Thursday, 11 July 2019
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
3. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the specific programmes, funding and supports targeted at the most disadvantaged areas as previously identified under the RAPID programme in view of the fact that the programme has now closed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30892/19]
The Minister last year took a retrograde step in closing down the RAPID programme, a programme that was to support our most disadvantaged communities. Since the Minister has closed it, what specific supports and grants has the Minister made available to our most disadvantaged communities that would previously have received funding under the programme?
The original RAPID programme ran from 2001 and closed to new applications in 2011. In 2017, a nationwide recast RAPID programme was launched and, in 2018, my Department completed a review of that new programme. Following the review, which included consultation with the 33 local community development committees, LCDCs, throughout the country, I launched the new community enhancement programme. I have allocated €4.5 million to the community enhancement programme in 2019. Under the programme, funding is allocated to each local authority area, taking account of the relative level of poverty. The LCDCs then administer the programme. This is a more effective, flexible and locally-responsive approach to addressing disadvantage. The committees, which have the local knowledge, monitor the programme and ensure the funding is benefitting communities, urban and rural, across the country in the fairest way possible.
The new five-year social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP, which runs from 2018 to 2022, is our country's primary social inclusion intervention. This is a €190 million national programme that is delivered locally to help those in the greatest need. For example, in Dublin, SICAP will provide €9.7 million in 2019, giving vital support to those community groups and individuals most in need.
My Department also provides funding for certain specific areas of urban disadvantage, for example Dublin north-east inner city, which has been allocated a total of €6.5 million in 2019.
I thank the Minister. The community enhancement programme is no replacement for RAPID and it is a different programme. RAPID was designed specifically to focus on and positively discriminate in favour of our most disadvantaged communities. I remind the Minister that the programme for Government made a commitment to support schemes that support disadvantaged communities and to support the RAPID programme, which is very specific. It is also in the confidence and supply agreement. Where, along the way, did the Minister decide to close down RAPID? Was it a Government decision or the Minister's decision?
The honest truth is that the community enhancement programme that has replaced it has not provided the same level of support. I have seen the grants that have been made available and while they are welcome, they are not positively discriminating in favour of our most disadvantaged communities, and therein lies the problem. I have asked the Minister before and he has responded by mentioning SICAP and other programmes. The reality is the Department and the Government are letting down our most disadvantaged communities. We do not see the significant advances DEIS schools and additional funding, and it is the same with local and regional drugs task forces, which have not received additional funding. Where we have some of our greatest problems, we are not getting the level of support and it is being washed across the entire community under the community enhancement programme. That was not what RAPID was supposed to be about. It was a lot more than that.
And my own. There was a fund of approximately €3 million and we amalgamated the community enhancement programme and RAPID programmes. Last year, although the Deputies did not give me credit for this, while there was €4.5 million in the budget, I finished up putting €12 million into it because we had savings in the Department which I put into the community enhancement programme. The LCDCs felt this was the best way to deliver this money. Who knows best about local needs and local areas but local people? If the Deputy thinks this is not working, we will review it again, and if he wants to bring it back to giving €2 million from the RAPID programme again, we can do that. However, that is not the best way of spending money. If the Deputy thinks the local people do not know the areas that need most funding, it is him who has a problem.
I want to read a quote to the Minister:
I want to have a rethink about the community enhancement scheme and the RAPID programme. I started to think about this matter the other day. We all know what is being done in the north-east inner city and how it has been successful so far. People would like to have that model replicated in their areas but that is not possible. One could not find the resources to do it in all areas. I thought that perhaps we should designate ten or 20 areas of profound deprivation around the State and do something similar, but then it occurred to me that we had done that previously and called it RAPID.
That was the Taoiseach speaking a month ago. We all know our most disadvantaged communities need additional support but community enhancement is not the additional support those communities need. The Minister has closed it down. He should not blame us on this side. I know there were problems in 2011 and funding was suspended, and I would be the first to put my hand up. However, we did not close down the a programme that positively discriminated in favour of our most disadvantaged communities. The Minister did that. At a time our economy is doing well, our most disadvantaged communities need that level of support and the Minister has let them down.
It is €12.5 million, €4.5 million of which was in the budget line and €2 million of which was in RAPID. I am doing this from the bottom up. I know Fianna Fáil always like to do it from the top down but I always like to go from the bottom up.