New Loan Scheme To Boost Communities Social Needs

An innovative new loan scheme aimed at helping the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector develop capital projects to tackle social need in communities across Northern Ireland has been announced Communities Minister Gordon Lyons.

The £13 million Social Capital Loan Scheme will be funded by the Department for Communities using Financial Transactions Capital (FTC) and managed by Community Finance Ireland (CFI).

The Minister visited Crusaders Football Club in North Belfast to hear how the first loan drawn from the scheme will focus on the installation of a new 3G pitch at the club's Loughshore Road Recreation Facility.

Minister Lyons said the scheme would provide targeted funding to help the VCSE sector meet the objectives set out in the draft Programme for Government, commenting: "The Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector is hugely important for our local economy, providing much needed employment opportunities as well as vital community support.

"It is great to visit Crusaders FC to see their plans for a new training base for their ladies and youth teams and meet some of the people who will benefit from the investment. As the Minister for Sport, I'm pleased to see projects which will increase participation in sport, encouraging people to be more active, more often."
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Minister Lyons added: "This scheme goes beyond the benefits these bricks and mortar projects will deliver. It also increases accessibility to facilities and builds community confidence, offering sports, cultural and social enterprises access to sustainable funding. Funding streams like this one can offer the VCSE sector a financial lifeline at a time when organisations are facing challenging budgetary conditions."

Donal Traynor, Group Chief Executive of Community Finance Ireland (CFI), welcomed the new tranche of funding. He said: "This new capital programme offers the most substantial capital intervention to the social finance space in Northern Ireland, ever. As the most progressive community lender with over 20 years of history and a current social value return of 3.42:1, our team are delighted to channel the distribution and management of this capital throughout those community and social enterprise projects who are seeking financial support."

Community Finance Ireland will apply their existing business model to prioritise projects for investment and manage repayments; the investment will be repaid to the Department for Communities over 15 years from drawdown.

The investment will be made by the Department for Communities in three tranches to 2025/26. £4.333million has already been released and three projects totalling £576k have been approved by CFI.

Mark Langhammer, Crusaders FC Vice Chair said: "Crusaders Football Club are delighted to work with Community Finance Ireland in developing training facilities that will particularly benefit the female and junior sections of our club and surrounding area. The close relationship, added value and flexible nature of the finance provided by the Department for Communities through Community Finance Ireland best allows us to deliver on our plans and make modern football facilities available to everyone."

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