Concerns have been raised over the future of organisations like the Appleby Trust which supports adults with learning disabilities.
Disability employment services in Northern Ireland, currently funded through the European Social Fund (ESF) has reached a critical cliff edge, a recent event in Stormont heard.
The European Social Fund (ESF) provides dedicated funding for projects aimed at improving the employability and employment levels of disabled people.
The current funding provision is due to come to an end in March 2023, with no clear plan as to who or how this gap will be filled.
SDLP MLA Justin McNulty has highlighted the work of the Appleby Trust in Armagh.
“There is so much fear and uncertainty about what the future holds for organisations like the Appleby Trust. Worry about future funding and the withdrawal of ESF support has led to doubts and anxieties over what the future holds.
“This fear is founded on the impact that the potential funding cliff edge will have not only on the trainees, but on their families and communities as well who rely on and who so value the role of the Team at Appleby.
“I am in awe of the work the Appleby Trust does. Their creativity and impact is beyond measure, and every member of their team is positive, passionate, and committed to what they do. As a bare minimum, they deserve funding certainty. Their work is truly indispensable.
“The best way to provide that certainty is for Executive Ministers to end the political stalemate, get back round the table, and ensure that organisations like the Appleby Trust are protected.”
Alliance representatives Eóin Tennyson MLA and Councillor Peter Lavery also expressed their support for Appleby Trust following a recent visit to its Print It service in Lurgan.
Mr Tennyson has said: “It was lovely to visit Elaine and the Appleby Trust’s Print It Employment Preparation Service in Lurgan this week. Appleby Trust aims to enhance social inclusion by reducing unemployment in people with a disability.
“This is one of many services supported by the European Social Fund which is due to cease on 31 March. With no Executive currently in place to agree a budget, it is vital steps are taken to ensure continuity of these essential services.
“Northern Ireland has the lowest rate of employment for people with disabilities across the UK already but these organisations having no funding means upwards of 1,700 workers being notified of redundancy this Christmas and 17,000 people with disabilities will be left without support to be employed.”
Councillor Lavery added: “Adults who take part in Appleby services benefit from the support of job coaches, whose role is to equip them with the skills necessary to progress to further opportunities in the community. It is a real benefit to have one of their facilities based in Lurgan.
“We need to get funding to continue these important services, and ensure those people with disabilities who wish to work are given the support to do so.”