Status: 03/14/2023 8:49 p.m
Aid organizations in the UK received billions from the EU social fund. But because of Brexit, funding ends in April – and London does not fill the gap. Many organizations will probably die.
Ross Anderson has been coming to the courses and consultations of the charity Action Mental Health in Lisburn, near Belfast in Northern Ireland, for the past eight months. The young man suffers from depression and anxiety disorders. Here he attended various courses.
ARD Studio London
The offer ranges from “how do I deal with stress” to basic computer knowledge and courses for people who can’t read and write. Without the aid organization’s offers, he would miss a lot, says Anderson: “I would have less self-confidence to talk to people, I would have less structure in my life. As far as my mental health is concerned, I would still be on the cliff and it could be over at any moment be. This gives me a future.”
Johnson promised funding of the same amount
But the future is marked with a fat question mark. At the end of March, an EU support program from the European Social Fund for the United Kingdom will expire. The organization received more than four million euros through this instrument. The British government under Boris Johnson had promised that the British state would pay the same amount of these subsidies in the future.
But just days before the end of the funding period, Action Mental Health chief executive David Babington doesn’t know how much money the 10-site organization in Northern Ireland will get – or if it will get anything at all. He fears that the offers will have to be severely reduced.
Ross Anderson (left) has been coming to the courses and consultations of the aid organization Action Mental Health for months. Managing director David Babington does not know whether he will continue to receive funding and continue his current program.
Image: ARD Studio London
Uncertainty is huge
“We look after 1,000 people every day, and there is a risk that they will no longer be able to come. Many would not know where to go,” says Babington. He adds that they work closely with the five organizations that make up the NHS, who would refer sufferers to them. NHS staff wouldn’t know what else to do with people.
The uncertainty is huge, not only for the aid organization Action Mental Health. A total of 67 facilities across Northern Ireland employing 1,700 people are affected – as well as numerous others in Wales, England and Scotland.
“Now we know: That won’t happen”
In the years since 2014, organizations in the UK have received more than €5 billion in total. Andrew Irvine is Executive Director of the East Belfast Mission charity.
He has interviewed government agencies for about 22 different entities and says:
The UK government under Boris Johnson had promised a UK fund would replace EU payments – 100 percent. Now we know: That won’t happen.
Promotion cheaper than social assistance payments
Next year only around €22-26 million would be available from this new fund for Northern Ireland. That is a decrease of 50 percent. About half of the aid organizations will collapse, Irvine fears. He himself has just had to lay off 14 of his 100 or so employees, and more could follow.
The East Belfast Mission is primarily concerned with providing support in finding accommodation, vocational training and looking for a job – and this in a part of the city where unemployment is very high. Irvine is angry at the government’s ignorance: “It costs us 700 euros to get someone a job. It doesn’t make sense to stop doing that and pay welfare instead, which is much more expensive.”
The influence of paramilitary and criminal groups is also very high in this area of Belfast. “Caring for someone in prison is also expensive. It just doesn’t make sense.” David Babington has calculated that the work of the organization Action Mental Health saves the state around 80 million euros per year. He is disappointed in politics.
Northern Ireland without regional government
To make matters worse, there is currently no regional government in Northern Ireland. One party, the unionist DUP, is blocking the formation of a government. It makes entry into a government conditional on its own, and as yet pending, approval of the Windsor Framework, an agreement Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has just reached with the EU.
“If there were a government, maybe we could at least find an interim solution,” says Babington. “London sees us as a side event, we’re forgotten, like those we serve. That’s very sad.”
EU social fund for UK expires
Christoph Prössl, ARD London, currently Belfast, March 14, 2023 11:18 a.m