Tuesday, 25 May 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
I ask the Minister when Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme, SICAP, funding will be restored to its 2008 level of €84 million, given that current funding is at 50% of this amount and given that this affects the most disadvantaged people within our communities.
I thank the Deputy for his question and the focus on the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme.
My Department is providing funding of €190 million over five years for the current SICAP programme, which is our country's primary social inclusion intervention. This year over €39 million was allocated to the programme, supporting front-line workers in local development companies to deliver SICAP on the ground.
The programme does vital work in helping individuals and groups, by improving the life chances of those who are marginalised in society, living in poverty or unemployed. Indeed, since 2018, the programme has supported over 80,000 individuals and 6,219 local community groups. SICAP also supports social enterprises. In 2020, for example, 448 social enterprises received support though the programme. In addition, it supports collective community engagement and the development of more sustainable and stronger communities, improving the quality of life of those facing social exclusion and inequality.
The funding for SICAP is subject to the annual budgetary Estimates process. Modest increases in the annual allocations have been achieved over the duration of the current programme. I acknowledge that funding for social inclusion measures was reduced after 2008. However, since then, other social inclusion measures have been initiated and funded. I realise the importance of continuing to address this. I want to assure the Deputy that I review the level of funding of all programmes each year as part of the budgetary process and it remains my intention to continue to prioritise funding for SICAP.
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire Stáit.
The funding over the five years of €197 million, if it was at the 2008 level, should be approximately €470 million. There is a massive difference between what people are getting now in SICAP funding and what they were getting 13 years ago.
There is strong evidence that we are not all in this together. The Covid crisis has shown even more that communities, particularly disadvantaged communities, are severely disadvantaged in supports.
In terms of SICAP, the funding is not sufficient. Can the Minister of State give a commitment that over the next years that will be increased? It is very important for our communities.
I can give a commitment to prioritise SICAP. In terms of the programmes that I oversee, it is one of the ones that I have been shouting about most since I came into office.
It is something that we need to raise the profile of across communities as well because so much good work goes on. We have over 500 posts for SICAP workers across the country doing really good work, particularly last year during the crisis. That is not often recognised. I always appreciate the programme being raised here in the Dáil.
To put it on people's radar as well, next week we will be running a promotional programme for SICAP that details much of the good work that was done, in particular, last year. It really came into its own last year in the value that it brought to communities in terms of innovating and responding to the issues that emerged from Covid-19. I can assure the Deputy it is very high on my priority list.
At the Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands meeting last week, the chair and the CEO of the Irish Local Development Network, ILDN, stated clearly that SICAP providers have played a central role in communities across the country in responding to the needs which emerged during the Covid lockdown and beyond. As the Minister of State stated, they helped over 2,200 individuals on a daily basis who came to their service during the lockdown.
As I said, this is so important. There is no single group of people who have been as affected by disadvantage, cuts and Covid as many of these communities, and particularly the communities that I represent in Dublin 15. It is not good enough. I do not blame the Minister of State personally. This is something that has happened over a period of 13 years. It is not good enough to say that the funding will be €197 million over five years yet if it was 2008 we would be looking at close to €500 million being provided. That is not acceptable or good enough.
The Deputy makes a relevant point in relation to the decrease that SICAP has taken over time. I am very aware of that, to acknowledge that again.
I draw attention to some areas that come under the area of social inclusion that have received increases in funding in that time period as well. One of them is the Community Enhancement Programme which provides small grants to community groups to enhance facilities in disadvantaged areas. From 2018 to 2020, it has provided €25 million to support 8,000 community groups and organisations. The 2021 allocation is €4.5 million.
Also relevant is the scheme to support national organisations, SSNO, in the community and voluntary sector. It is a key element of the Department's support for the role of the sector in contributing to the development of a strong and vibrant civil society and improving outcomes for those most disadvantaged. A large majority of the organisations under SSNO will work in areas of social inclusion. Funding for SSNO has increased significantly since 2008 and that needs to be acknowledged as well.