Tuesday, 25 May 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Community Development Projects
9. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the supports provided by her Department for the maintenance and enhancement of community facilities; the way in which local community groups may access this funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27985/21]
I am taking this question on behalf of Deputy David Stanton. I wish to ask the Minister of State about the supports provided by the Department for the maintenance and enhancement of community facilities, the way in which local community groups may access this funding and if he will make a statement on the matter.
A range of my Department's programmes contribute to the enhancement of community facilities. They include a €4.5 million 2021 community enhancement programme, which was launched on 10 May. The programme provides grants to enhance facilities in disadvantaged areas and is administered by the local community development committees, LCDCs, in each local authority area. A €49 million CSP for 2021 supports 420 community organisations to provide local, social, economic and environmental services. Another programme is the town and village renewal scheme, which involves project support and the rejuvenation of rural towns and villages, including public realm projects, remote working hubs, town centre enhancements, encouraging town centre living and addressing vacancy and dereliction. The connected hubs fund of €5 million will expand existing hub facilities to provide additional hot desks, office space and meeting rooms for remote working, the installation of electric car charging points, the upgrading of disability access and the improvement of IT facilities located within hubs or broadband connection points.
The dormant accounts fund provides funding for community initiatives and supports, including support for social enterprises. The outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme provides funding for the development or enhancement, or both, of outdoor recreational infrastructure such as trails, walkways, cycleways and blueways in rural areas. The 2021 CLÁR programme is providing support for schools and community safety measures, outdoor community and recreation facilities, community gardens and allotments, and mobility and cancer care transport. The €250 million LEADER programme grant aid is available to rural communities and businesses for projects focused on economic and enterprise development, job creation, social inclusion and supporting the rural environment. All schemes are open to applications from eligible groups during the application timeframes set for each scheme or programme.
I am very grateful for the thorough overview of the many supports available from the Minister of State. In asking this question, Deputy Stanton has asked me to convey the very clear point that over the past year we have all spent a lot more time close to home in our local communities which has allowed us to take full advantage of the amenities available to us, including community facilities and groups, as the Minister of State outlined. While many of us have relied on these groups over the past year, it has been very difficult for many groups and clubs to adapt to social distancing requirements and an increase in funding is required.
In my constituency, this includes groups such as men's sheds, youth clubs, parish halls and community groups or, in Deputy Stanton's area, Muintir na Tíre. The crux of my supplementary question is to ask what efforts can be made to make this funding accessible for these groups to ensure they can get the most out of this funding and continue to provide these vital services.
The Department makes quite an effort in terms of getting the information out. Pobal will be of assistance in making applications. I also direct people to local development companies and local authorities.
Some of the funding schemes have different ways of applying. The rural regeneration and development fund, RRDF, will generally need to go through the local authority, so engagement with the local authority would be important. Some applications for the outdoor recreation scheme can come through the local development companies. Large projects can also come through State agencies.
The local improvement scheme, LIS, is open since 14 May. Local authorities generally approve that and the Department of Rural and Community Development funds it. In terms of other programmes, such as the Covid-19 stability scheme, community groups can apply directly to those. The local community development committee, LCDC, is the key player in the community enhancement programme.
As a general answer, my advice would be to talk to the local development companies.
I thank the Minister of State for that thorough answer. I agree with the closing line, which is so important, but there is a job of work to do to ensure groups know who their local community development committees, LCDCs, are. We take it for granted because we work in this are everyday, be it as county councillors, Senators, Deputies or Ministers of State such as the Minister of State, Deputy O'Brien. However, given how stressed and up against it these groups have been for the past year, and Deputy Stanton agrees, there is a huge amount of work still to be done to make this as user-friendly as possible. It may be working well at the moment, but can always work better. However, I am grateful to the Minister of State for such thorough responses.
Deputy Richmond touched on a fair point. We use many acronyms such as LCDCs, local development companies and PPNs. It is important for local communities to recognise them. I draw attention to a piece of work we are doing at the moment, with the public participation networks. There are 15,000 community group members of public participation networks, PPNs, throughout the country. We are doing a review of PPNs at present, in terms of how they operate, but also how the public is aware of them. We will be doing an awareness-raising exercise after that to ensure the community at large is aware of their PPNs, because PPNs are very often the road into the knowledge of what is available in terms of funding supports. The PPNs will play a crucial role in that regard.