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Council considers funding ‘external help’ as it is revealed 32,000 live in poverty in ABC borough

Up to £5,000 could go on 'external support' - in the form of facilitators/consultants - as well as staging focus groups, workshops and venue hire

Council is to consider earmarking £5,000 as part of efforts to improve the quality of life of local residents after it was revealed a staggering 32,000 people in the borough are living in poverty and deprivation.

The shocking statistic is contained within an officer’s report to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s leisure and community services committee.

It is revealed that almost one in four children is classified as living in ‘relative poverty’.

And councillors attending Monday night’s meeting will be asked to approve expenditure of up to £5,000 as part of the process aimed a making a difference.

This would go towards ‘external support’ – in the form of facilitators/consultants – as well as meeting the costs involved in staging focus groups, workshops and venue hire.

According to a report to committee: “Those who are living in deprived areas are more likely to experience ill health, social exclusion and poorer quality of life.

“Addressing these issues is a key element of the Community Plan. The Community Planning and Community Development Departments will work in partnership to lead the development of the council approach to poverty reduction and social inclusion for the borough.

“The causes of poverty and deprivation are multi-dimensional and therefore it is anticipated the council strategy will only be one element of a collaborative joined up approach led through the Community Plan

“The development of the council approach will involve ongoing engagement and consultation with members, statutory agencies, community and voluntary sector organisations and residents from throughout the borough.

“This will enable a better understanding of the root causes and how best council can make a difference to improving quality of life for people living in the borough who are most affected by poverty and deprivation.”

According to studies quoted, some 15% of people are defined as living in relative poverty within the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon borough.

This includes 23% of children.

The report adds: “Officers will work collaboratively with a wide range of organisations and local people themselves to better understand the root causes of poverty and deprivation, who is most affected and how we can work together alongside other agencies to help address these issues.

“Poverty is not a single issue and clearly there are many contributing factors. Work has been carried out to date, through Neighbourhood Renewal, Areas at Risk and wider community support initiatives, but in order to better understand the complexities and to develop a council approach aimed at addressing these, officers would seek to develop a consultation process with members, residents of the borough, statutory agencies and the wider community and voluntary sector.

“It is intended that the approach will highlight clear outcomes and recommendations as to how these can be efficiently, effectively and collaboratively achieved, with a view to enabling joint working to reducing poverty throughout the borough and enhancing life opportunity and wellbeing.

“In order to take this forward, officers would seek to utilise external support to assist officers in drawing together the relevant policy and research material and also to facilitate a series of in-depth focus groups.

“The consultation hub will also be utilised as a means to engage with as many people as possible.

“An officer working group will be established from across council departments to coordinate the consultation process and inform the council approach.

“Given the complexity of the issues, it is anticipated that this will take a two – three stage approach. This would involve initial consultation as to the issues arising, followed by issuing draft actions and consulting further as to whether these are the correct actions likely to achieve the best results.”

If the committee agrees – and that decision is ratified at the end of the month – the money would come from council’s community development department’s budget.

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