Author: NI Assembly
Published on 24 October 2014 10:00 AM
The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development has launched its Review into the Department’s Anti-poverty and Social Inclusion Programme.
The existing programme, which forms part of the overall Programme for Government 2011-15, was designed to address rural poverty and disadvantage and to produce cohesive and tangible strategies to eliminate hardship and to increase social inclusion in rural areas. The Committee Review will seek to examine the implementation and progress of the current programme and to make recommendations to the Minister on the way forward.
Speaking at the launch of the review, the Committee Chairperson William Irwin MLA said: “We tend to think of poverty and deprivation as issues that mainly affect those living in our cities and towns. But of course the current downturn in the overall economy and continuing pressures on the local agricultural sector are very real factors which can leave many rural communities in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion.
“The Committee has been keenly aware for some time that a review of the current programme is necessary. Economic and social issues change over time and we must ensure that any strategy that aims to tackle deprivation and disadvantage is current, workable and fit for purpose.
“In order to support all those who choose to live and work in our rural communities, we need to join together to build a strong rural infrastructure and by doing so ensure that the livelihoods and social needs of future generations are protected and nurtured. This aim is at the very centre of our review”
The Committee Deputy Chairperson Joe Byrne MLA added: “There are many factors that contribute to feelings of social exclusion and isolation that are exclusive to rural communities. Lack of access to public transport, public services, employment and educational opportunities are very real issues that affect the day to day lives of many rural dwellers.
“During the course of our review we will be calling on rural communities and representatives to tell us about their experiences. This we hope, will help the Committee to shape a full and accurate picture of the realities of rural life and will aid us in presenting practical and effective recommendations to the Minister and her Department”.