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For Oral Answer on : 30/01/2024
Question Number(s): 79 Question Reference(s): 3989/24
Department: Rural and Community Development
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
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QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development her policy initiatives, if any, that strive to identify communities with no local community representative structure; the way she is supporting such communities to have a voice; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY


My Department’s mission is to promote rural and community development and to support vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities throughout Ireland. The underlying basis for all funding delivered through my Department’s community development programmes is to enable communities themselves to identify and address their needs in this context. In effect, it’s to empower communities to represent themselves and get involved in addressing the challenges they face.

The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) is the government’s foremost social inclusion initiative.  It’s a national programme overseen by my Department that aims to reduce poverty and promote social inclusion and equality by supporting disadvantaged communities and individuals. Delivered in both rural and urban areas by Local Development Companies (LDC’s), the supports provided are based on needs identified at a local level.

As the Deputy will know, the new iteration of SICAP 2024-2028 has commenced. A key policy initiative of the new programme is to strengthen the role of SICAP in relation to pre-development work with communities. In contrast to SICAP 2018-2023, there is now a dedicated core area of work called Community Animation, which focuses on building capacity in community representative structures, establishing new community groups and social enterprises, and empowering communities to lead out on identifying their own needs.

In addition to SICAP my Department also supports two other programmes that engage with particularly disadvantaged communities, the Community Development Programme and the Empowering Communities Programme (ECP).  In particular the ECP aims to enhance community access to key services and empower local communities to craft their own response to area based poverty, social inclusion and the resulting consequences with the support of their Local Community Development Committees.

It should be noted that my Department also has overall responsibility for both the Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) and the Public Participation Networks (PPNs) important structures at a local level that have a range of responsibilities including supporting the engagement of Community Organisations in decision-making.

In the context of community representation the PPN network is particularly relevant. 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.