Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney expressed his ‘delight’ that members unanimously approved the allocation of an additional £442,028 from the Department for Communities to support a raft of support measures addressing issues arising from Covid-19, including food and fuel poverty, income and connectivity across Derry and Strabane.
Council officers had consulted widely with the Local Growth Partnerships and following on from the support provided for food, fuel and volunteering in December 2020, the priority coming from the partnerships was connectivity.
A number of the partnerships have been working with the schools in their areas to identify those families in need of support with connectivity issues.
At the special council meeting, called by the Mayor, Sinn Féin Councillor Sandra Duffy proposed the report was accepted saying: “I welcome the report, it is fantastic to see DfC stepping up and coming forward with much needed funding that we need to get out there to assist the communities.
“We know that there are many children who are now struggling to continue with their education through lack of equipment or lack of broadband and it is causing them a disadvantage.
“It will be great to see that funding out there and these children getting the equipment and assistance they need.
“I welcome the additional money for food and fuel. We have seen a perfect storm in terms of January, Covid, job losses, children being home from school, bad weather, everything contributing to terrible hardship within our communities and we have seen our community hubs struggle to keep up at pace with that. I completely welcome the additional funding we can allocate to them and the sooner we can get the money on the ground to the people, the better.”
Aontú Councillor Emmet Doyle seconded the proposal adding: “It’s very welcome funding, I know in my own Growth Partnership area there has been great need and I want to pay tribute to staff, particularly those on the front line.”
SDLP Councillor Rory Farrell also had words of praise for the Growth Partnerships.
“The SDLP welcomes this allocation of over £400,000 to address the issues of food, fuel and connectivity across our Council area,” he said. “I would like to thank the staff of the local Growth Partnerships who are on the frontline getting the support out to people in need. We support the immediate allocation of this funding.
“We are inundated with people requesting support for food and fuel and we are inundated with families that, given online learning, can’t participate because they don’t have laptops, they don’t have broadband, they don’t have tablets, so this funding is going to help address that and this funding is going to provide much needed support to families across this city and district.”
People Before Profit Councillor Shaun Harkin questioned ‘why has it taken a crisis for the working poor to get access to a tablet and the internet?’
He added: “It shouldn’t have taken this crisis, it should be a basic human right now. It’s very difficult to function in society nowadays without the internet.”
Mayor, Councillor Tierney brought matters to a close after all Councillors were in agreeance saying: “It’s great to see we are all singing from the one hymn sheet to see this money hit our communities to help the people who are finding it very, very difficult and in financial hardship at the moment.”