Some £1.5 million has been released to local councils to help citizens get safely through the Covid-19 health crisis.
The money – confirmed by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey – will come from the Covid-19 Community Support Fund to target need and alleviate poverty.
Meanwhile, food parcels earmarked for the most vulnerable have arrived with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for distribution.
Over 1,000 will be delivered and contain tinned food and dried food, as well as fresh fruit and bread, and soap and other products.
Developments have been welcomed by Independent Unionist Councillor Paul Berry.
He said: “Over recent weeks our Community Department have been working closely with recognised foodbanks across the area to ensure the right procedure was in place to distribute these vital food parcels to the right people.
“I have also been working closely with officers as I have been contacted by local community groups who also have a good grasp on the need of their own areas and who in their community which needs support in this way. I am glad progress has been made on this front as well.
“I would encourage people who are at most need and vulnerable in our society to avail of these food boxes and contact the various numbers or emails provided to make them aware of your plight.
“Anyone who is vulnerable should not be embarrassed at using this service as we are here to help those in need at this unprecedented and difficult time with the serious impact of COVID 19.
“Please seek support and help as we need to rally around as community at this time and help everyone in need.”
The food parcels will be distributed by council to the recognised food banks locally, in Armagh, Portadown, Lurgan, Banbridge, Dromore and Brownlow, to be passed along to those who qualify.
With the money pledged this afternoon too by Minister Hargey, she reiterated her commitment to do all that she can to ensure that our society gets safely through this crisis and is in line with her priorities on poverty, targeting objective need and embedding a rights based approach.
She said: “I recognise councils have a unique community insight and reach at grass roots level and are well placed to ensure that citizens receive much needed help.
“This money will provide assistance to those at risk due to financial stress, ensuring access to food for those most in need and to help connect those living alone or in in rural and border areas that are likely to experience greater challenges in accessing services.
“This £1.5 million is an initial tranche of money and more will follow.”
The Minister paid tribute to the work of the voluntary and community sector whose role in society has never been more needed.
She said: “I am heartened but not surprised by the tireless dedication and commitment of people from all walks of life who have stepped forward to help our vulnerable citizens with deliveries of food and medicine so that they can remain safely in their homes.
“Over the coming weeks we will all rely on this selfless commitment of many volunteers as our local councils continue to work with the sector to ensure that helps gets to where it is most needed.”
The Minister also said that she was listening to pleas for financial help from grassroots organisations who are working with vulnerable people and that she was looking at a wide range of ways to support them.