THE Northern Ireland economy has received a welcome boost as the Executive has today agreed the establishment of an £80million Social Investment Fund aimed at reducing poverty and unemployment.
The Fund will be an integrated approach to enhance economic growth, employability and the sustainability of communities.
First Minister Peter D. Robinson said, “Despite the significant progress made in the last number of years towards prosperity, stability and peace there remains sections of the community that have not fully benefited from these changes. Given the current economic and fiscal situation there is a real risk that deprivation will continue, and may increase unless interventions are put in place.
“The Social Investment Fund will redress this imbalance by building pathways to employment, ending dereliction, increasing community services and tackling the systemic issues linked to deprivation. Tackling these issues will require interventions of significant scale to be delivered in partnership with communities on a cross departmental basis. The Fund will reduce poverty, unemployment and physical deterioration.
“The Fund also recognises that deprivation occurs across a number of areas. We have therefore identified eight possible Investment zones upon which we will seek to consult widely.”
Mr McGuinness said: “The most immediate and effective way out of deprivation is through quality employment. However, there are substantial structural, historic, geographical and social barriers to employment and full participation in the economy for deprived communities.
“It is recognised that to have a long term impact on issues of economic and social disadvantage government responses need to break from a silo approach, where responses operate independently of each other and replace this with an interdisciplinary approach coordinated across all government departments by OFMDFM.
“Experience of initiatives such as the West Belfast and Shankill Taskforce, Community Empowerment Programme, Areas at Risk Programme and Neighbourhood Renewal, and the Rural Poverty and Social Exclusion Fund demonstrate the way to tackle these persistent patterns of deprivation is through area based planning and of a scale to make a significant change in the socio economic standing of a community.”
OFMDFM intend to publish the Fund Proposal for consultation shortly.