LEADER programme to put rural youth in the spotlight for the first time
Rural youth will be one of the targets in the next LEADER programme for Wexford, which will see €7.5m being pumped into community and enterprise projects between now and 2020.
For the first time, youth projects and initiatives will be a key focus for funding under the programme. According to Tom Bermingham of WLD, they are looking for ideas that will make a positive difference to the lives of young people in the county.
'Wexford is the third most disadvantaged county in Ireland and we have a very high level of youth unemployment,' he said. 'There is a sector of youth that is being left on the scrapheap and nobody is really focusing on them. This is a problem throughout the EU.'
Tom went on to say that the situation for young people has 'obviously worsened'.
'There is a low uptake on third level education in Wexford. This is not something that LEADER will be able to solve but in conjunction with ETBs and other organisations, LEADER can play some role to reverse trends out there.'
Tom estimates that approximately €300,000 of funding will be allocated to rural youth projects, which may include youth cafes and other similar facilities.
Another new focus for LEADER is ideas concerning the rural environment, which Tom said may look at preserving water resources and energy, among other things.
The process for LEADER funding will differ to previous years. While applicants could once apply on a rolling basis, there will now be a set time to send in applications, with a different period and deadline for each sector.
The funding will be allocated to niche services and for the first time, interested parties in Wexford town will be eligible to apply.
'Money will be allocated to rural tourism, while another portion of the funding will be allocated to other enterprises such as those that take in artisan food, the creative sector and craft,' explained Tom. 'Farm diversification will also be looked at.'
'Community groups will be given funding for projects that improve the visual appearance of an area such as community centre upgrade works.'
According to Tom, the development strategy has been formulised using feedback from local people and groups.
Information evenings for potential LEADER applicants took place around the county in recent weeks, with the last to be held in the Amber Springs Hotel in Gorey tomorrow (September 21) at 8 p.m.