Social Investment Fund planned by NI executive

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The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed plans to invest £80m to tackle poverty and unemployment.

The Social Investment Fund will include eight possible "investment zones".

They said it would take "an integrated approach to enhance economic growth, employability and the sustainability of communities".

The public's views will be sought on the proposals, which were launched by the first and deputy first ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

Mr Robinson said tackling inequalities would require significant interventions delivered across the executive's departments in partnership with communities.

'Deprivation'

"Despite the significant progress made in the last number of years towards prosperity, stability and peace there remains sections of the community that have not fully benefited from these changes," he said.

"Given the current economic and fiscal situation there is a real risk that deprivation will continue, and may increase unless interventions are put in place.

"The Social Investment Fund will redress this imbalance by building pathways to employment, ending dereliction, increasing community services and tackling the systemic issues linked to deprivation.

Mr McGuinness said quality employment was the "most immediate and effective way out of deprivation" but deprived communities faced "substantial structural, historic, geographical and social barriers".

"It is recognised that to have a long-term impact on issues of economic and social disadvantage, government responses need to break from a silo approach, where responses operate independently of each other and replace this with an interdisciplinary approach coordinated across all government departments by OFMDFM.

"Experience of initiatives such as the West Belfast and Shankill Taskforce, Community Empowerment Programme, Areas at Risk Programme and Neighbourhood Renewal, and the Rural Poverty and Social Exclusion Fund demonstrate the way to tackle these persistent patterns of deprivation is through area-based planning and of a scale to make a significant change in the socio-economic standing of a community."

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