O’Neill launches Rural Challenge Programme 2012

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill today launched an initiative aimed at helping to tackle poverty and social isolation within rural communities.

The Rural Challenge Programme 2012 is worth £700,000 and is identified as a key strand under DARD’s Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation Framework.

The “challenge aspect” of the Programme is for rural groups to identify solutions that address the particular and distinct challenges faced by rural areas/communities in relation to their local poverty and social isolation issues. This challenge can be met through the development of a series of locally focussed projects which can be funded through this Programme.

Minister O’Neill said: “There are urgent poverty and social isolation issues that need addressed in rural areas. These issues can be targeted through this innovative Programme which is all about getting to the core of poverty and social isolation issues at a very local level. I would therefore encourage community and voluntary groups who I believe are best placed to know and understand their local issues to avail of the funding through this Rural Challenge Programme.”

Minister O’Neill highlighted that potential applicants would be assisted in compiling their application by attending Best Practice Workshops.

She explained: “These workshops will involve applicants from the very start of the process and assist them in identifying the poverty and isolation issues in their area, and in identifying the people experiencing poverty and social isolation as well as assisting applicants to identify the most suitable responses required for each local area.”

Applications to the Rural Challenge Programme will be welcomed from voluntary and community based organisations who must at the time of application, have a formal constitution or set of rules and a specific bank account.

The Rural Challenge Programme is administered from Rural Development Division, Sperrin House, Sedan Avenue, Lisnamallard, Omagh, County Tyrone BT79 7AQ. Application packs are available from today and can be obtained by contacting Rural Development Division, Omagh (Tel - 028 8225 3512) or emailing rural.challengeprogramme

The deadline for receipt of completed applications is 4.00pm on 14 December 2012.