Assembly Committee Alarmed At Special Olympics Funding Deficit

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 16 September 2010

Reference: CAL 02/10/11

Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure (CAL) heard today, from Regional Director of Special Olympics Ulster (SOU), Shaun Cassidy, about the impact the proposed government cuts will have on Special Olympics Ulster. Chair of the CAL Committee, Barry McElduff MLA said, “the Committee is publicly calling on the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Nelson McCausland MLA, to seek an urgent meeting with Ministerial colleagues to discuss the funding deficit currently facing Special Olympics Ulster. The Committee urges that the business case is treated as a priority under the current Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) negotiations.

The Committee has learnt from the SOU delegation that despite two years of work on the Special Olympics Business Case, the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure is unable to approve it on affordability grounds. The Committee also learnt today that the Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey MLA, is unable to contribute to the funding of SOU due to the budget constraints facing his Department, despite the great health benefits for those involved in sport.

Chair of the CAL Committee, Barry McElduff MLA said: “The Committee is deeply disappointed that the Health Minister has refused to provide funding for a very worthwhile organisation which is the world leader in its field. While SOU is a sporting organisation, it provides many benefits including health, social inclusion and education. The Committee will be writing to other Assembly Committees with a remit in this area as a matter of urgency.”

The Committee were warned today by SOU that failure to secure government funding will have a detrimental impact on the hopes and dreams of some 16,000 people with learning disabilities, accessing the Special Olympics programme, regionally, nationally and internationally.

The Committee supports the SOU proposal for cross-departmental funding of £2.66m led by the Sports Minister as outlined in the business case still before him.

Mr McElduff finished by stating: “The Committee will be inviting the Sports Minister, Nelson McCausland MLA, to brief us on the outcome of interdepartmental meetings and as a Committee we will do all we can to advance the case of SOU.”