Rural isolation is to be one of seven core issues tackled as part of a new wave of Northern Ireland's new 'Uniting Opportunities' programme.

The small grants programme run by the Department for Communities - Uniting Opportunities - was launched on Monday (July 9) Minister Deirdre Hargey.

Uniting Opportunities

Uniting Opportunities aims to promote good relations and reconciliation through sport and creativity by addressing barriers to community participation that some young people face.

The programme will target young people, aged between 11 and 24 who identify with the following groups:

  • Young People who are Homeless;
  • Young People who are Migrants, Refugees or Asylum Seekers;
  • Young People with a Disability;
  • Young People in Care;
  • Young People with Poor Mental Health;
  • Young People who Offend or are at risk of Offending;
  • Young People at risk of Rural Isolation.

Applications to the Uniting Opportunities Programme follow a two-stage process.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said: “I’m delighted to announce the opening of the 2021-23 Uniting Opportunities Grant Scheme.

"My department has been running this scheme since 2017 supporting projects that create opportunities for participation for 11 to 24-year-olds in underrepresented groups. Projects continued to be delivered throughout the pandemic, providing vital support to those in most need and now look forward to continuing this support as we emerge from Covid.

Since the programme’s inception, more than £1 million funding has supported 63 projects and enabled 1,094 young people to participate in Uniting Opportunities and I look forward to visiting some of the projects which will be funded over the next two years to hear first-hand, how the young people in local communities are benefitting from this scheme.”

West Tyrone MLA Declan McAleer, who also chairs the Stormont Agriculture Committee, said: "I welcome Minister Hargey including rural isolation as a key theme in the Uniting Opportunities Programme.

Young people in rural communities face the same challenges as their urban peers, but their difficulties are compounded by the fact that they are more likely to be isolated from their friends and social network and have less access to basic services such as health, education, broadband or recreation opportunities.

"Many of the initiatives in the DAERA Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation Programme (TRPSI) are geared towards young people's issues, so I am glad that the Communities Minister has also recognised the needs of young people in rural areas because these issues can only be addressed through a cross-departmental approach."