Ulster Farmers’ Union Rural Affairs Chair Freda Magill, Policy Director Wesley Aston and Policy Officer David McConaghy attended a briefing session with the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Agriculture Committee on the topic of rural poverty and social isolation.
Speaking after the meeting, Freda Magill said: “The briefing with the Agriculture Committee was an opportunity for us to put forward the wider issues that are impacting on rural families.
“The briefing was organised as part of a review that the Committee are carrying out on DARD’s ‘Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation’ framework, which has seen initiatives such as Rural Support, the Farm Family Health Checks and Maximising Access in Rural Areas take shape and set to work on tackling social problems in rural Northern Ireland.
“What has been achieved so far is wonderful but in order to overcome some of the many negative wider issues families living in rural areas are facing we need to see progress on two key things. Firstly, other Departments need to step up to the plate and honour the commitments they made in the NI Executive supported Rural White Paper Action Plan, it is entirely unreasonable for DARD to be expected to carry the burden for administering this alone.
“Secondly, there needs to be targeted work based on sound evidence. The programmes which we have, have been very successful in their aim but they have uncovered deeper issues that need to be tackled head-on. For example, the UFU Rural Affairs Committee has been working with Rural Support on the issue of illiteracy in rural areas but we keep hitting a brick wall as we don’t know the details of the problem.”