A new £1m childcare fund has been launched by the Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) to assist community led childcare and family support programmes across Northern Ireland.

The UCIT Family Support Fund was launched at an Early Years event in Belfast recently. Early Years is the largest organisation in Northern Ireland working since 1965 to promote high quality childcare for children aged 0-12 and their families.

Phelim Sharvin, Associate Director at UCIT, said: “Community childcare organisations are struggling to gain funding through traditional lending sources and are increasingly looking towards social finance as a means to support their ambitions. There is a growing demand for funding assistance and we felt it was fitting to launch a dedicated fund tailored to the specific needs of these organisations.

“Our aim is to help as many family support programmes as possible as they continue to play a vital role in the local community.  To date, we have invested over £1.5m into childcare and family support projects across Northern Ireland including a multisensory centre in Derry and children’s day care facilities in a number of locations including Ballymoney, Greyabbey, Enniskillen and Eskra. Loans are available to support a wide range of purposes including property acquisition, capital build projects, equipment purchase, bridging finance and working capital.”

Dr Siobhán Fitzpatrick CBE, CEO of Early Years, said: “We welcome the launch of the UCIT Family Support Fund as it provides much needed assistance to an underfunded sector.  As a not-for-profit organisation, we work with voluntary and independent settings to build a sustainable early years sector.

“This new fund will help support many projects in the local community which have been put on hold due to funding constraints and we’re delighted UCIT are able to make this announcement at our Leadership and Governance Conference.”

UCIT has supported in excess of 400 community organisations, charities and social enterprises with loan commitments totalling over £80 million. In many instances projects would not have been possible without the flexible, but professional approach adopted by the Trust in its lending.  As a registered charity all profits generated by UCIT are retained and recycled for the benefit of its clients.

CAPTION: Pictured are Phelim Sharvin, Associate Director at UCIT and Mia Coyle, General Manager of STS who benefitted from UCIT funding. Strabane Training Services (STS) created 20 new jobs and expand its operations with the opening of a new crèche earlier this year.

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