Ministers McGimpsey and Gildernew announce support for rural communities
17 November 2009
A major initiative to improve the health and well being of rural dwellers has been unveiled.
The ‘Maximising Access to and Uptake of Services, Grants and Benefits’ is a joint project between the Public Health Agency (PHA) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). It is targeted at the most vulnerable rural dwellers and aims to support rural people living in, or at risk of, poverty and social exclusion.
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said: “My Department is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of those living in rural areas. It is well known that people living in poverty and disadvantage are at greater risk of ill health and earlier death. This means that we must tackle inequalities in health and their root causes.
“While the PHA has responsibility for reducing health inequalities, this cannot be done in isolation. It is essential to work collaboratively in order to get positive results so I very much welcome the opportunity to work with DARD and the other agencies concerned in this initiative. In doing so, we can address the wider factors that determine health and wellbeing.”
DARD will contribute the majority of funding for the project as part of its ongoing rural Anti-Poverty and Social Inclusion Programme.
Michelle Gildernew, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: “I welcome the launch of this project which seeks to bring about positive change by getting to the core of poverty and social exclusion issues in rural areas.
“Investing in health and well-being of rural communities are key priorities for me and I am committed to finding new ways of working with others to make a difference.
“Evidence and experience indicate that access to the most difficult to reach, and those suffering greatest inequalities and disadvantage, requires a more innovative, extensive and personal approach. By engaging local people in partnership with government and statutory agencies, this project seeks to reach out to the most needy and ensure that they receive what they are entitled to.
“As part of my work on developing a Rural White Paper for the north, rural stakeholders have identified health and vulnerability amongst the biggest issues facing our rural communities. I am therefore delighted to continue to bring forward initiatives such as this one to tackle the issues rural people deem to be a priority”
As part of the programme, 4,200 households in the most deprived rural areas will receive information and support in their own homes. This will ensure that they are aware of the range of grants, benefits and services available to them locally. Rural community organisations will be enlisted to co-ordinate the project in specified areas and members of the local community will be recruited and trained to undertake the home visits.
The initiative is based on a successful pilot carried out in the Fermanagh and Tyrone area where householders who participated in the pilot received additional grants and benefits totalling £300,000.
Mary Black, Assistant Director of Health Improvement for the PHA, said: “Reducing health inequalities is a key goal of the PHA. This programme is a really important and practical way of tackling those inequalities and providing locally sensitive advice and support. Participating in this initiative can make a real difference to people’s lives.”