Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Rural and Community Development
Rural Development Plan
18. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development her views on the need for rural communities to have an appropriate range of services of all kinds available locally to ensure their needs can be met in their local communities; her views on whether communities that can provide for themselves are happier communities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44157/20]
For many rural dwellers, access to essential services, including high-speed broadband, healthcare, and public transport, is a priority concern. The current pandemic has further demonstrated the importance of local services.
My Department is currently finalising an ambitious new rural development policy to cover the period 2021–2025, which seeks to enhance the vibrancy of rural areas, including through improved local services.
The policy will adopt a whole-of-Government approach and will complement other Government policies and initiatives.
COVID-19 has further highlighted the particular challenges that exist for different cohorts of people, such as marginalised or vulnerable communities, the elderly, and young people. In order to support these groups effectively, the new rural development policy will recognise that services should be available, accessible and, to the greatest extent possible, appropriate to a person’s age or circumstances.
With regard to the wellbeing of communities, my Department’s five-year Strategy for the Community and Voluntary sector aims to support communities to contribute, engage and participate in decision-making and policy implementation. The strategy was co-produced with, and is being implemented alongside, the Community and Voluntary sector.
Many of the Strategy’s actions relate to building the capacity of communities to participate and engage on an ongoing basis. This reflects my Department’s objective to ensure that communities are engaged in decision-making and policy processes that impact on their lives. It also reflects an understanding that enabling communities to support themselves can build more sustainable and, ultimately more satisfied and fulfilled, communities.