______________________________________________
For Oral Answer on : 30/01/2024
Question Number(s): 94 Question Reference(s): 3990/24
Department: Rural and Community Development
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the way she is assisting communities across the country to organise; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY


In 2019, my Department launched Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities, the Strategy to support the community and voluntary sector in Ireland. The Strategy seeks to create a vibrant and active civil society, developing opportunities for all communities to contribute, engage and participate in decision-making and policy implementation.

As part of the strategy implementation, in November 2022, my Department held the first Civic Forum, for formal dialogue between the state and the community and voluntary sector.  The second Civic Forum was held in November 2023 and was attended by 130 representatives from national and local government as well as a wide representation from across the community and voluntary sectors.

Another initiative under the Strategy, a two-year project working with local authorities and other local stakeholders to improve the engagement of marginalised communities in local planning and decision making concluded in December 2023.  The project ran a number of pilots as well as developing resources and toolkits, including a resource guide, ‘A Guide for Inclusive Community Engagement in Local Planning and Decision Making’.  Training was also provided in engagement strategies, inter-cultural awareness, the Public Sector Duty and facilitation skills.  The overall project was aimed at ensuring that marginalised and disadvantaged communities have opportunities to engage and participate in local planning and decision-making.

The Scheme to Support National Organisations (SSNO), funded and overseen by my Department, also plays a significant role in Government’s support to our national community and voluntary organisations.

In addition, my Department provides funding to the members of the Community and Voluntary Pillar to engage in dialogue and policy formation. The Pillar is a seventeen-member group representing community and voluntary organisations, which contribute to the social dialogue process.

My Department also has overall responsibility for the funding, governance oversight and development of Public Participation Networks (PPNs). The focus of the PPN is to empower and assist volunteer-led community representative groups to participate in local authority policymaking and decision-making. Where community representation is required on local authority committees, such as Strategic Policy Committees or Local Community Development Committees etc., it must be sourced through the PPN. This gives local community groups a greater say in local government decisions which affect their own communities.

PPNs were established following the enactment of the Local Government Reform Act 2014, section 46 of which sets out their legislative basis. There is now a PPN in each of the 31 local authority areas across the country. Membership of a PPN is open to all volunteer-led/not-for-profit groups in a local authority area, and over 18,000 groups nationwide are currently members. In 2022, 901 PPN representatives sat on 418 local authority boards and committees, bringing the voice of the community sector to the decision-making table.