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£200,000 Water Quality Improvement initiative

Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA is pictured (L-R) with Dave Scott - Woodland Trust, Lionel Knobbs - Loughs Agency and Alan McComb Landowner on his Londonderry farm.

Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA has announced a £200,000 Water Quality Improvement strand (WQIS) of the Environmental Challenge Fund Competition for 2021/2022, to support water quality projects across Northern Ireland.

The Minister made his announcement during a visit to a farm in the Faughan Valley, which received almost £7,000 under the 2020/21 Scheme to assist with the creation of wet woodland at the farm, in a partnership with Woodland Trust and Loughs Agency. Under the WTNI Faughan Valley volunteer programme, local people helped plant the trees and will undertake monitoring of the project, as well as helping to maintain the site as it develops and grows.

This project showcases how a nature-based solution can help protect rivers from potential pollution, as well as keeping water on the farm in times of drought and providing a future timber resource in the form of native trees for other landowners and farmers.

The 2021/22 strand of the fund is aimed at local communities and voluntary organisations to run small projects to bring about improvements in their local water environment.

Environmental Challenge Fund Competition

Welcoming the launch of this year’s scheme, Minister Poots said, “Due to the success of last year’s Water Quality Improvement strand of the Environmental Challenge Fund Competition, I am pleased to announce a further £200,000 of funding in this financial year. It has been inspiring to see the accomplishments achieved by recipients of the grant in 2020. The project here in the Faughan Valley is an excellent example of the type of work the Department is supporting to tackle some of the big issues facing us such as climate change mitigation, water quality protection and biodiversity loss.

“I wholeheartedly support this type of partnership working with environmental organisations and I wish to acknowledge the significant contribution that partnering with the Department can make to our aquatic environment.  I look forward to visiting other projects in the future to see the benefits of this collaboration.”

The closing date for applications for the 2021/22 Water Quality Improvement Strand of the Environmental Challenge Fund Competition is 28th June 2021

Further information, including guidance notes and details of how you can apply for funding, can be found on the DAERA website at www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/environment-fund

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New Measures to Support Childcare Providers

Education Minister, Michelle McIlveen today announced a further extension to two Covid-19 childcare support funds.

This includes a third phase of the Childcare Sustainability Fund for the period 1 April to 30 June 2021 and the Childcare Covid-19 Temporary Closure Fund from 1 April to 30 September 2021.

The Minister said: “I am pleased to announce a further extension of the financial support available to the childcare sector as we continue to emerge from the pandemic. These schemes will supplement approximately £30m of emergency funding which has already been provided to the childcare sector up to March 2021.

“The Covid-19 Childcare Sustainability Fund will provide vital financial support for eligible registered childcare providers who are continuing to incur additional costs while operating within Covid-19 guidance and a reduced demand for services during this recovery phase. 

“While the closure of childcare providers remains very low, the Childcare Covid-19 Temporary Closure Fund will minimise the financial impact on childcare providers who have been forced to temporarily suspend their services due to a Covid related incident within their provision.”

The Temporary Closure Fund will also support parents, as funding is only available to those childcare providers that do not charge parents while their provision is temporarily suspended due to Covid-19 cases.

The Minister concluded: “The continuation of this funding during these final stages of recovery and easing of restrictions, recognises the vital role that childcare providers play in supporting the economy and supporting families.   I want to thank the childcare sector for its continued dedication to maintaining services during these challenging times.”

The two extended Covid-19 support funds open from 18 June 2021 for applications from eligible daycare, school-aged childcare settings, childminders, crèches and playgroups. Eligible childcare providers will be able to apply for funding via Early Years – the organisation for young children website.

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Belfast Pride Release Statement Regarding This Year’s Events

Belfast Pride have today released a statement regarding this year’s event. Their statement can be found below.

Belfast Pride is the main event of the year for the LGBT + community in Belfast and our biggest platform to protest for our rights and to celebrate our identities. We want to be on the streets with the rest of our
community celebrating advances on Equality issues and protesting for Trans Rights, to end Conversion Therapy and challenge hate and discrimination.

Belfast Pride will be happening this year and although things have moved on from last year, we’re sorry to say that there hasn’t been enough progress to allow the large scale events like the Belfast Pride Parade and Party in the Square to safely happen this year.

The health and wellbeing of our wonderful, diverse community matters and we’re not prepared to put people at risk. It’s great that some smaller events can happen within the restrictions and our community groups and our community venues are already busy planning.

Belfast Pride will be online and in person from Friday 23rd July – Sunday 1st August with Pride Day on Saturday 31st July.

We had been holding out in hope for the announcement of easing of restrictions on June 10111, hoping that this wou ld allow the main events of Pride Day to happen but the guidelines and the timelines leave too much uncertainty to allow progress and the detail matters with public safety.

It has been frustrating trying to find ways to make the Belfast Pride Parade and Party in the Square happen safely as the proud, diverse and dedicated team of volunteers who make up Team Pride want nothing more than to play their part in delivering Belfast Pride festival for our community.

We have been working with the PSNI, Parades Commission, Belfast City Council and other agencies to try to plan for safe events but we can’t yet safely bring 55,000 people on to the streets of Belfast for Pride Day. We need to prevent any chance of infection that could be attributed to Pride and anything that would adversely affect our community as a whole

We still need the visibility that Belfast Pride brings and we have been discussing smaller scale physical events with our community partners and supporters and we want to hear your ideas for how we can best make an impact to safely mark Pride this year. Despite the ongoing restrictions, we want a programme full of colour, diversity and Pride.

We hope that Belfast Pride will be back in full next year – we all deserve the biggest, most diverse and best Pride yet but we can still bring the Pride rainbow to Belfast this year.

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