£16m package to help vulnerable in rural areas

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AGRICULTURE Minister Michelle O’Neill made Cookstown the platform to announce a £16m support package for vulnerable people in rural areas.

The Minister said tackling rural poverty and social isolation is a key priority.

Speaking at the launch at Opportunities for Older People (O4O) in Cookstown, the minister said the ‘Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation’ framework and associated action plan will help target the causes of social isolation and help those in poverty in rural areas throughout the North.

“This is recognised as a priority area in the recently published draft Programme for Government and the framework also has a direct link to the Rural White Paper Action Plan,” said Ms O’Neill.

“The framework will help support a range of activities that will make a difference, most in collaboration with other stakeholders. These will include: improving access to transport; maximising access to grants, benefits and services; the rural support charity; rural community development; fuel poverty schemes; a Health Checks programme; a Rural Youth Employability Programme; a Rural Young Entrepreneurs Programme; a services for older people project; a borewell requisition project; and a small grants programme.

“It is through these many interventions that our rural areas can continue to be sustainable. They will also help support the most vulnerable who are often forgot about but can make an enormous contribution to society.”

Opportunities for Older People (O4O), where the announcement was made, is a popular spot for our senior citizens and is run by a community organisation which actively promotes the quality of life for older people through a series of support services.

Margaret Gilmore MBE, Chairperson of 040 said: “I know from first hand experience having received a small grant through the Rural Challenge Programme in 2010, the impact some small financial assistance can make on the lives of rural dwellers. It provides them with a focus and a stimulus which reduces the impact of social exclusion for those, in this case the elderly, that are most vulnerable.”