Paul Sweeney – how we’ll continue to support communities

Paul Sweeney, Chair of our Northern Ireland Committee and UK Board member shares plans for how we’ll continue to support communities across Northern Ireland over the next 18 months.

I’m delighted to have been appointed and consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to build on the success of The Fund’s grant making in the years ahead.

Paul Sweeney, Chair NI Committee, The National Lottery Community Fund

When we think back on last year, we remember the uncertainty, but also how our communities pulled together to look out and care for each other. The pandemic has affected and changed us all.

Our local Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector has responded to the challenges thrown up by the pandemic with leadership, resilience and compassion. We are proud to have been there to offer support to projects and communities who stepped up to support those most affected by COVID-19.

We have trusted our grant holders and been flexible, believing that they know best what is needed in communities. Our programmes – National Lottery Awards for All, People and Communities and Empowering Young People helped organisations react quickly to support their communities.

I’ve joined The Fund at an important time as we continue to work with communities as uncertainty remains a part of life and the response and recovery from the impact of COVID-19 continues to unfold.

Looking a little ahead to the future, I am pleased to be able to give some reassurance around how we will continue to support communities over the next few years.

We are planning to keep our main programmes – National Lottery Awards for All, People and Communities and Empowering Young People open until the end of 2022. This will provide a level of certainty and stability for the people and organisations we are proud to support.

This means we are postponing the launch of our next portfolio of funding, which we had planned for the end of 2021. Over the next year we will be reviewing and refreshing our current funding programmes and planning for our portfolio post-2022.

We have decided to close Great Ideas NI, but we will continue to support the development of projects previously considered under this through our main programmes mentioned above.

We will continue to listen when groups tell us what matters most to people in their communities and our main programmes will continue to offer flexibility for projects that will enable people to address challenges or make aspirations a reality.

Supporting projects involving young people remains a priority, and we will be recruiting a new Youth Advisory Group to ensure that our funding is designed and delivered with the needs and aspirations of children and young people at the core.

Our funding will support groups tackling health inequalities and those who endeavour to make a positive impact on the environment. As we recover from the socio and economic effects of the pandemic, we also want to improve lives by supporting more learning and employability opportunities.

We will continue to review our funding regularly over the next year and will keep you updated on any further changes we make to ensure that we are responsive to organisations as they start to rebuild and reconnect.  

We are always keen to hear from organisations who want to apply for funding to support people and communities to adapt, rebuild and reconnect. We’re happy to have an informal chat in advance of making an application and you can contact us on 028 9055 1455 or

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