By Neil Irwin
What has happened with the distribution of dormant accounts funds? The last reference I have to the total amount currently in dormant accounts for N.Ireland gives a figure of £7,500,000 but that was over a year ago. My guess is there is now in excess of eight million for giving out but further allocations recently proposed may mean significantly greater funding could be brought into the overall UK plot.
Meanwhile, the announcement of spending dormant accounts here is the gift that keeps giving. Since it became law here in 2008, numerous Finance Ministers have proclaimed the wonderful ways in which they will spend the windfall cash - but alas - to my knowledge, not managed to spend one penny of it. (Correct me if I am wrong).
It seems that with the ten year anniversary approaching Stormont Ministers have hit on a fantastic PR opportunity. Announce funding - receive the kudos for having done so - but then not spend it. This gives someone else the opportunity in the future to announce the same money being spent on something roughly similar, or indeed completely different. This is the contrary approach of a relatively recent Department for Communities announcement of funding of £500k for community halls - that went on to actually spend £1.9 million.
Ministers have announced that dormant accounts funding will be used for social enterprise, children, organisations who do not take lottery funding, community finance initiatives and refugees. Those are just the ones that come to mind. It will be distributed according to Ministers by the Big Lottery Fund - then it won't, then it will or it will be distributed by Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) - then it won't or maybe it will.
Recently I have asked the Department of Finance for more information to clarify -
1. How much money is currently available for distribution in Northern Ireland from dormant accounts?
2. How much money has been spent?
3. What is the current policy for distribution of dormant accounts in Northern Ireland?
4. Which Ministers and how many times have have they announced funding since 2007?
5.Can they provide a copy of the responses to the public consultation that closed on 29 October 2009.
The big question I haven't asked for obvious reasons is why has this money not been spent in almost 10 years?
If money is or was in the process of distribution before the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly I am not aware of it. If anyone is aware of it can you then please tell me - and others in the third sector struggling to keep their organisations afloat. £7.5m could make a huge difference now.
• Neil Irwin – an independent advisor, trainer and sometime commentator on the Northern Ireland charity sector.