04 April 2006

Loyalist areas getting £33m boost


A £33m injection for improving health and education provisions in deprived loyalist areas of inner city Belfast has been announced by the government.

The lower Newtownards Road, Shankill, Crumlin Road and Oldpark areas will receive a share of the money, Social Development Minister David Hanson said.

He said previous attempts to tacke deprivation had "not always had the same impact in many Protestant areas".

Improving educational achievement is one of the key goals.

A new fast track initiative is being launched to encourage young people to stay on in education and training after the age of 16.

A £3m areas of risk programme, initially focusing on 10 pilot areas, will also be launched.

Separately from the schemes, Mr Hanson announced that the Department of Employment and Learning would build a new £13.5m Workforce and Economic Development Centre in the Springvale area of west Belfast.

It will provide outreach programmes across Belfast to ensure training opportunities are widely known and widely accessed by all.

"Failure to tackle disadvantage is not simply a question of additional resources," Mr Hanson said.

"It is clear that efforts to tackle disadvantage need to become more focused, developing strategies that are relevant to the particular needs of communities and considering carefully whether current spending is being used to maximum effect."

The Renewing Communities action plan is based on the report of a taskforce which examined claims within the Protestant/unionist community that they had lost out to nationalists in improvement programmes since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

Studies showed that of the 15 electoral wards in Northern Ireland with the worst educational attainment, 13 are predominantly Protestant.

Unveiling some 60 measures aimed at improving education, health care and housing, Mr Hanson said the government "believes in a fair and inclusive society".

Ridding communities of the influence of paramilitaries would be central to the project, the minister said.

"At the same time we will be helping those who want to move away from violence to find a more respectable role in society," he said.

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