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Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has announced a £100,000 poverty payment package for further and higher education students at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) to address digital poverty.

Almost 1,700 students will each receive a £60 Digital Poverty payment to help address data costs incurred through remote learning during the pandemic.

Making the announcement Minister Poots said: “Since the start of the pandemic CAFRE has provided remote training and education for its students. I am very aware that all of them have experienced significant disruption during this time and have had to deal with the challenges associated with online learning.

“Furthermore, many of our CAFRE students come from rural areas where it can be difficult and expensive to access online programmes. I strongly believe digital poverty should not be a barrier to learning and so am delighted to announce this additional support which will help address that challenge.

“CAFRE has a well-deserved reputation as the leading provider of professional and technical agri-food sector qualifications in Northern Ireland and is celebrated throughout the wider agri-food industry for turning out highly-skilled graduates who are job ready. It is therefore vitally important that we continue to support our students in their education and training and recognise their future contribution to Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector,” added Minister Poots.

The decision mirrors a recent announcement by Economy Minister Diane Dodds that a one-off payment of £60 will be made to eligible full-time and part-time students in further education colleges in Northern Ireland.

The Digital Poverty payments will be processed by CAFRE and will be issued to full and part-time students.