§ Lord Laird
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What is the rate of unemployment in Strabane District Council area; and what steps they are taking to reduce that figure. [HL3611]
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
Unemployment statistics at district council level are only available from the claimant count. At May 2003 the number of claimants in the Strabane District Council area stood at 1,147, which represents 5.0 per cent of the resident working age population. This compares with a rate of 3.3 per cent for Northern Ireland as a whole. Over the past 12 months the number of claimants in the Strabane District Council area has decreased by 7.9 per cent compared with a 5.4 per cent decrease for Northern Ireland as a whole.
Government is using a variety of methods to help reduce the level of unemployment in the Strabane area. It is one of the areas for targeted initiatives drawing together the relevant statutory, voluntary and community organisations and employers in a new level of partnership aimed at helping individuals who are jobless, particularly the long-term unemployed, to identify and address their particular barriers to employment and thereby making them more ready to take up available job opportunities. Staff from Strabane Social Security Office actively work with unemployed people and numerous groups in the Strabane area to encourage and support the movement from benefits to work.
Invest NI is also working with Strabane District Council to deliver a Business Start programme specific to the area. This programme falls within the auspices of Invest NI's Accelerating Entrepreneurship Strategy which aims to encourage an increase in the rate of business start-ups throughout Northern Ireland.
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is also contributing to reducing unemployment in the Strabane area. Several economic community-based projects have been funded in the area over the past six years and recent initiatives include the new West Tyrone Rural Leader + 24WA Programme, the Natural Resource Rural Tourism Initiative for the Sperrins and Farm Family Reskilling and Diversification Programme.