Ballymena Inter Ethnic Forum was developed in 2002 by Ballymena Community Forum in partnership with Ballymena Borough Council in supporting its Good Relations Strategy of promoting racial equality, diversity and good relations.
The project is funded by OFMDFM, Ballymena Borough Council and a range of other funders. The project works with ethnic minority communities and the wider community to promote cultural diversity and support the needs within the Borough.
BIEF has been in much demand in a wide range of areas such as community relations, community safety, education, health, housing, cultural awareness, training etc. and has supported good relations and anti-racism in the Borough. BIEF has worked with Polish, Slovakian, Chinese, Indian, Sudanese, African, Filipino, Romanian, Portuguese, Thai, Japanese and Russian communities. The Project has over 600 members of over 14 nationalities.
In 2005 the Forum developed the Bilingual Advocacy Service which assists vulnerable members of the Ethnic Minority communities struggling with the language barrier offering support and information on different issues as: community and personal safety, road traffic safety (car insurance, tax, MOT etc), offering help and support in dealing with Home Office, National Insurance Number, Social Security Agency, HM Revenue & Customs, help with employment issues, help and information for newcomers in Northern Ireland (registering with GPs, opening a bank account, etc.)
The advocacy service also aims to assist new citizens moving into the area to access basic information about the community that they will be living in including key services and support organizations.