£16m fund to tackle rural problems
Projects in rural areas are to benefit from a £16 million fund aimed at fighting poverty and isolation.
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O'Neill is to officially launch the package.
The three-year funding programme will support schemes that tackle major problems facing rural communities. The issues include access to healthcare and transport, as well as fuel poverty, isolation and youth unemployment.
There will be funding for venues that provide vital meeting places for rural communities, while the minister said a special collaboration with the Department of Regional Development will help supply running water to isolated homes that remain outside existing supply lines.
The minister said working together with other government departments would help her to maximise the benefit of the funding, adding: "Some of the projects that I will be launching... are testimony to that.
"In terms of getting out to do health checks, we are going to work with the Public Health Agency in terms of going into farmers marts and rural communities to carry out health checks.
"Some of the other schemes are around working with DSD (Department of Social Development) on rural poverty. So hard to reach, hard to heat homes - trying to increase their energy efficiency measures. Those are all positive examples.
"Another which I think is quite a new initiative is around bore holes (and) people who cannot get access to drinking water. We're going to announce a scheme with DRD (Department for Regional Development) which will allow people to be able to access funding to get them access to mains water, which in this day and age you would think automatically that most people have, but in fact (all) don't.
"I am excited by the project and I look forward to seeing it all through. Key to the delivery of all this is working in partnership with other departments."
The funding scheme was promised in the Executive's Programme for Government.