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Grass Roots Renewables received a £250k loan from UCIT to fund a wind turbine outside Maghera

The lender for the third sector in Northern Ireland

Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) is a Charity which provides loans exclusively to other third sector organisations such as community groups, charities, sports clubs and social enterprises in Northern Ireland. Since 2001 we’ve committed in excess of £80 million to over 380 organisations in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Visit our Impact Map to find out more about the projects we have funded.

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£80 million
Loans approved 2001-2017

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UCIT provided start-up funding to Folktown CIC for a new farmer’s & artisan market in Belfast

About us

Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) is a Charity which provides loans exclusively to other third sector organisations such as community groups, charities, sports clubs and social enterprises in Northern Ireland. Since 2001 we’ve committed in excess of £50 million to over 360 organisations in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

UCIT was established in response to decreasing grant support from government and the difficulties experienced by community organisations in accessing commercial loan facilities. Start-up funding was received from LEDU (Invest NI) and the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) along with a £6.6m loan book from IFI, Department for Social Development and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD).

In 2007 UCIT received accreditation from the Social Finance Foundation, Dublin, to enable the organisation to access a fund for investment south of the border. To read more, please visit the website of our sister company, Community Finance Ireland.

During 2012 UCIT's fund management company, UCI plc, achieved Financial Conduct Authority accreditation and the organisation was awarded the management of the £5 million NI Small Business Loan Fund by Invest Northern Ireland.

As a registered charity, all profits generated by UCIT are retained and recycled for reinvestment into the third sector.

Projects supported:

Projects Supported
Projects Supported

Read more about the impact UCIT funding is having by visiting our Client Map to see how your local charities and community organisations are using UCIT loans to make a bigger impact.

 

 

 

385 community
Projects funded

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Loans

Who do we lend to?

We lend exclusively to Community organisations, charities and social enterprises, both large and small, located in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Our borrowers include Faith-based initiatives, Sports Clubs, Training initiatives, Childcare schemes, Housing associations, Community transport schemes, Rural development projects and many more…

Finance is available for: buildings and equipment, working capital, cash shortfalls, bridging finance against delayed grants or other confirmed income and restructuring of debt.

Interest Rates - UCIT Interest rates are competitive and depend on the individual circumstances of each borrower.

Repayment Term - UCIT provides both long-term loans and short-term bridging finance. Loan terms are tailored to suit each borrower.

No penalties - UCIT does not penalise against early repayment of loans

Loan size - UCIT loans typically range from £25,000 - £500,000 +

If you would like a chat about whether a loan is the right option for your organisation, our lending team can provide advice and know how gained from many years of involvement within the sector in Northern Ireland. The lending team can be contacted on Tel: 028 90315003.

As a registered charity, all profits generated by UCIT are retained and recycled for reinvestment into the third sector.

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Building Better Futures Loan Fund

UCIT are delighted to provide a new loan fund for community groups, voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises. The scheme which is being jointly funded by Building Change Trust, Belfast Charitable Society and UCIT provides small, unsecured loans ranging from £1,000 to £25,000. The loans can be used for a wide range of purposes, including buildings and repairs, purchase of equipment, making facilities more energy efficient or funding shortfalls in larger grant assisted projects. The Building Change Trust was established in 2008 by the Big Lottery Fund with a National Lottery grant of £10million as an investment for community capacity building and promotion of the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland. Belfast Charitable Society was established in 1752 to tackle disadvantage and poverty and in doing so it built the Poor House and Belfast's first Infirmary, which remains as Clifton House. Today, the Society continues to work to tackle disadvantage and promote philanthropy while sharing its vast heritage with others.

Further information about the scheme is available by contacting UCIT on Tel: 028 9031 5003.

     

£2.5 million
Invested in Arts & Heritage projects

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UCIT provided Slack Press with working capital support to help them upscale their social enterprise

Applying for a loan

Our lending team welcome the opportunity to discuss the suitability of loan finance for your project and to answer any questions you might have. The lending team can be contacted on Tel: 028 9031 5003.

The UCIT lending process is simple and straightforward:

If your project appears suitable for loan finance, we will ask you to fill in a short application form.

Once we receive your completed application, a member of our lending team will contact you to arrange a meeting in order to further develop your proposal.

Upon completion, your business proposal will be submitted to UCIT's Lending and Investment Committee for approval.

Click on the link below to download the loan application form.

Complete the form and then print it out, sign, date and return it to UCIT.

Alternatively, call or email us and we will be happy to send you a loan application form and guidelines.

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£15.4 million
Invested in Enterprise projects

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UCIT provided a loan to Foyle Women’s Aid to enable them to undertake crucial refurbishment work

Customer stories

UCIT loan finance has supported job creation, community engagement and economic development in many towns and villages in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Explore our Impact Map to find out more about the projects we have funded.

 

Bangor Football Club

Bangor Football Club received a £250,000 loan from UCIT to assist with the installation of a 3G pitch at its home ground at Clandeboye Park. It is planned that the improved facilities will enable the club to establish a Soccer Academy, allow for greater use by the wider community, and help deliver financial sustainability.

“These new facilities are an important part of securing our long-term financial future and strengthening the connection between the club and its local community. UCIT’s support has been instrumental in making this happen.” Trevor Best, Chairman, Bangor Football Club

Broughshane and District Community Association

"Our involvement in the Pilot Community Asset Transfer Scheme enabled us to develop a strong partnership with Ballymena Borough Council, (now Mid and East Antrim Council), DTNI, DSD, NIHE and Triangle Housing Association to finance and complete a feasibility study and Business plan for the development of the former Broughshane Police Station site. We are delighted that we are currently in the process of purchasing the Station, thanks to the financial support from Mid and East Antrim Council and a loan from Ulster Community Investment Trust." Sandy Wilson, Vice-Chairman, Broughshane and District Community Association

Landmark East

"We are focused on the regeneration of east Belfast. There are a number of derelict and vacant properties on the Newtownards Road that we feel can be transformed to improve the overall look of the area. The new development will help increase footfall in the area which in turn will help traders.

"Financing regeneration projects in the present climate is a real challenge. UCIT have been extremely supportive of our plans to revitalise the area. The redevelopment would not have been possible without their assistance." Maurice Kinkead, CEO, East Belfast Partnership

Resurgam Community Development

"There are people in the area struggling for employment, especially the young. We are giving them an opportunity to learn the skills they will need to find a job. For us it is all about jobs and we have already created over 100 jobs across our six enterprises, contributing £1.7m in salaries to the local economy.

“All profits raised through the business are reinvested back into the company or directly into the community, particularly the health and education sector. UCIT have been extremely supportive of our work and the second loan secured from them is a sign of confidence in our latest project." Adrian Bird, Director, Resurgam Community Development

Workspace Group

Workspace Group, one of Northern Ireland’s leading Local Enterprise Agencies, received a tailored working capital facility from UCIT to fund the expansion of Therm Tech, which it acquired three years ago.

“Therm Tech has reported strong growth in recent years and this loan from UCIT will support our ambitions for further growth, principally through increased exports in the UK and Europe. In addition to this increased level of export activity, we will be able to consolidate existing jobs and continue the employee growth strategy which has been so evident over the last two to three years.” Robin Gawne, Company Accountant, Workspace

£2.2 million
Invested in Social Housing projects

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UCIT provided a loan to Ards Rugby Football Club to support their redevelopment plans

News

 

Caledon Rovers Football Club ‘pitch perfect’ following loan from Building Better Futures Fund

Caledon Rovers Football Club has availed of a loan from the Building Better Futures Fund to cover costs associated with carrying out essential drainage works to their football pitch. The maintenance works will deliver cost savings to the Club which provides a valuable resource and significant social impact in this rural community in County Tyrone.
 
Graeme Parr, Treasurer, Caledon Rovers FC said: 
With grant funding not available to our Club for maintenance projects we looked to the Building Better Futures Fund for a loan to help our club carry out essential drainage works to our pitch. The Fund offered an affordable repayment structure for the loan and we hope that now following the completion of the works we will have a playable pitch all year round.”
 
The Building Better Futures scheme has been created and funded through a partnership between leading local charities - Belfast Charitable Society, Building Change Trust and Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT). Belfast Charitable Society was established in 1752 to tackle disadvantage and poverty and in doing so it built the Poor House and Belfast’s first Infirmary, which remains as Clifton House. Building Change Trust was established in 2008 by the Big Lottery Fund with an endowment of £10million as an investment for community capacity building and promotion of the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland. 
 
The £1 Million fund which is being managed by UCIT provides Community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises with access to small unsecured loans of £1,000 - £25,000 which cannot currently be raised from traditional sources.
 
For further information regarding the Fund contact UCIT on Tel: 028 90315003.
 

UCIT puts the 'Fizz' in Clearer Water

A social enterprise based near Larne has had the ‘fizz’ put into its business thanks to a £50K loan from UCIT to purchase a new automatic carbonator.
 
A social enterprise based near Larne has had the ‘fizz’ put into its business thanks to a £50K loan from UCIT to purchase a new automatic carbonator.
 
Clearer Water, from Magheramorne, sources and bottles drinking water which is certified as among the best in the UK and Ireland.  The new carbonator has enabled the company to expand its customer base in the hotel and restaurant trade where sparkling water is more popular.  
 
Production has grown to 10,000 bottles per day and the firm now operates seven-days a week to meet demand.  Clearer Water, which employs 14, has created a relaxing working environment designed to help disadvantaged people who find it difficult to secure normal employment.
 
Clients include Shu, Ox, James St South, the Fitzwilliam and Lough Erne hotels, Titanic Belfast, Henderson Food Group and a number of up-market delicatessens in London.
 
Phelim Sharvin, Ulster Community Investment Trust’s (UCIT) Associate Director said:
 
“Clearer Water is a great example of what social enterprises can deliver - combining commercial success with a vision to improve local communities. Thanks to funding from UCIT, the company has been able to switch from a manual to an automatic carbonator.  This has greatly improved production efficiency and allowed them to win new customers.  
 
“The importance of social enterprises, community and voluntary groups to Northern Ireland’s economy continues to grow, generating annual revenues in excess of £1.2bn.  Last year UCIT provided a record £14 million to 80 third sector organisations across the island.”
 
The social enterprise’s water is filtered through three limestone aquifers on the Antrim Plateau and has a pH of 7.8, putting it in the top 10% of UK bottled water.  Each bottle also contains a unique code that allows customers to trace when the water was sourced, the temperature at the time and background details of the staff who bottled it.
 
David Hunter, Director and co-founder of Clearer Water, said:
 
“In the past year employment has more than tripled and sales have increased six-fold.  As a company we’re focused on the idea that to be social, we need to be enterprising.  This enables us to provide employment to people who previously had little expectation of holding down a normal job with standard contracts – and that has been life changing for them and their families.
 
“Demand for bottled-water is projected to increase by over 10% in the next decade, fuelled in the UK by the sugar tax and a greater awareness of diseases such as diabetes.  As the market grows, we expect to increase production and provide further employment opportunities.
 
“In addition to UCIT we’ve been supported by the Big Lottery, Rural Development Fund, Northern Trust and Henderson Food Group, who were our first customer.  Without them it wouldn’t have been possible for the business to grow as quickly as it has.”
 
The idea for Clearer Water was sparked by an 18-year long campaign led by co-founder Maureen Hanvey to prevent a local quarry being turned into a landfill site.  Maureen commissioned professional reports of local water quality, providing the provenance and certification Clearer Water would require to sell it as bottled drinking water. 
 
Clearer Water is a partnership between Acceptable Enterprises Larne, which operates a number of social enterprises and training schemes, and Learning to Grow, a charity specialising in therapeutic horticulture.  Clearer Water is Ireland’s first ethical bottled water company. 
 
UCIT has supported in excess of 400 organisations 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 charity all profits generated by UCIT are retained and recycled for the benefit of its clients.
 

 

Building Better Futures Loan Fund enables Healthy Kidz to invest in growth

Healthy Kidz CIC is an innovative fitness initiative aiming to give physical literacy the same level of importance as academic literacy on the School curriculum.
Initially spearheaded by Tannaghmore Primary School, Lurgan, the project was aimed at promoting pupils to take part in regular physical activity. Interest in the project has grown rapidly since its foundation with 86 schools throughout Northern Ireland and 10,000 pupils already participating weekly.  
 
To meet this growing demand the organisation has accessed support from the Building Better Futures Fund to provide working capital to assist with initial running costs, allowing the organisation to invest in growth and increase revenue generation.
 
Community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises can access loans through the Building Better Futures scheme which has been created and funded through a partnership between three leading local charities - Building Change Trust, Belfast Charitable Society and Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT). 
 
Building Change Trust was established in 2008 by the Big Lottery Fund with an endowment of £10million as an investment for community capacity building and promotion of the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland. Belfast Charitable Society was established in 1752 to tackle disadvantage and poverty and in doing so it built the Poor House and Belfast’s first Infirmary, which remains as Clifton House. 
 
The £1 Million fund which is being managed by UCIT provides small unsecured loans of £1,000 - £25,000 which cannot currently be raised from traditional sources. 
 
Kevin Creery of Healthy Kidz explained that the programme has become so successful they now employ nine full time coaches as well as 16 part time coaches. The aim is to get local firms on board and more investment as the company expands across Ireland. The initiative comes at a time in Northern Ireland when our young people's interest and engagement in physical activity is the lowest in the UK and the worst in history while levels of obesity and diabetes continue to rise. 
 
Children have various strands of fitness goals including access to an App which allows them to follow their progress.
 
Building Better Futures loans can be used for a wide range of purposes, including buildings and repairs, equipment purchase, making facilities more energy efficient or funding shortfalls in larger grant assisted projects. Further information about the scheme is available by contacting Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) on 028 9031 5003.
 

Funding for language and cultural groups available

Northern Ireland’s burgeoning cultural and language sector could expand their activities if more groups made use of social finance.  The call was made by Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT), a

registered charity which is Northern Ireland’s leading independent provider of loans to the Community, Voluntary and Social Enterprise (CVSE) sector.  

In recent years there has been strong growth in the numbers of language and cultural groups operating in Northern Ireland, but the level of funding available from Government has come under increasing pressure.  
 
Among those to have benefited from UCIT funding is Belfast-based An Droichead which supports the Irish-speaking community through education and employment services, as well as child day care, youth services, scholarships and volunteering opportunities.  The group has received a loan of £50K to help refurbish childcare facilities and develop its business plan.
 
Pól Deeds, CEO of An Droichead, said:
 
“In 2013 An Droichead created a social enterprise day care that employs 25 people directly.   The loan from UCIT helped us consolidate this expanding service, maintaining high standards whilst also driving revenues. The loan has also enabled us to update our plans for a social economy and cultural village on the Ormeau Road.”
 
Phelim Sharvin, Associate Director, UCIT added:
 
“Northern Ireland’s growing social economy comes in many different guises, including language and cultural organisations which create jobs, support tourism and, like An Droichead, provide vital community services. Traditionally, language groups have relied upon voluntary and grant support.  In today’s financial climate, however, more and more groups are turning towards social finance to support their work. UCIT provides a range of loans and professional financial advice to help groups determine the best way to fund their services.”
 
UCIT has supported 400 organisations with loan commitments totalling over £80 million since 2001. All of UCIT’s profits are retained and recycled for the benefit of its clients.
 
Other language and cultural groups which have received funding from UCIT include Coiste Ghaeloideachais Chromghlinne to help support a new school facility and family centre in Crumlin and An Gaelaras to help develop the landmark Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin centre in Derry.
 

Building Better Futures Loan Fund ‘Steps’ in to assist Portadown social enterprise

Operating from their One Eighty Degrees Restaurant in Portadown, Step by Step NI Ltd work in partnership with the Southern Regional College to deliver an award winning training programme for youn
g adults with learning needs. The restaurant operates as a non-profit taking social enterprise and offers a unique opportunity for young people with learning disabilities to acquire qualifications, skills and experience to enable them to gain meaningful employment in the hospitality industry. The organisation recently availed of a loan from the Building Better Futures Fund to meet short term working capital costs. 
 
Nigel Hampton, Director, Step by Step NI Ltd said:
 
“Following the loss of a major funder, Step by Step NI’s One Eighty social enterprise which trains and supports young people with a learning disability for employment in the hospitality industry had been at risk of closure. Had that outcome occurred, it would have had extremely negative consequences for the trainees and staff involved. The loan from the Building Better Futures Fund has been instrumental in allowing us to restructure the staff team, restructure the accumulated historic debt into manageable repayments, aid cash flow and allow us to focus on improving income generation and returning the charity to a surplus position.” 
 
The Building Better Futures scheme has been created and funded through a partnership between Building Change Trust, Belfast Charitable Society and Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT). Building Change Trust was established in 2008 by the Big Lottery Fund with an endowment of £10million as an investment for community capacity building and promotion of the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland. Belfast Charitable Society was established in 1752 to tackle disadvantage and poverty and in doing so it built the Poor House and Belfast’s first Infirmary, which remains as Clifton House. 
 
The £1 Million fund which is being managed by UCIT provides community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises with access to small unsecured loans of £1,000 - £25,000 which cannot currently be raised from traditional sources.
 
Loans from the Building Better Futures Fund can be used for a wide range of purposes, including buildings and repairs, equipment purchase, making facilities more energy efficient or funding shortfalls in larger grant assisted projects. 
 
Further information about the scheme is available by contacting UCIT on Tel: 028 9031 5003.
 

UCIT Launches Dedicated £4 Million Sports Fund

Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) has ‘kicked off’ a dedicated £4 Million fund for sporting organisations seeking finance.
 
Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) has ‘kicked off’ a dedicated £4 Million fund for sporting organisations seeking finance.
 
UCIT, one of the UK’s largest providers of social finance, has already provided £7M to 70 clubs across Ireland, helping deliver new training facilities, clubhouses and state-of-the-art pitches.  The new fund will commit a further £4m to the local sporting sector over the next five years.
 
Recent beneficiaries include Naomh Pól CLG and Shorts Sports and Recreation Club in Belfast which together have received £350K to support major community investments.
 
Phelim Sharvin, Associate Director of UCIT, said:
 
“The way in which the sporting sector is funded has changed rapidly over the past decade.  With less grant funding from Government available and less capacity from high street banks, groups are increasingly relying on social finance.
 
“UCIT can provide sporting clubs with a bespoke service to help them access finance which takes into account the needs of the sector.  Tailored finance is available to support a wide range of purposes including property acquisition, capital build projects, equipment purchase and restructuring of existing debt. Often, the loan may match grant funding secured from a funder such as SportNI or a local council. Crucially, the repayment schedule is closely matched to the varied revenues from a social club, member’s subscriptions, patron schemes and fundraising events.
 
“Our vision is to work with clubs to help them remain as a hub at the heart of their local communities.”
 
Shorts Sports and Recreation Club received a loan from UCIT to help it acquire a 14-acre site.  The club has an active history in east Belfast and the funding will help it further develop facilities offering a range of sports and recreational activities.
 
UCIT has also supported a number of GAA clubs including Naomh Pól CLG in west Belfast.  The financial assistance, with further support from a range of other funders, has facilitated the construction of a 3G facility and a standing terrace for the main playing pitch.

David Gibson, Chairman of Shorts Sports and Recreation Club said:

“This club has been serving the community of east Belfast for almost 80 years, providing three playing pitches, a bowling green, a health and fitness suite as well as space for local societies.  
“The funding available from UCIT will enable the club to significantly enhance its facilities and allow us to offer an even wider range of modern sporting and recreational space.”
 
Caroline McLaughlin, Project Officer, Naomh Pól CLG, said:
“As a club we are moving forward and are delighted with our new facilities to support our continued success.  This wouldn’t have been possible, however, without financial support from UCIT.  As an organisation they backed us at a time when the club needed assistance.  We couldn’t recommend UCIT highly enough and would urge other clubs to consider their funding opportunities. “
 
Since its inception in 2001, UCIT, which is a registered charity, has provided loan commitments totalling over £60m to over 400 third sector organisations in Northern Ireland.  Clients include sports clubs, community associations, charities, green energy projects, faith-based organisations and arts projects.
 
Other sports clubs supported by UCIT include Knockbreda FC, Glenullin GAC and the Torrent Complex in Donaghmore.
 
Further information is available by contacting UCIT on 028 9031 5003 
 

Building Better Futures Loan Fund enables Newry organisation to open flagship Children’s Arts centre and Theatre

A loan from the Building Better Futures Fund has enabled Sticky Fingers Early Years Arts to achieve its long term aim and aspiration of opening a dedicated children's arts centre and theatre in the

ir home town of Newry. The flagship Imaginarium Art Centre now has an average weekly footfall of over 1000, placing it among the top performing arts venues in Northern Ireland. 

Community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises can access loans through the Building Better Futures scheme which has been created and funded through a partnership between three leading local charities - Building Change Trust, Belfast Charitable Society and Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT). Building Change Trust was established in 2008 by the Big Lottery Fund with an endowment of £10million as an investment for community capacity building and promotion of the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland. Belfast Charitable Society was established in 1752 to tackle disadvantage and poverty and in doing so it built the Poor House and Belfast’s first Infirmary, which remains as Clifton House.

The £1 Million fund which is being managed by UCIT provides small unsecured loans of £1,000 - £25,000 which cannot currently be raised from traditional sources.

Sticky Fingers was established in 2002, as the first dedicated arts program for very young children in Northern Ireland. Since then the organisation has worked directly with over 100,000 children, creating arts events across Ireland, visiting schools, playgroups and special needs settings to create new ways of engaging with young children.

Grainne Powell, CEO, Sticky Fingers Arts said:

“The team at UCIT seem to understand the challenges faced by the arts sector and provided not only the financial support but practical advice on developing a strong business case.

“The Centre was established as a social enterprise with a café and gift shop and has created a mechanism for the organisation to work towards becoming more sustainable. The investment has resulted in the creation of a number of new jobs and training opportunities for emerging artists, childcare workers and those working within the hospitality sector.

“Most importantly the centre has provided children from across Newry and Northern Ireland with an original and safe space to play, learn and explore their own creative potential.”

Building Better Futures loans can be used for a wide range of purposes, including buildings and repairs, equipment purchase, making facilities more energy efficient or funding shortfalls in larger grant assisted projects. Further information about the scheme is available by contacting Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) on 028 9031 5003.

Building Better Futures Fund Reaches £500K Landmark

Demand for loans from an innovative community fund has exceeded all expectations.  In just over six months the ‘Building Better Futures Fund’ has committed over £500K to almost 30 groups across N
orthern Ireland. 
 
Created by a partnership between Belfast Charitable Society, Building Change Trust and Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT), the £1M fund provides unsecured loans of up to £25,000 to voluntary groups, charities and social enterprises.
 
Among the groups supported by the ‘Building Better Futures Fund’ are the Strand Arts Centre in Belfast and Destined Enterprises in Derry-Londonderry. The Strand Arts Centre secured finance to acquire a new digital projector to help grow both its artistic programme and income.  Destined Enterprises, which empowers people with learning disabilities, applied to the Fund to buy new equipment for its social enterprise taxi service.  
 
Dermot O’Hara, Destined Enterprises Director, said:
“This loan has enabled us to provide much needed disabled-friendly transport in the city. In going to the Fund we had to think about our business model and how and when we can pay it back. We take the whole idea of ‘enterprise’ very seriously and we also use this to help our members learn more about managing their finances as well as those of the organisation.”  
 
Paula Reynolds, CEO of the Belfast Charitable Society, added:
“Our partnership approach with UCIT and Building Change Trust is unique within Northern Ireland. We have achieved much more together than we could separately. The Fund not only supports much needed work that tackles disadvantage, but it also gives organisations another opportunity to source income and to think about the viability and sustainability of their projects.”
 
Also speaking at the celebration event in Clifton House was Cliff Prior, CEO of Big Society Capital, the body responsible for investing over £300M from dormant bank accounts in England in support of good causes there.  
 
Mr. Prior said: 
“Since the UK Government decided in 2010 to release dormant bank account funds we’ve invested in over 40 social investment intermediaries which have reached 600 charities and social enterprises. The funds have made a substantial impact, from tackling poverty, unemployment and homelessness, to supporting people who live with disabilities.”
Up to £20M might be made available locally from Northern Ireland dormant bank accounts.  The Department of Finance, however, has indicated that the use of these funds remains a decision for the Executive.
 
Nigel McKinney, Director of Operations at the Building Change Trust, said: 
“The use of dormant account funds in England and Wales demonstrates what is possible.  The impasse over the use of Northern Ireland dormant accounts denies access to a significant and potentially transformative source of funding for local charities and social enterprises.  It’s now time for a decision to be progressed.”  
 
Further information is available by contacting UCIT on 028 9031 5003 or visiting www.ucitltd.com
 

Small Business Loan Fund passes £6 Million mark

A specialist loan fund created to support smaller businesses has provided more than £6m in new loans since it was launched four years ago.
 To date the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund (the Fund) is estimated to have helped create over 150 new jobs and additional sales of almost £30m.
 
The Fund is managed by Ulster Community Finance (UCF) on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland and delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland. UCF is a subsidiary of the social finance organisation Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT). The Fund was set up to provide access to finance for small businesses, sole traders and partnerships which are keen to develop their business, but find it difficult to access funding through traditional sources.
 
Harry McDaid, UCIT’s CEO said:
“Northern Ireland has the highest concentration of SMEs in the UK and accounts for 99% of our private sector.  Ensuring that these firms have adequate access to funding is, therefore, essential for the well-being of the economy.  
“The Fund’s clients are ambitious, growth-orientated firms and together they represent significant levels of employment and wealth creation.  Northern Ireland needs to grow its own pool of successful indigenous companies and we’re confident that some of tomorrow’s star business performers will be beneficiaries of this Fund.” 
 
William McCulla, Invest NI’s Director of Corporate Finance said: 
“Now in its fifth year, the Small Business Loan Fund is continuing to make a significant difference to the business community in Northern Ireland by boosting business confidence and ensuring SMEs have access to the type of finance needed to support their growth and development. 
“We are delighted to have offered this support to a range of businesses across Northern Ireland in sectors including IT, Manufacturing, Hospitality, Tourism and Retail, which has helped to create jobs, bring new products to market and help company’s realise their growth ambitions.”
 
One of the firms to benefit from the Fund is Brocagh Precision Engineering Ltd (BPE), located near Coalisland.  The firm designs and manufactures bespoke components for clients in sectors ranging from heavy engineering to aerospace.   
Paul Donnelly, BPE Director, said: “BPE provides bespoke precision engineering services for clients across the UK and Ireland.  The funds provided by NISBLF have enabled us to invest in new machinery and provide working capital.  This has allowed BPE to develop new products for the construction and demolition sector, expand into new markets and increase efficiency within the company. Following the completion of two recent projects we have secured a number of export orders for our new product range and have seen our sales grow by 20%. As these new orders go into production we have plans in place to increase our staff to meet demand and to grow the business.” 
 
Donal Leahy, Senior Lending Executive, Enterprise NI, added: 
“This fund was a new and unique offering in the marketplace and has been a huge success to date. As we are now in the fifth year of the fund we have the advantage of being able to look back at many of the projects that clients pursued which generated tangible benefits for their businesses.  A funding gap in the market for SMEs is now being covered and we aim to sustain and exceed this provision over the coming years.”
 
The Fund provides loans of up to £50,000 to start-ups, micro enterprises and small businesses.  As a revolving fund it’s expected that a figure in excess of £7m will be made available over the course of the fund’s lifetime.
For more information please visit www.nisblf.com
 

Think Small for a Prosperous Future

by Alan Moneypenny, Chairman, UCIT
 
by Alan Moneypenny, Chairman, UCIT
 
Judging by the surprise outcome of the General Election, it is clear that the after effects of the economic crisis and the continuing impact of austerity are still shaping public opinion. Likewise, small businesses and the Community, Voluntary and Social Enterprise (CVSE) sectors continue to grapple with the legacy. 
 
Two clear themes have emerged over the past decade – a reduction in the level of grant support making life more challenging for the CVSE sector and a reduction in the appetite of mainstream funders to provide finance to smaller businesses.
 
Here these trends have had a disproportionate effect given the importance of these sectors to the local economy.  According to the Federation of Small Business we have the highest concentration of SMEs in the UK with around 125,000 small businesses accounting for 99% of our private sector.  
 
Funding oils the wheels of small businesses.  Expansion, investment, development, employment - the lifeblood of a vibrant and growing sector – all rely heavily on access to funding support. Fortunately, in response to the market failure in the provision of debt support, Invest Northern Ireland launched the NI Small Business Loan Fund which is managed by Ulster Community Finance Ltd and delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland. UCF is a subsidiary of the social finance organisation, Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT).
 
The Fund was set up to provide access to finance for small businesses, sole traders and partnerships which are keen to develop their business, but find it difficult to access funding through traditional sources.  
 
Demand has been remarkably strong and £6m has been provided to 300 firms since the fund was launched in 2013. Facilities of up to £50,000 are available and as a revolving fund it is expected that between £7m and £8m will be made available in total over the course of its lifetime.

Back in January when it reached its £5m milestone the fund had helped 260 companies create an estimated 144 new jobs and generated incremental sales approximating £26.5m.
 

A wide variety of businesses have been supported. One example is the Dungannon-based DGR Group, a family firm that designs and manufactures high-end audio equipment and cables for sale globally.  Established in 2012 in response to the lack of new brands in the UK sound system market, the father-son partnership received support to develop their Titan audio cable range. 
 
Stephen Blakely Design from Banbridge specialises in architectural and interior design, and the manufacture of bespoke furnishings, window dressings and upholstery furniture. With clients across the UK, Ireland and further afield, The NI Small Business Loan Fund provided finance to support his business growth plan.  
 
Another example is County Antrim-based ‘Creative De-Signs NI’, which designs and manufactures bespoke signage for trade and corporate clients across Ireland.  It received funding for capital investment that has helped treble turnover and double staff levels.
 
Firms such as these are indispensable to Northern Ireland’s future prosperity and supporting their growth will be especially important as we transition to a post-Brexit trading environment.
 
Northern Ireland’s CVSE sector also has much to offer.  According to NICVA there are 6,000 groups in the sector locally, providing over 44,000 jobs directly and, in many instances, supporting projects that encourage business start-ups and entrepreneurship.
 
In response, UCIT has evolved to become one of the UK’s leading providers of social finance with over 400 organisations benefitting from loans totalling £42m since 2001.  Again, demand is at an all-time high with a record £2m in new facilities approved and utilised in the first quarter of 2017 alone.
 
Having recently been appointed as Chair of UCIT my Board and I are keen to build upon these successes and seek innovative ways to support the sector and meet emerging needs. In May, for instance, UCIT collaborated with Belfast Charitable Society and Building Change Trust (established by the Big Lottery Fund supported by the National Lottery) in a unique partnership to create the £1m ‘Building Better Futures’ Fund.  This will provide much needed small, unsecured loans for community-based projects.
 
We often hear that Northern Ireland is the second most successful region outside of London for securing foreign direct investment.  That is clearly vital for driving productivity, employment and wages.  Our small indigenous businesses, however, remain the bedrock of the economy. Encouraging and supporting them is central to a sustainable and prosperous future.  Equally, the provision of funding to the CVSE sector is clearly a support for social cohesion.
 
Alan Moneypenny, Chairman, UCIT 
 

 

Finance for Faith Groups

Ulster Community Investent Trust (UCIT) has supported a number of faith-based projects, but stands ready to support more.

Phelim Sharvin, UCIT Director, said, “Faith groups have traditionally relied upon donations, high street banks and grants as a funding model, but with grant levels declining and reduced capacity from banks to support the sector, we’re encouraging groups to think about social finance options from UCIT.”

The Elim Trust Corporation has received funding to assist affordable housing and childcare projects in Newtownabbey and Carryduff.
 
Rev. Robert Ginn, New Mossley Elim Church, said: “With UCIT’s assistance we’ve been able to provide six affordable housing units in the New Mossley estate in Newtownabbey. 
“The project is an important part of our ministry and is a practical demonstration of our commitment to the community.  Without the social finance and advice provided by UCIT it would have been very difficult to make this ambition a reality.”  
 
UCIT funds are available for a range of purposes, including buildings and repairs, renewables and energy efficiency, debt restructuring, bridging finance and start-up costs.  
For more information contact UCIT on Tel: 028 9031 5003.
 
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UCIT Directors

Alan Moneypenny Chair
Chair of Finance and Audit committee, Riverside Theatre
Damian McAteer Vice-Chair
Director of Waterside Development Trust
Erskine Holmes OBE
Elected member of NI Council Co-operative Group
Jim Malone
Director/Founder Member of Ardee Community Development Company
Michael McGarrigle
Secretary of Council for the West
Douglas McIldoon
Secretary of NI Co-operative Forum
Seamus O’Prey
Chief Executive of ORTUS Group
Ian McAvoy
Chair, Playboard
Martin Stroud
Board Member of Ulster Waterways
Anthony Barbour
Board Member, NI Co-operative Forum
Audrey Murray
Business Development Manager, LEDCOM
William Patterson
Chairman, Farset International
Gary McQuoid
Chartered Accountant, Atos

Community Finance (Ireland) Directors

Alan Moneypenny Chair
Chair of Finance and Audit committee, Riverside Theatre
Henry Brennan
Business Consultant and Certified Accountant
Paddy Harte
Lecturing and Economic and Social Development Advisor
Kevin Helferty
Director of Buncrana Credit Union Ltd
Jim Malone
Director/Founder Member of Ardee Community Development Company
Michael McGarrigle
Secretary of Council for the West
Seamus O’Prey
Chief Executive of ORTUS Group
Andrew Ward
Joint CEO Inishowen Development Partnership

Community Finance (Ireland) Staff

Donal Traynor Associate Director
Marie Carpenter Office Administrator
Terri Martin Office Administrator
Barry Symes Client Relationship Executive
Rose Hally Client Relationship Executive
Fiona Hughes Client Relationship Executive


Download and view our latest reports

Social Impact & Financial Highlights Report 2017

Social Impact & Financial Highlights Report 2016

UCIT is a member of the UK Community Development Finance Association (CDFA). As a member of the CDFA, UCIT must comply to the CDFA Code of Practice.

A copy of our Code of Practice compliance can be found by clicking below

Code of Practice


Membership of Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) offers you the opportunity to be part of an exciting and progressive financial institution that is committed to breaking new ground in developing financial solutions for the social economy sector.

As an Industrial and Provident Society, UCIT offers membership by way of share acquisition with a minimum subscription of £250 Sterling (or the Euro equivalent).

A copy of our membership form can be found by clicking below

Membership Form