Communities Minister Lyons addresses labour market conference

Communities Minister Gordon Lyons has acknowledged the contribution of the voluntary and community sector in supporting employability provision for those facing barriers to employment.

By Gordon Lyons MLA

East Antrim

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The Minister was speaking at the ‘Building an Inclusive Labour Market: The role of the Voluntary and Community Sector’ conference organised by NICVA, the representative body for the sector.

The conference, which took place at the Stormont Hotel today (Wednesday), focussed on increasing participation in the labour market, a key consideration for the Department for Communities (DfC) with linkages to anti-poverty, economic inactivity and disability employment.

Minister Lyons highlighted the positive collaboration between the Department and voluntary and community sector organisations whilst acknowledging the challenges faced by both.

The Minister said: “My Department delivers a range of employability support programmes through the voluntary and community sector including Workable NI, Access to Work NI and Labour Market Partnerships.

“I value the services and supports delivered by the sector and the partnership and collaboration which allows greater expertise, reach and responsiveness to the needs of our customers.

“Initiatives such as our Labour Market Partnerships and the launch of the EPIC Futures NI Hub, help to channel this collaboration, direct our activity and target specific outcomes for those individuals facing additional barriers to employment.”

Minister Lyons continued: “I recently announced that DfC funding for the voluntary and community sector will increase by £1.45million in the 2024-25 budget - an acknowledgement of work carried out across the wider Department.

“Whilst we would like to do more to meet our high ambitions for our labour market, the reality of constrained finances means we need to find new and innovative ways to achieve more for our customers with less.

“I am challenging my Department to find better ways to achieve outcomes against these pressures and it is reassuring to see that our voluntary and community sector is also looking inwards and challenging itself to do the same.”

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