Agriculture Committee Meet in Cookstown to Discuss Rural Poverty

Session: 2014/2015

Date: 28 May 2015

Reference: AGR 08/14/15

The Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development held its weekly meeting in Cookstown today, where Members discussed the Department’s response to its recent position paper on the review of the “Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Inclusion (TRPSI) Framework”. 

The Committee position paper examined the effectiveness of the current TRPSI framework and set out a number of important recommendations for a successor programme. Today’s briefing encompassed the Department of Agriculture’s formal response to the Committee’s recommendations. 

Speaking after today’s briefing, the Committee Chairperson William Irwin MLA said: “We are delighted to be in Cookstown for our meeting today and particularly to have this opportunity to discuss rural poverty, an issue which affects many communities in the Cookstown and greater Mid Ulster area. 

“One of the important recommendations we made to the Department and which they have noted they intend to implement is to utilise the already significant research and grassroots work carried out by local community groups, to inform any successor programme. 

“The ‘Maximising Access to Services, Grants and Benefits (MARA) project’ for example managed to target more than 14,000 vulnerable households across Northern Ireland and, in doing so, increased access to home improvement, energy efficiency grants and welfare benefits. There can be no doubt that the key to MARA’s success has been its ability to tap into local knowledge and expertise and to target those most in need quickly and effectively.”

Mr Irwin concluded: “During the course of our review the Committee highlighted concerns around how rural deprivation is currently measured. We are pleased that Department has accepted our recommendation to work with the Department for Finance and Personnel (DFP) to commission the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) to review how we measure and identify rural deprivation.” 

Deputy Chairperson Joe Byrne MLA added: “We had some concerns around the £1.7 million capital in the 2015/16 Budget, particularly as rural areas often require a more flexible approach to service delivery. In our position paper we called on the Department to ensure that it continued proactive engagement with stakeholders to ensure that suitable capital projects can be identified and importantly, that these can be delivered within the existing framework. 

Mr Byrne concluded: “The Department has noted to us today that it is continuing to engage with a wide range of statutory, community and voluntary rural stakeholders and that this engagement has led to the recent opening of the Rural Micro Grants Programme. We look forward to further departmental consultations on other possible grants projects to alleviate rural poverty in the future”

ENDS

Notes to Editor:

The Committee meeting took place in the Rural Community Network, Oldtown Street, Cookstown and was part of the Assembly Community Connect Outreach programme. More information on the work of Assembly Community Connect can be found on the NI Assembly website via this link: http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/visit-and-learning/connecting-with-community/ 

The Committee Position Paper on DARD’s Anti-Poverty and Social inclusion paper can be found at http://nia1.me/2h1.

Further information on the Programme for Government 2011 – 2015 can be found at www.northernireland.gov.uk/pfg

Committee Membership 

Mr William Irwin – Chairperson

Mr Joe Byrne – Deputy Chairperson

Mr Sydney Anderson

Mr Thomas Buchanan

Mrs Jo-Anne Dobson

Mr Tom Elliot

Mr Declan McAleer

Mr Kieran McCarthy

Mr Oliver McMullan

Mr Ian Milne

Mr Edwin Poots

 

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