Thursday, 15 July 2021
Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
84. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if it will be ensured that a dedicated training and development strategy is developed and fully funded for the charitable, voluntary and community sectors in budget 2022. [38989/21]
Will the Minister ensure that a dedicated training and development strategy is developed and fully funded for the charitable, voluntary and community sector in budget 2022? As we know, training is not a luxury. It is essential for all community, voluntary and charity sector projects to enable them to deliver a quality service.
Building capacity and training opportunities for the community and voluntary sector is key to realising the intent of sustainable, inclusive and empowered communities, the Government's five-year strategy to support the sector. The strategy details clear commitments in respect of training. Action 2.1 commits to support community groups and organisations to identify and meet their training needs. It commits to implement a formal programme of training to meet these needs and support capacity in groups and organisations. Action 2.2 commits to design, promote and implement a comprehensive programme to support capacity among leaders, board members and volunteers of community and voluntary organisations, including voluntary board members of local and community development organisations. Action 2.3 commits to support capacity in public participation networks, in particular in respect of the social inclusion colleges. Action 2.4 commits to develop education and training mechanisms based on the all-Ireland standards for community work for those charged with implementing and monitoring community development.
The implementation plan agreed for 2021 includes a modular research project into the training needs of the sector and this is under way. There are three separate reports. The first will examine the training needs of the local community development committees in preparation for the local economic and community plan, LECP, reviews. The second will involve an assessment of the skills gap of voluntary boards of mid-sized organisations. The third will involve an assessment of skills gaps across smaller community and voluntary groups. I expect the recommendations arising from these research reports will feed in to further considerations across government on how best to support the training and development needs of the sector.
In the meantime, training for the sector is being addressed in a number of other ways across my Department and across government, with tailored supports as required that have been identified in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders.
I appreciate the answer given by the Minister of State in respect of the training needs and proposals outlined. One major concern has been whether these schemes will be funded. We get copious reports, documents and proposals relating to many different schemes, but the proof of the pudding will be in whether the funding will be available to deliver the quality training to which the Minister of State referred.
Some current projects have been unable to provide much-needed training for their workers during the past ten years to enable them to continue in their roles and prevent them from being poached by bigger organisations that have the capacity to deliver such training.
I draw attention to some training programmes that are ongoing. The Charities Regulator launched its annual report today. The regulator provides a suite of free training options and free guidance that all charities can access. Community Work Ireland funding was provided last year to the All Ireland Endorsement Body for Community Work Education and Training to raise the standards of community development work throughout the country.
Public participation networks, PPNs, are a particularly important on which to focus. I mention these because there is funding available for PPNs. Member groups are often small informal groups to start with but when they come into the PPN structure they get support. We are conducting a root and branch review of PPN structures to figure out the needs of the various organisations so that we can back them up with the training they need. Grassroots and small local groups are where the need for training and support is greatest. That is the area we are focusing on this year.
I understand and acknowledge the Minister of State's comments on PPNs and other aspects of training. The focus is on community, voluntary and charity groups. I have been involved in projects over the years which have specific and ongoing training needs. One example involves supporting older drug users and others include community development projects supporting vulnerable communities. The training is ongoing. A budget awarded for a project at the beginning of the year enables them to provide that quality training. What is happening is that bigger organisations, such as Tusla and the HSE, can provide the training. People are going to them because of the professional development they need to ensure they, too, can provide the service.
I am open to hearing where there are gaps. Our initial plans this year are based on agreement with the cross-sectoral group that oversees the national strategy. Various community and voluntary sectors are represented on that group. It has prioritised the three areas that I have mentioned. We are, therefore, taking our lead from it.
As the Deputy knows, the community and voluntary sector is wide and diverse. We are one Department in the mix. Often, the key relationship for many community and voluntary organisations is not with us but with the relevant lead Departments. Responsibilities arise in that regard as well. I am not passing the buck but making the point that there are opportunities. I would be happy to push the relevant Department if the key relationship is with another Department and training that should be provided is not being provided. I am happy for any such cases to be brought to my attention.
I outlined the three priorities we have agreed with the sector, broadly speaking. The PPNs are also a priority, as there is a clear need in that area also.