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Barriers to work must be tackled

Arlene Foster

There are a wide variety of barriers that can prevent people from being in work. Maybe the jobs available don't match the skills and experience. Or perhaps childcare responsibilities, transport difficulties, disabilities, or even the process of applying feel like impossible barriers to overcome.

The problem of economic inactivity is complex and resolving it is one of the most pressing issues facing the local economy. It is through work, and the skills gained from being in work, that our economy thrives.

Furthermore, being in work has many other benefits, as it positively impacts our relationships, families and self-esteem.

We want to help people to overcome their own barriers to work. Tackling this issue is a key driver of the Executive's economic strategy and, for this reason, the Minister for Employment and Learn- ing, Stephen Farry, and I have developed a new strategic framework to tackle economic inactivity.

The overarching strategic goal is to contribute to a stable and competitive employment rate of more than 70% by 2023.

To do this, we want to concentrate on supporting those with work-limiting health conditions, or disabilities; lone parents; those with caring responsibilities and older workers, who have become disengaged from the labour market, by providing the assistance necessary to help people make the transition from long-term unemployment, or inactivity, back into employment.

Everyone with an interest in this hugely important issue should take the time to consider the proposals outlined in the draft strategic framework and respond to this public consultation.

As part of our efforts to engage with as diverse a range of stakeholders as possible, we will be holding a number of public consultation events across Northern Ireland. I would encourage all with an interest in this important issue to attend those events and make their views known.

If we get this right, the results will benefit everyone. Together, we can really make a positive difference to many people's lives.

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