Strategic Intervention and Growth Plan for Derry and Strabane

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The inclusive community plan will help to face regional challenges in housing, education and unemployment
08 June 2021 - HOPE  project
This week we present to you another HOPE partner region that aims to develop horizontal policies to support social economy at local and regional level: Derry and Strabane in Northern Ireland, the smallest of four subdivisions of the UK, located in the north-east corner of the Island of Ireland. Its devolved legislature has full power over ‘transferred matters’ (i.e., education, housing, employment, social security, economic development and environment, among others). 

Tara Nicholas from Derry City and Strabane District Council, HOPE project partner, explains that this city region currently serves over 350,000 people, with an urban population in excess of 100,000. Between its services, regarding community and education, Tara mentions that the local Ulster University is ranked in top 2% of Global Universities. Furthermore, Derry & Strabane ranks in first position for Primary Maths in the EU and the 6th position in the world. It also has 2 of the top 10 schools for A-levels in Northern Ireland and, moreover, 31% of school leavers are educated to degree level.

Nevertheless, Derry and Strabane are facing some regional challenges. For example, in reference to housing, in March 2020 there were 38,745 applicants on the social housing waiting list, 27,745 in ‘housing stress’, and 11,323 households were accepted as statutorily homeless. “Derry has the highest homeless figures in Northern Ireland whilst over 1,200 properties lie empty”, adds Tara.

Unemployment in young people is another challenge that the region faces. 14% claiming unemployment are young people aged under 25, although, in comparison to the whole Northern Ireland area, the average is higher, of 17%. Nonetheless, 77% were claiming for more than 12 months, meanwhile in NI the average is 34%. “This suggests that youth unemployment remains an issue for the Council area, particularly young people who are long term unemployed”, continues Tara. The average of economically inactive people aged 16-64 remains higher in the city and district with 37%, in comparison to the NI average of 27.7%. “Unemployment remains a persistent problem for the Derry City and Strabane District Council area in comparison to other regions across the UK and the NI and UK averages”

Regarding health, mental health is the number one cause of disability in Northern Ireland. 12.6% of children and young people experience common mood disorders such as anxiety and depression – around 25% higher than in other UK nations. Furthermore, over 100,0000 people are on waiting lists for over one year.

In order to face these regional social challenges, DCSDC has developed a strategic intervention and growth plan to achieve a thriving, prosperous and sustainable City and District with equality of opportunity for all, ensuring social, economic and environmental wellbeing. 

Actors and Policies tackling the Phenomenon
Northern Ireland is formed by 11 ‘local government districts’ run by a local council like HOPE partner Derry City and Strabane District Council. Their responsibilities include local economic development, planning roads, local tourism, heritage, and services. In terms of the Social Economy Infrastructure, HOPE partner from DCSDC Laverne O’Donnell explains that the Department for the Economy leads on Social Economy Policy for Northern Ireland. They have also reaffirmed their commitment to the sector by including measures to boost and grow ‘strong entrepreneurial tradition’. One of the key priorities is to ‘Grow a Sustainable Economy and Invest in the Future’.

According to Laverne, in 2015 responsibility and budget for the social economy was transferred from Invest Northern Ireland to local authorities and they started creating Social Enterprise Hubs together with key stakeholders. The Social Economy is worth £625 million to NI economy, employment base grew from 12,200 in 2013 to 24,860 in 2018 and the growth in turnover has increased from £592.7 million in 2013 to £980 million in 2018. 

Our HOPE partner Derry City and Strabane District Council has developed an inclusive Strategic Growth Plan 2017 – 2032 (more information available here). With a co-design approach, the plan has the input of 5,000 stakeholders (working groups, equality & scrutiny group, statutory partners, thematic working groups, citizens and local groups, among others). “Our vision is a thriving, prosperous and sustainable City and District with equality of opportunity for all”, adds Laverne. Watch this video for more details.

Fostering social innovation at local, regional, and inter-regional level will be crucial to support green transition and stimulate cohesion and inclusiveness. Stay tuned on Derry & Strabane’s role and progress in the HOPE project!

Click here to email  Ianire Renobales at ERNACT for further information

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Core ERNACT regions
Newfoundland & Labrador
South Ostrobothnia
West Romania
San Sebastián
Derry & Strabane
United Kingdom