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New communities sign up to SNP drive

The Village and the Belvoir estate are among 14 communities to commit to becoming 'shared neighbourhoods'.

They are the latest to sign up to a £1m initiative designed to support and encourage shared neighbourhoods across Northern Ireland.

The Shared Neighbourhood Programme, funded by the International Fund for Ireland and the Department for Social Development and managed by the Housing Executive, works with existing communities.

It has now achieved its initial aim of developing 30 shared neighbourhoods over a three year period, affecting more than 60,000 people in Northern Ireland.

An external evaluation found that the Shared Neighbourhood Programme is just one of the many possible responses to the issue of segregated housing but may potentially make the most difference. The evaluation also praised the Programme's community led nature and its success in driving forward partnerships between social housing estates, within those estates and between communities and statutory agencies.

The success of the Programme's community development approach was felt to provide immense benefits promoting self-sufficiency and a movement away from a dependence on grant income. More importantly, the Shared Neighbourhood Programme was credited as providing a practical means for communities to move from just co-existence towards real integration.

Denis Rooney CBE, chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, asked government to learn from the experiences of the Shared Neighbourhood Programme.

He said much work still needed to be done to help communities ‘learn, work and live together’. “While we have made great progress as a society in the last decade, we must deal with the reality of living in a society where for the most part we continue to learn, work and live based on traditional sectarian divisions.

“While sectarian violence may be less of a feature in our daily lives, it still takes great courage to openly commit to becoming a shared neighbourhood. The individuals working within the 30 neighbourhoods in the Shared Neighbourhood Programme continue to experience some very real difficulties and challenges in pursuing the vision for their communities.”

Social Development Minister Alex Attwood MLA said: “Separation in housing is inextricably linked to deprivation and disadvantage. I am committed to creating neighbourhoods where community infrastructure and services are shared by all members of the community and where good quality housing can be accessed by those in greatest need, regardless of religion or political affiliation.

“The Shared neighbourhood Programme has provided a template for promoting and supporting shared neighbourhoods. I want to take this a step further and embed the ethos of a shared neighbourhood at the heart of housing delivery. There is much more to do, driving the need for reconciliation and healing and going forward together. This is a good example of how every citizen and local neighbourhood can show the way.”

Belfast Telegraph