Dáil debates

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Priority Questions.

Community Development

3:00 am

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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Question 46: To ask the Minister for Community; Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans for a review of the community development programmes in view of the concerns expressed during recent budgetary changes that affected the groups involved; if he has or proposes any review of areas in which funding for CDP's was withdrawn in the recent change of funding for such groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19057/10]

Photo of Pat CareyPat Carey (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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As Deputy Wall is aware, the local development social inclusion programme and the community development programme were my Department's two main social inclusion and community development programmes. My Department had seen the need, however, to re-design these programmes, drawing on good international practice and in a way that would support ongoing programme evaluation. Both programmes had a community development element and were delivered through separate local delivery structures. These came to an end on 31 December last and have been superseded by a new integrated programme, the local and community development programme, LCDP.

The aim of the LCDP, which preserves elements of good practice from the CDP and LDSIP programmes, is to tackle poverty and social exclusion through partnership and constructive engagement between Government and its agencies and people in disadvantaged communities.

An implementation strategy involving the stakeholders is underway for LCDP roll-out over the course of 2010. Integrated workplans have now been developed by the local development companies and the CDPs, covering all local development company areas. These were submitted to Pobal for analysis at the end of March and I am awaiting the submission of proposals for approval of these area workplans. The next phase to the end of June will cover the development of local integration plans for reduced structures post-2011.

A key difference between the new LCDP and its predecessor programmes is the fact that, when fully implemented, it will be delivered nationally on an integrated basis by a reduced number of companies. My Department has set out a model for integrated service delivery and structures at a local level, which would involve, among other things, the re-constitution of the voluntary CDP boards from the end of 2010. Each board would then form an advisory committee to the local development company and act as the voluntary management committee for the local project. This approach will preserve the community development ethos in areas and will not detract from the key essential services and supports being provided through the CDP. In addition, the new programme will enable groups to more objectively demonstrate the positive impacts and outcomes they are securing to meet the needs of local communities.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

My Department has clearly indicated to CDPs and local development companies that it is open to them to bring forward other models, as long as the proposed alternatives can achieve integrated and cost effective service delivery. However, it is not possible to maintain the status quo and any alternative model has to show that it will result in less structures; it holds the potential for integrated delivery; it has the potential for introducing efficiencies; and it will reduce the burden on company directors in CDPs.

It remains my primary concern to make every effort to ensure the front-line services provided by, or supported through, my Department are protected, especially those providing tangible benefits for the most disadvantaged communities. Under the new programme, local development companies will be able to identify and meet the needs of communities and the Department will pay particular attention to RAPID areas and to those areas where a CDP is no longer operating. My Department and Pobal will provide a range of supports to ensure the process is successful.

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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I thank the Minister for his reply. Deputy Carey was not the Minister in situ when the decision to change the CDPs was implemented. I am sure there was great disappointment in his area, as in my area, in respect of the changes that took place. We received many visits from the committee and individuals from the various CDPs expressing concern that, for the want of a better way of putting it, the boards of management were to be sidelined from the new initiatives. Does the Minister understand the concerns expressed by the boards? Such concerns remain because we are still receiving calls about the loss of employment and initiatives and the loss of support funding and mechanisms in the various areas. Several CDPs have been refused funding. Has any research been done in these areas as on the original initiatives and how they will be underpinned in respect of the projects in hand?

Photo of Pat CareyPat Carey (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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Like Deputy Wall, I have been familiar with the CDPs for a long time. As the Deputy is aware, a review of the CDPs was carried out some time back. The majority of community development projects were found to be performing an excellent function and providing a wide range of programmes. A small number were found to be performing below the expectations required. An appeals process was put in place. Several of these projects were appealed and were successful. A small number were not successful and offers have been made to these to ensure there is an orderly wind down of the activities and that support is provided to the CDP company directors to discharge their responsibilities as company directors and to ensure that whatever assistance possible within reason is provided to protect all those involved. I refer to how they will develop from here and the local development structures. It is fair to say there are several areas throughout the country where there are difficulties. It has been put in writing and elsewhere by my officials that where a better proposal is deemed available at local level, it will be examined by the officials in my Department and myself.

Photo of Jack WallJack Wall (Kildare South, Labour)
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I appreciate the last point made by the Minister because he referred to what is important. It is important that a door is left open for the various groups and they are not cut off from discussion and debate on the matter. I call on the Minister to make this known. I realise the matter is under discussion today but there is a need to make known in general that the door is open for a better way and where there are such possibilities, let them be discussed. I realise that ultimately a decision must be made. However, I would appreciate if the Minister would make the matter known. Let the debate take place and then the decisions can be made.

Photo of Pat CareyPat Carey (Minister, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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As I have stated here previously when asked about community development matters, a one size fits all approach does not always suit. While maintaining the integrity of the process underway, I am keen that we proceed with it and allow sufficient room for groups to make proposals. Several groups have come forward to me and these cases are under examination at present to establish whether what is being proposed provides a better service more efficiently and with a greater series of outcomes for the community. The door is not closed but I do not wish to raise expectations unrealistically. It is an issue only in a small number of areas. Groups have some time remaining to dove-tail their plans with the local development group and then ease into moving to the next phase of cohesion towards the end of the year.