Northern Ireland Executive Ministers and their officials have over the past 24 hours been involved in a number of initiatives and critical decisions relating to the Coronavirus emergency.
Five Northern Ireland hospices are to receive £6.75 million in urgent financial support, the Finance Minister Conor Murphy announced today.
Minister Murphy told the Executive’s daily press briefing on Covid-19 the funding is being made available to offset the loss of donations and revenue from their retail outlets
“Our Hospices are there for people and their families when they need it most,” he said.
“This support package will help them with the current challenges they are facing from loss of donations and revenue from their retail outlets - £3.2 million will go the NI Hospice including the Children’s Hospice. £1.6 million will go to Marie Curie. £1.1 million will go to Southern Area Hospice. £600,000 will go to Foyle Hospice. And £250,000 will go to Cancer Fund for Children. This funding will make a real difference to these organisations and the families they support.“
Two free skills initiatives for people whose careers have been impacted by Covid-19 were also announced by the Economy Minister Diane Dodds.
The requirement for businesses to pay 25% of the cost of the Skills Focus programme has been waived until 31 March 2021 to enable SMEs with fewer than 250 employees to upskill their staff for free during the pandemic. The accredited courses are being delivered by further education colleges.
Minister Dodds also announced that 100 fully funded places on a part-time postgraduate certificate (PgCert) in software development are being made available at Queen’s University to people whose careers have been impacted by the lockdown and who have a 2:2 degree in any non-computing subject or who have appropriate work experience.
The Minister said: “I recognise that many businesses have had to place staff on furlough during the pandemic. I want to help small companies upskill their staff in readiness for the recovery, which is why I have removed the 25% employer contribution for the Skills Focus programme. Further education colleges will deliver the training online in a range of areas, including customer service, health and social care, leadership, and tourism.”
Referring to the postgraduate certificate in software development, she added: “This is a fantastic opportunity for people with degrees in a non-computing subject, or appropriate work experience, and whose careers have been affected by the pandemic, to study in a growth area and potentially secure employment in the future. Queen’s University will deliver the learning ‘virtually’ and participants who complete the course will be positioned to compete for roles in this growing sector, or choose to complete the Master's course.”
Minister Dodds also attended the inaugural meeting of the Tourism Recovery Working Group today, where she told tourism and hospitality representatives their sector had a key role to play in Northern Ireland’s economic recovery following the Covid-19 emergency.
In her address, the Minister observed that in the short term it could be to Northern Ireland’s advantage that 76% of tourism spend came from the UK and the island of Ireland last year.
The Minister told the working group: “The challenges are difficult, but with crisis comes opportunity. What we are seeing is a re-setting of global tourism. Previous assumptions which informed the business no longer apply. Our tourism destinations are effectively in start-up mode. This will allow us to re-shape our industry in a way that brings greatest benefit to local communities and to our economy as a whole.”
Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots announced an extension to the operating hours of his Department’s cattle registration telephony system to 8:00pm each Wednesday from 13 May to 15 July 2020.
DAERA Direct staff will be on hand to assist farmers with the notification of calf births and cattle movements.via a dedicated and secure telephone number, helping herd keepers with quick, error free transactions without the need for paper forms or a visit to their local office.
Minister Poots said: “The late night opening of the telephony service will be beneficial to a lot of our customers during what is normally a very busy period on livestock farms, but especially at this difficult time due to Covid-19 restrictions. The service is very straightforward to use, and as the animal details are input immediately callers can be confident that their notifications will be processed instantly.”
The live caseload for adults claiming Universal Credit rose by 80% between 1 March and 26 April, statistics released by the Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey revealed today.
According to management information released by the Minister, the number of adults on the live caseload for Universal Credit was 70,000 on 1 March but increased by 26 April to 126,000.
The number of applications during the eight weeks totalled 65,700, with a tenfold increase in new claims recorded at the height of the crisis in mid-March. Despite these unprecedented numbers, the Department was able to make 107,330 payments on time, representing 99.1% of all payments due over that period.
Minister Hargey stated: “I am very proud of the work my staff are doing and would like to thank them again for the way they have responded to this increase in work, at a time when they themselves have had to adjust to the necessary measures we have introduced to ensure they are protected as key workers. My Department will continue to do all it can to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and I remain determined to ensure that those most affected continue to receive all the support they are entitled to.”
Notes to editors:
- The Northern Ireland Executive is producing a regular digest of key initiatives and decisions that have been undertaken by ministers and their Departments relating to the Coronavirus crisis.
- Members of the public are encouraged to check regularly the Public Health Agency, NI Direct, NI Executive and government departmental websites and social media channels for public health advice on how to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 Coronavirus.
- Current information and advice in relation to Covid-19 can be found on the PHA website at: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/news/covid-19-coronavirus.
- Patients who have a persistent cough, or high temperature, together with any other members of their household must self-isolate according to the guidance on the PHA website at: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/news/covid-19-coronavirus#what-should-i-do-if-i-think-i-have-coronavirus.
- The Department of Health NI has launched a new Covid-19 NI information app to provide people with immediate advice and links to vital trusted information. The app will be updated as the pandemic evolves. Download the Covid-19 NI app - search for Covid-19 NI on the Apple app store and Covid-19 NI on google play.
- The online version of the app is hosted on a new website https://covid-19.hscni.net.
- A Covid-19 statistical dash board can also be viewed on the Department of Health’s website at: https://app.powerbi.com/view?r=eyJrIjoiMWFhZDgzZDYtMTE4Yi00MTBjLWIzYmQtMTZhYzc1MGEyMTk1IiwidCI6IjljOWEzMGRlLWQ4ZDctNGFhNC05NjAwLTRiZTc2MjVmZjZjNSIsImMiOjh9.
- The Framework for the Wellbeing of Health and Social Care staff can be accessed at the following link: www.publichealth.hscni.net/sites/default/files/2020-04/HSC_Regional%20Staff%20Wellbeing%20Framework.pdf and is based on evidence and best practice guidance and is informed by The British Psychological Society Guidance Paper.
- Psychological Support Help Lines will be staffed by psychologists and psychological therapists who can provide appropriate support throughout the surge phase of the crisis.
- The Helplines will be made available by each Trust to all their staff, to all GP Practices in their area, to all Ambulance staff based in their area and to all independent sector care providers in their area. In this way support is offered to all parts of the system throughout surge.
- The Framework document is supported by resources which are available on the PHA website: www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus/guidance-hsc-staff/staff-health-and-wellbeing.
- If you are in distress or despair at any time including the Covid-19 crisis, the 24/7 Lifeline helpline is available on 0808 808 8000 where trained counsellors are available to help you.
- Updated guidance for care homes is available on DoH website at: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/covid-19-guidance-nursing-and-residential-care-homes-northern-ireland
- Anyone wishing to volunteer for health and social care support roles can do so via: www.hscworkforceappeal.co.uk/.
- The Freephone Covid-19 Community Helpline can be accessed by telephone on 0808 802 0020; email firstname.lastname@example.org or text ACTION to 81025. It is available 7 days a week, 9am to 5pm.
- Statistics on weekly deaths registered in Northern Ireland can be accessed on NISRA’s website at: https://www.nisra.gov.uk/publications/weekly-deaths.
- Volunteer Now has launched a new online campaign #HelpEachOther for those who wish to volunteer for Covid-19 related opportunities and for those organisations which require the support of volunteers to deliver their services to the most in need. Further information is available at: www.volunteernow.co.uk.
- A list of schools which are open for educational supervision is available on the Department of Education website: www.education-ni.gov.uk/publications/schools-open-supervised-learning-key-workers-children-and-vulnerable-children.
- A link to the guidance on schools clustering is available here: https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/guidance-schools-cluster-arrangements.
- Forms for those applying to provide supervision to vulnerable children and the children of key workers can be accessed from the Department of Education website using the following link: http://apps.education-ni.gov.uk/appc19vol/default.aspx.
- The online application form for small businesses that rent premises is available at: http://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/RentalPropertiesandNAVBelow1590.
- Information on the full range of Covid-19 related support for businesses is available at: https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/campaign/coronavirus-updates-support-your-business.
- More information on Skills Focus Programme and how employers can access the programme is available at: www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/business-support/skills-focus-programme.
- More information on the postgraduate certificate in software development with QUB and details of how to apply are at: www.qub.ac.uk/Study/software-development-upskill.
- DAERA Direct’s telephony system is available Monday to Friday on 0300 200 7855 from 9:00am to 5:00pm, and to 8:00pm on Wednesday evenings between 13 May and 15 July. All calls are recorded and, similar to paper notifications, securely stored should a caller wish to check or verify the information provided at a later date.
- The Department for Communities’ Management Information on the impact of Covid-19 on Universal Credit claims can be found at www.communities-ni.gov.uk/impact-covid19-uc-claims.
- Media enquiries should be directed to the relevant department using the following email addresses
The Executive Office: Press.Office@executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk
Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs: PressOffice.Group@daera-ni.gov.uk
Department for Communities: Press.Office@communities-ni.gov.uk
Department of Education: Press.Office@education-ni.gov.uk
Department for the Economy: DfE.PressOffice@economy-ni.gov.uk
Department of Finance: email@example.com
Department for Infrastructure: Press.Office@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk
Department of Health: PressOffice@health-ni.gov.uk
Department of Justice: Press.Office@justice-ni.x.gsi.gov.uk
- For out of office hours media queries, contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.
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