Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland has announced the award of a contract to increase awareness of and support community asset transfer within the voluntary and community sector.
The £246,500 contract was awarded to Development Trusts Northern Ireland (DTNI) and runs from October 2012 to March 2015. Over the period of funding, DTNI will be a key partner with government on the development and implementation of a community asset transfer policy framework and will work directly with voluntary and community organisations to build the skills and capacity needed to take on full management or ownership of public sector assets.
Minister McCausland said: “I am pleased to announce the award of this contract to Development Trusts NI. Although there are examples of community asset transfer in various forms taking place in Northern Ireland, there is no coherent policy context to inform practice. My Department is leading on the development of a policy framework that will support the Executive’s key priority to ‘Grow a Sustainable Economy and Invest in the Future.”
The development of the policy framework is being driven by the Department for Social Development under the Programme for Government (PFG) commitment to “invest in social enterprise growth to increase sustainability in the broad community sector.” A cross-Departmental Steering Group, chaired by the Department, will guide the development of the framework and it will be brought before the Executive for approval in spring 2013.
Minister McCausland explained: “When community organisations successfully take ownership of assets change happens. Asset ownership provides revenue for community organisations that reduces dependency on grant funding and can help secure long-term sustainability. Community owned assets give local people a real stake in the future of the places in which they live, a sense of pride in their community and more say in the development and management of important local services.
“Asset management and ownership will not suit all community organisations. Groups must explore options and develop a case for transfer based upon need and ensure that identified assets are both appropriate and sustainable. DTNI will offer practical advice and active support for organisations considering asset transfer.”
Chairman of DTNI, Michael Pyner, said: “DTNI is delighted to be partnering DSD in the crucial work of asset transfer. Communities face increasing challenges with reduced and constrained resources being an everyday reality. It seems a pertinent time to be exploring where community and social enterprise and the encouragement of development trusts can add value to work to create sustainable communities.
“We are the leading network of community enterprise practitioners dedicated to supporting communities establish development trusts and helping existing development trusts learn from each other and work more effectively. Development trusts are community enterprises working to create wealth in communities and keep it there. They trade on a ‘not-for-personal-profit’ basis, re-investing surplus back into their community and effecting social, economic and environmental, or ‘triple bottom line’, outcomes. Our aim is to work with community organisations which are successful, sustainable and content to share their learning and experience with others.”