Thursday, 17 December 2020
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
12. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which she has been in the position to address issues of rural and-or community deprivation, with particular reference to the impact of Covid-19 on both urban and rural communities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43200/20]
This question seeks to ascertain the extent to which the Minister and her Department have been able to assist with issues of deprivation in both urban and rural communities arising from the impact of Covid.
The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted communities in rural and urban Ireland. Those that were already vulnerable, marginalised or facing higher levels of deprivation must continue to be supported to ensure that no community is left behind as we navigate our way through the pandemic and build towards an inclusive recovery.
The Department's programmes have been supporting vulnerable communities this year and will continue to assist in addressing gaps in meeting social needs, including those caused by higher levels of deprivation. Some key supports provided this year include the following. A €50 million support package for the community and voluntary sector, charities and social enterprises was launched by the Government and administered by the Department. This funding was made available from the Dormant Accounts Fund through the Covid-19 stability fund and the innovate together fund.
The Minister also recently launched a €1.7 million Covid-19 emergency fund, which groups can now apply for through their local authorities. This focused on groups participating in the Government's community call initiative.
The community enhancement programme was provided with €7 million in funding in 2020. This comprised of €2 million in June and a further €5 million in August under the Government's July stimulus package.
The social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP, is Ireland's primary social inclusion intervention with an allocation of €39 million this year. SICAP funding allocations are made based on levels of relative affluence and deprivation in communities, ensuring the programme is targeting disadvantaged areas fairly and helps those individuals in greatest need of the support.
The community services programme, CSP, has provided funding of up to €4.75 million in 2020 to assist CSP-supported organisations most in need to retain their CSP-supported employees. The programme is also providing assistance to meet employer PRSI contributions during the crisis period and this has been extended until April 2021.
The overall 2020 community services programme allocation is €46.89 million.
I thank the Minister of State for his informative and comprehensive reply.
Does the Minister of State and his Department continue to liaise with the various communities in both urban and rural areas with a view to determining the extent to which any further assistance might yet need to be added?
I am glad to say there is constant communication between my Department, myself, the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, the local development companies, the community services programme organisations and the broader community voluntary sector. That flow is constant and we are keeping a close eye on developments as they carry on.
I want to mention some other programmes which are key in terms of reaching people. The CLÁR programme in particular is worth a mention. There are three measures under that. Measure 3 is particularly important as it provides Meals on Wheels, Link services, as well as mobility and cancer care transport. CLÁR was open to applications from local authorities under measures 1, 2, 3a and 3b. Up to 339 applications were received in 2020 across all these measures and 186 were approved. Measure 3 is particularly effective in reaching vulnerable communities, particularly those impacted by the pandemic.
I thank the Minister of State again for his reply.
Does his Department continue to be in contact with the local authorities and the health services in their respective areas with a view to having local input and advice at the coalface and to directing, or redirecting as the case may be, to ensure that assistance is available and continues to be available?
The short answer is "Yes". The Minister, Deputy Humphreys, and I had a meeting with local authority chief executives earlier this year which informed the budget process as well.
We stay in touch with the local community development committees, LCDCs, which the Department oversees. I stay in touch with the public participation network. Some 15,000 community organisations are members of the network nationally and I had a meeting with them earlier this year. It is fair to say that of all Departments, the Department of Rural and Community Development is extremely connected with organisations on the ground. I am proud to say that.
The social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP, in Kildare received more than €1 million this year. That is particularly important because it is reaching those who are most vulnerable. That is the particular aim of SICAP.