Funding for ‘Need to Talk’ Cross-border Counselling Services Announced

Approximately €47.5m worth of EU INTERREG VA Programme funding has been offered to eight innovative cross-border health and social care initiatives that will improve the lives of tens of thousands of people.

The funding will be used to reduce health inequalities, transition health services from an institutional to community-based setting and increase efficiencies through increased use of e-health technologies, on both sides of the border.

Match-funding for the projects is provided by both the Departments of Health in Ireland and Northern Ireland alongside the Scottish Government. A number of the projects will be led by the Health Service Executive on behalf of the CAWT Partnership, alongside Health and Social Care NI (made up of the Health and Social Care Board, Public Health Agency, Southern and Western Health and Social Care Trust) and NHS 24 (Scotland).

Recognising the importance of the funding Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Michelle O’Neil MLA, said: “This investment will strengthen cross-border working and I look forward to seeing communities across Ireland sharing in the benefits which it will bring. The programme will facilitate the development of more joined-up health and care services in areas of particular need, focusing particularly on remote and rural communities and socially isolated, vulnerable and older people. “This EU funding is a welcome boost at a time of considerable pressure on our health and social care resources,” she continued.
Welcoming the funding Ireland’s Health Minister Simon Harris TD, said: “CAWT has an excellent track record in delivering INTERREG Projects and I am pleased that they have been successful in securing funding for these projects. Implementation of the projects will make a difference to people’s lives and importantly will demonstrate real collaboration in achieving the project aims. These projects are also important in the context of continued North/South co-operation in the health area.”

Commenting on the funding Scotland’s Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “Health and social care integration is one of the government’s most ambitious programmes as we look to put people at the centre of care and support decisions, and our system has received praise from many countries across the world.

“We welcome this funding from the European Union to further our efforts and the opportunity to work across borders and share knowledge and expertise is one that will have wide ranging benefits for patients and their families,” she continued.

Underlining the importance of the funding announcement, Gina McIntyre CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), which manages the INTERREG VA Programme, said:
“The large investment by the European Union in support of this diverse range projects is a testament to their high quality and potential impact. Each project represents a unique partnership that will result in greater synergies within the delivery of essential cross-border health and social care services. They will also have a positive transformative effect upon the lives of thousands of people and families,” she continued.

€1.8 million has been offered for the ‘Need to talk’ project that will provide crossborder counselling services and confidence building programmes for people affected by sight loss who live in Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and Western Scotland. The project will be delivered by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in Northern Ireland and Scotland in partnership with Fighting Blindness in Ireland. It will address the social isolation and emotional distress which is often experienced by people with sight loss; which can be exacerbated in rural isolated areas where people are reliant on very limited public transport services to access support.

For more information please contact John Delany