we want to reiterate that we do not seek to limit non-directive pastoral support or prayer that gives an individual space to explore their identity. This does not fall within the definition of Conversion Therapy.”

Jayne Ozanne, former member of the UK Government’s LGBT Advisory Panel and Co-Chair of the Westminster focused Ban Conversion Therapy coalition said:

“I am so grateful to members of the Northern Ireland Assembly for giving such a clear lead on this matter, which I hope Westminster will take note of and swiftly follow. Importantly, they have shown that we must not leave any loophole open for those perpetrators who want to continue to “pray the gay away”, which so many LGBTQIA+ people of faith like myself have testified causes significant long-term harm.”

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£100,000 Grants Scheme for Community Led Road Safety Initiatives

Minister Mallon is joined by Seamus McAleavey, Chief Executive of NICVA; Brendan McAteer, Colin Neighbourhood Partnership and pupils from St. Kieran’s Primary School, Niamh Hamill and Taylor Dowds to launch the 2021/22 Road Safety (Safe Travel) Grant Scheme.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has launched the 2021/22 Road Safety (Safe Travel) Grant Scheme. Individuals and community groups can apply for funding of up to £10,000 to develop and deliver local road safety initiatives.

Minister Mallon said: “I am delighted to launch the £100,000 2021/22 Road Safety Grant Scheme which aims to support initiatives that not only encourage safe road user behaviour, but also have a positive impact on improving wellbeing for everyone.

“I recognise the key role that communities play in raising awareness of how we can stay safe on our roads whether we are driving, walking, cycling or wheeling. My Department’s Road Safety Grant Scheme aims to empower and support individuals, communities and organisations to promote and deliver road safety initiatives in their area and encourage safe active travel modes of transport.

“It is encouraging to see more people choosing to walk or cycle as we move into recovery from Covid-19. Active travel not only improves our health and wellbeing but also benefits the environment. I am committed to doing all I can to make our roads and footways safer and to ensure everyone choosing to travel actively can do so safely. However, we all have a part to play in improving road safety and reducing the number of deaths on our roads.   

“The 2021/22 scheme is now open for applications to support local community projects.  I would encourage those who believe that they can make a positive contribution by delivering innovative, community-led road safety projects to apply for financial support.”  

To qualify, groups must be properly constituted, have a bank account and be able to complete the project by 4 March 2022. Applications are also acceptable from individuals who are working in partnership with a community group involved in the process.

Seamus McAleavey, Chief Executive of NICVA said:

NICVA is delighted at the Minister’s announcement today launching the Road Safety Grant Scheme. During the last 18 months community organisations have been focussed on helping cope with the pandemic, but road safety is still a big issue for many.  This grant scheme, set out by Minister Mallon, is a boost to community groups and local road safety initiatives. I would encourage groups to use the scheme to help communities’ safe travel.”

Brendan McAteer, Colin Neighbourhood Partnership said:

The grant provided to Colin Neighbourhood Partnership through the 2020/21 DfI Road Safety Grant Scheme has helped to create a better awareness of the dangers on our roads and provided us with an opportunity to engage with a wide and varied range of residents within the Colin Community on keeping safe when using the roads. This grant has made the Colin area a much safer place to live, work and play for all.”

Grants must be used on locally focused road safety projects to help the Department achieve outcomes identified within its Road Safety Strategy to 2020.

For more information and a funding application pack visit:  www.nidirect.gov.uk/road-safety-grant-scheme

Application must be received by the Department by 12 noon on Friday 15th October 2021.

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Applications for Spend Local Pre-Paid Card will Open from 27th September

Announcing the next phase of the High Street Scheme, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons with Milana Surova of Memento florists on the Ormeau Road, Belfast.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons announced a number of important dates in the rollout of the High Street Scheme (HSS).

On a visit to Belfast’s Ormeau Road – which was recently announced as Retail NI’s High Street of the Year – the Minister announced that the online portal which will enable anyone aged over 18 and over to apply for the £100 Spend Local pre-paid cards – will be open from 27th September until 25th October.

He also announced a number of other key dates. They are:

  • Week commencing 4th October – First tranche of cards will issue to those who have successfully applied for the Spend Local pre-paid card.
  • 11th October – Telephone service will open to support applications from people not able to access or use the online portal.
  • 25th October – High Street Scheme online portal and telephone services will close.
  • 25th October – the last qualifying date for those turning 18 to be eligible to apply for a Spend Local card.
  • 30th November – High Street Scheme closes and the Spend Local pre-paid cards will cease to be valid.

The Minister said: “Now is the time to get ready to Spend Local. I am delighted to announce that the online portal will open to receive applications in just under two weeks with the first tranche of Spend Local pre-paid cards to issue the week beginning 4th of October.

“The objective of the £145million High Street Scheme is to boost local businesses following the drop in footfall brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. By giving everyone aged 18 and over in Northern Ireland a pre-paid card worth £100 to spend in local high businesses, we will encourage many more customers back through the doors of local retail, hospitality and services.

“I would encourage everyone who is over 18 by 25th October this year, to apply for their card between 27th September and October 25th. We expect demand to be high so please be patient if the online portal is busy just after it opens. It is important to remember that everyone will have at least four weeks to spend their card.

“By applying, receiving and ultimately spending your Spend Local card in local businesses such as shops, hospitality and other services before November 30, you will be doing your bit to support your local businesses.”

The Minister was joined by Chris O’Reilly, Chair of Ormeau Business Association, Simon Hamilton of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, Glyn Roberts of Retail NI and local traders.

Welcoming the scheme, Mr O’Reilly said: “We would like to welcome the Minister to the Ormeau Road – the High Street of the Year. Like many other local high streets across our towns and cities, the Ormeau Road is home to a diverse range of shops, restaurants and pubs which have felt the impact of the pandemic through a reduced number of customers coming through our doors. The High Street Scheme will deliver just the boost we need right now. I am sure I speak for many traders across Northern Ireland when I say we are looking forward to seeing customers using their Spend Local cards.”  

Mr Hamilton said: “Belfast Chamber is delighted to support the launch of the Department for the Economy’s Spend Local card. It has been an immensely challenging period for retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses and this £100 Spend Local card will give people the opportunity to actively help those businesses. It is also a great way to support everyone who works in our local shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and other services. This scheme will provide a much needed and very timely boost to those hard-hit sectors and make a massive difference to businesses as we emerge from the pandemic and edge towards recovery.”

Announcing the next phase of the High Street Scheme, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons joins Michael Goggin of Michel’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetables on the Ormeau Road, Belfast.

Mr Roberts said: “Retail NI has been a strong advocate for the High Street Scheme as a stimulant to support economic recovery. This £100 pre-paid Spend Local Card will be a much needed welcome spending boost for many retailers and our High Streets as whole. Our sector has suffered significantly during the pandemic and the High Street Scheme has come at the right time. I encourage consumers to spend this card with local retailers to boost our economy.”

From 27th of September to 25th of October applicants will be asked to apply through NI Direct.  For verification purposes in order to reduce the risk of fraud and error, each applicant will be asked to provide:

  • name;
  • address;
  • age;
  • gender;
  • disability status;
  • national insurance number;
  • email address; and
  • telephone number. 

Applicants will also have the option of including a driving licence number to enable verification. Once the applicant has completed the registration process their information will be checked against a number of government databases to verify their identity.

The portal is expected to be extremely busy in the days after it opens. Applicants are reminded that the online portal will be open for four weeks and everyone will have a minimum of four weeks to spend their card.

Applicants should receive their Spend Local card within 7-10 days of making their application. When an applicant receives their card, they will need to verify the card through a computer-operated phone system or text message and make the first payment using a pin, before they can start to use it for contactless payments.

The cards can be used in all participating businesses in Northern Ireland. They cannot be used online or for gambling or some financial and legal services.

The telephone support service will open on 11th October. The later opening of the telephone service has been implemented to encourage more people to apply online when the portal opens on 27th September and avoid using the phone line leaving it available for those who do not have access to, or are not able to use, the internet.

A public information campaign across television, radio, press and social media will begin on 16th September to keep applicants up-to-date with the scheme

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