Six months since Alastair Ross and Megan Fearon were appointed as Junior Ministers in The Executive Office, they have spoken about their commitment to improve the lives of the people they represent.
The Junior Ministers said: “It’s a new team, a new era of government. Our focus has been on getting straight to business with all the aspects of our portfolio and meeting people who are already taking an active role in making life better for the people they serve.
“Life in the Executive Office is challenging but never dull and we have taken the opportunity to see the issues people are dealing with and how this Executive is working together to address them.
“Our portfolio includes good relations, promoting equality of opportunity, victims and survivors, historical institutional abuse, human rights, the Social Investment Fund, racial equality and refugee integration.
“When you get out from behind the desk and spend time talking, but more importantly listening to people there is a real positivity and signs of progress. Things are working, progress is being made. We shouldn’t discount or devalue the energy and enthusiasm out there, not least amongst our young people.”
Commenting on the Executive Office programmes they have been actively involved with the Ministers said: “Through our Together Building a United Community (T:BUC) Summer Camps and forums we have engaged with over 4,000 young people. Over a third of our population is under the age of 25 and these people are not just our future they are also our present.
“Our young people must have the opportunity to follow their chosen path. We can only do this if we break the cycle of generations of poverty by expanding opportunities and growing prosperity for all. Our future can’t be more of the same. We won’t accept it and people deserve better.
“The £80million Social Investment Fund (SIF) is an innovative Government programme we are using to help tackle deprivation. It’s being used in such areas as employment/training support, early intervention services and educational support with other projects. These schemes are already making a positive difference with £44million invested in 116 premises which serve the local community. Over 150 people have already secured full time jobs and credit their success directly to the SIF projects. One woman has spoken about how her children felt like they had a different mother since she has been on a placement.
“This doesn’t just raise confidence levels and empower the mother it has a ripple effect which benefits her family, neighbours and entire community. This might just be one example but it shows it works, it really works.
“Through our Urban Villages initiative we expect to invest up to £45million over the lifetime of the programme to help build thriving neighbourhoods.
“We won’t tackle deprivation with the flick of a switch but we can and will work with people to improve their life prospects and the community within which they live.”
The Junior Ministers said they were ambitious for the future and there was no reason why Government shouldn’t lead by example and aim high.
The Junior Ministers said: “Through our programmes we want to create new shared spaces and renew areas which have suffered from deprivation and dereliction. These communities are changing, changing for the better.
“We are determined to be ambitious and work together to harness this positivity and push ahead with practical policies that will make a real positive difference to people’s lives.”
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