Wednesday, 4 March 2015
Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme
7. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the extent of engagement he has had with community workers in Dublin Central, in relation to the Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme; his views on the stress, and difficulty, the new tender process is creating; and if he will assure them that the essential work they do will not be jeopardised. [9073/15]
I wish to ask the Minister of State about the extent of engagement she has had with community workers in Dublin Central in relation to the social inclusion community activation programme; her views on the stress and difficulty that the new tender process is creating; and if she can assure them that the essential work they do will not be jeopardised.
My Department's local and community development programme, LCDP, is the largest social inclusion intervention of its kind in the State. It is being implemented on a transitional basis until the end of this month, pending the roll-out of the new social inclusion and community activation programme, called SICAP, on 1 April this year.
In accordance with the public spending code, legal advice, good practice internationally and in order to ensure the optimum delivery of services to clients, SICAP is subject to a public procurement process. Tenderers have now been informed of the outcome of their tender and local community development committees, LCDCs, are in the process of issuing contracts to successful tenderers.
The public procurement process was a competitive process that was open to local development companies, other not-for-profit community groups, commercial firms and national organisations that could provide the services to be tendered for to deliver the new programme. Public information events were held at stage one to ensure that interested parties could apply. In addition, detailed weekly questions and answers were published and circulated to interested parties.
The SICAP programme design was open to consultation with representatives of the community and voluntary sector, who were afforded ample opportunity to feed into the programme framework. Indeed, groups within the sector have commended elements of the programme design with respect to the underlying community development principles and cross-cutting horizontal themes.
In the meantime, my Department has continued to ensure that LCDP services for communities in the Dublin Central area have been maintained in a co-ordinated manner through LCDP interim funding arrangements until 31 March. My Department has consulted with Dublin City Council to find a workable solution for transition thereafter.
I am glad to confirm that funding of some €0.6 million outside of, and separate to, SICAP is being provided to the Dublin central groups concerned, pending agreement with Dublin City Council and the local community development committee on an optimum delivery mechanism for the area. This funding is entirely separate to the €0.63 million which is being provided to the Dublin Central area under SICAP.
I thank the Minister of State for her reply. What is happening for Dublin Central is welcome news. However, a meeting with the Minister, who could have listened directly to those involved without giving any commitments, would have eased some of the stress and difficulty they have been going through for the past few months.
I would reiterate that the areas they are dealing with have higher than national average unemployment figures, as well as bigger numbers of lone parents and disadvantaged families. In addition, there are significant areas of poverty and deprivation. We have massive housing issues because huge numbers of people are living in local authority or private rented accommodation. We also have open and blatant drug dealing on the streets. Community projects are dealing with those issues as they arise. What is happening for Dublin Central is welcome but it could mean job losses in other areas. It is regrettable that the experience of community workers in other areas could be lost. How long is funding guaranteed for the new programme?
Funding begins on 1 April with the roll-out of SICAP. I have met with the public representatives concerned, but when one is doing a tendering process it is not possible to meet directly with those who will be involved in the process. We have been through these situations before and I know the hiatus that occurs. I also know all about the uncertainty, particularly when one is dealing with communities some of whose representatives may not have great expertise in the tendering process. I understand the concern it causes. I have met with officials almost daily to take on board the concerns about these projects. The Dublin area is particularly complex but the Deputy can be assured that the Department and the Ministers are there to examine issues that might arise outside the tendering process. We have provided funding for particular projects of special concern, so we are certainly taking those concerns on board.
The inner city did not have a partnership, so it was in a different situation from other areas. There are still concerns that community development is going out to tendering and is being privatised, so there is a danger that all the expertise could be lost. While we all accept we must get value for money, community development projects and programmes cannot just be economically led, they must also be led on the basis of social justice.
Will there be unnecessary levels of bureaucracy with the new process? The projects are under considerable strain with the services they are providing to lone parents, including affordable child care, second-chance education, and training. They could do without the many levels of bureaucracy, as is happening in other areas.
The big concern about the tendering process was that private companies could come in and win the tenders, but that did not happen. Some 44 of the 50 companies won the SICAP programme. I take the Deputy's point on the Leader partnership in Dublin. We are working with county councils under the new LCDC structure to see how we can address the concerns of people who do not fit into the SICAP area. We will have to deal with those matters as they arise. That is the only way we can do it.