A new cross-border project which aims to improve the health and well-being of disabled people has been launched in Derry.
ONSIDE aims to increase disabled people's social and digital involvement in the community.
The project is supported by an award of €5.56m by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, a programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). Match-funding has also been provided by the Departments of Health in Northern Ireland and the Republic.
The project was launched at the Millennium Forum in Derry on Thursday.
Orla McCann, Project Manager, said people who had taken part in a pilot project said their lives have been changed for the better.
“ONSIDE aims to support disabled people to create community connections: one to one support is provided to establish connections in participants’ local communities combined with a digital skills training course which allows participants to engage in online communities too.
“Both strands collectively help address and reduce the social isolation experienced by many disabled people in our communities.”
Mark Gamble, who took part in the ONSIDE project, said: “ONSIDE has been a complete new experience for me.
“It got me out of the house, learning new things and meeting new people.
“I’ve taken part in a Makaton class and it’s been both rewarding and beneficial. I’m much more confident online now, I feel secure buying things now where I would have been wary before I did the digital skills programme. I would advise anyone to sign up for ONSIDE. You won’t regret it, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
The North's Minister for Health Robin Swann said the project aligns with their Health and Wellbeing 2026 healthcare transformation strategy.
“In the current challenging financial climate, the substantial European funding contribution which is helping to facilitate this project is greatly welcomed,” he said.
“It will deliver significant benefits through improving access to support services for disabled people living in remote and rural areas, ultimately yielding positive outcomes for its participants in terms of improved social engagement, independence and wellbeing.”
The Republic's Minister for Health Simon Harris said Ireland’s citizens have benefited greatly from European funding through the INTERREG Programmes over the last number of years.
“The ONSIDE Project, with INTERREG VA funding is contributing to the achievement of almost 53,000 citizens directly benefitting from INTERREG VA projects by the end of the programme.
“This contribution is indeed valuable not only for beneficiaries, but also in supporting strong North South co-operation.
“The ONSIDE project, which supports persons with disabilities in the border areas to access technology and training, is a great example of how we can harness the potential of technology in realising individual lifestyle choices.
“The core objective of disability services policy is to support persons with a disability to live a life of their own choosing in their community, and to enjoy the widest possible choice in how they spend their time, and the ONSIDE project is a very practical support in this regard.
“The interactive nature of the tailored supports offered by the ONSIDE project focus on the achievement of meaningful personal outcomes for persons with disabilities.
“I am very pleased that my department has provided match-funding, in partnership with the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, to the ONSIDE project.”
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