West Tyrone MLA, Declan Mc Aleer has welcomed the decision by the DARD committee to commence a review on rural poverty and isolation. The review will commence in the autumn and will take evidence from a variety of rural and farming organisations.
Mr Mc Aleer, who sits on the DARD committee stated,
“There are many factors which contribute to rural poverty and isolation. These include poor access to basic services such as health and recreation, sporadic broadband coverage and poor access to public transport. All of these factors are compounded by a stressful and solitary working environment and a lack of financial investment in rural areas.
“A household is considered to be in poverty if its income is below 60% of the median. According to research carried out by the New Policy Institute, 21% of people in the North live in poverty.
“A study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation ‘Minimum Incomes Project’ in 2010 concluded that rural dwellers need to spend 10-20% more on everyday requirements than their urban counterparts so there is a strong view among rural stakeholders that the current methodology underestimates the extent of deprivation in rural areas.
“The effect of this lower weighting is that rural areas are unlikely feature in the top 10% or 20% most deprived areas across the North, and this has implications for funding and anti-poverty programmes. These are issues, which I intend to personally raise during the course of the review.
“Whilst there are many advantages of living in the countryside, this idyll is not the case for people who experience severe isolation and financial distress. As a committee, it is our responsibility to probe these issues further and use the evidence we gather to help shape DARD’s anti-poverty and rural support programmes so that they are effective in addressing need in rural areas’.