At least 450 job losses are expected across Northern Ireland’s community and voluntary sector over the next few weeks due to government budget cuts.
Umbrella group the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) said the scale of the impact was unprecedented.
Organisations working in education, the environment, arts and justice will fall victim of the austerity measures, NICVA said.
Chief executive Seamus McAleavey said: “The scale of the cuts being faced and the resulting jobs losses is unprecedented in our sector’s relationship with government in Northern Ireland in the last 35 or more years.”
NICVA has requested an emergency meeting with the First and Deputy First Ministers.
Mr McAleavey added: “Skilled staff will be lost from our sector and the impact will be felt right across Northern Ireland with a loss of local walking routes, arts events and childcare facilities.
“Voluntary and community organisations provide highly specialised services in areas where government provision doesn’t meet the needs of local people and often work with harder to reach client groups.
“It is obvious that the most vulnerable people will be harder hit with programmes focusing on training and support to help people get jobs, develop crucial early learning skills in children and rehabilitation being cut.”
He claimed decisions were being made unfairly across a number of departments and with no real consideration of the impact on services, or discussion among ministers.
“We believe the view of budget holders is that voluntary and community sector programmes are the easiest and quickest to cut regardless of their value.
“We further believe that some decisions are made recognising that they will ultimately rebound and cost government more in the long run as more expensive options in turn come into play.”
Job losses calculated by NICVA at 461 include:
• Early Years Fun: 177
• Environment: 130
• European Social Fund: 137
• Other: 17
Paula McFetridge from the Kabosh Theatre Company said the organisation was facing a 44 per cent cut in its Arts Council investment.
“As a consequence of this we run a significant risk of losing a wealth of creative, talented and skilled individuals through emigration as there will be no professional prospects in Northern Ireland.”
Marie Cavanagh from Gingerbread NI, which supports lone parents, said 300 would lose the opportunity to train for sustainable employment.