The Communities in Transition programme is having a transformative impact on individuals and communities, the First Minister and deputy First Minister have said.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill met with community representatives in West Belfast to hear about the positive difference the programme has made in the local area.
West Belfast is one of the eight areas supported by the Communities in Transition (CIT) programme. It aims to build capacity within these areas to help them develop as communities where paramilitarism and criminality no longer play a role.
First Minister Paul Givan said: “The Communities in Transition programme is a vital element of the Executive’s work to tackle paramilitarism, criminality and organised crime. It helps to ensure that those areas most at risk from the threat of paramilitarism are supported to resist the sinister control these groups exercise over communities.
“We have seen great examples of the difference that these projects are making on the ground – increasing the number of people participating in community life, improving skills and confidence, and reducing the space for paramilitaries and criminal elements to operate.
“I am greatly encouraged by the positive impact these efforts are having in the local communities across all the areas where the programme is being delivered. I would like to congratulate all those involved in this important work.”
Speaking after her visit to Grosvenor Community Centre to meet with local community representatives to discuss the CIT programme, deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “The Communities in Transition programme is a real force for positive change in West Belfast and across all the delivery areas. It plays a vital role in our work to rid society of armed gangs and criminal groups.
“Communities in Transition is about building strength, capacity and resilience within communities and supporting them to thrive. It was great to hear from the delivery partners in West Belfast about the positive impact the programme is having locally. It’s providing people with skills and opportunities, improving health and wellbeing and building confidence.
“It’s really encouraging that the benefits of the projects are being felt by individuals and families, as well as helping to affect positive change across the community. I am incredibly impressed by the work that has been delivered, in spite of the challenges presented by the pandemic. It’s an excellent example of how we can deliver better for people through partnership working and co-design.”
As well has hearing about the delivery and impact of the Phase 1 CiT projects in West Belfast during 2020/2021, the community representatives also discussed the implementation of phase 2 of the project, which will see projects being delivered in Health & Wellbeing, Community Safety, Policing & Regeneration, a Regional Restorative Practice project and an Ex-Prisoners project, during 2021/2022.
Jim Girvan, CEO Upper Andersonstown Community Forum and Joint Chair of the Health & Wellbeing project said: “Using a consortium of community based health and well-being providers, led by Blackie River Community Group, the health and well-being programme in the West Belfast CIT area has been extremely successful providing much needed support to over 150 people so far. As well as providing access to highly skilled and experienced health and well-being mentors and volunteers, this has also included support to access counselling services, employability assistance, mindfulness and support for those experiencing poor mental health and support.”
“Moving into phase 2 we will have another 120 people from across West Belfast benefitting from intense regular mentoring support, to help address health and well-being issues.”