Written answers

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Department of Rural and Community Development

Community Development Initiatives

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent)
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2567. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the research her Department is undertaking to enhance community living, neighbourhoods and social solidarity in communities; the discussions she is having with the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18313/21]

Photo of Joe O'BrienJoe O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Green Party)
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My Department's Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities, the five-year strategy to support the community and voluntary sector in Ireland, is an ambitious strategy which sets a general direction of travel for Government policy in relation to community development, local development and the community and voluntary sector for the coming years.

With a number of high level objectives and related actions, it seeks to support and build capacity in the sector and its structures, to build and underpin thriving communities. More importantly, it articulates the values and principles that will guide and shape Government’s support for communities and the community and voluntary sector in the coming years, and help realise our vision for communities by the end of the decade.

As part of this work, my Department, has begun research into the skills gaps in the sector through a three project modular approach. It is intended to undertake a training needs analysis of –

- Training needs of Local Community Development Committees in preparation for Local Economic and Community Plan reviews

- Skills gaps of voluntary boards of mid-sized organisations

- Skills gaps across smaller community & voluntary groups

This work is being completed by Pobal, on behalf of the Department, with oversight by the Cross-Sectoral Group on Local and Community Development. The resulting reports will inform future training design, with the end result of increased capacity for engagement, inclusion, consultation and better decision making.

Research to enhance community living is the subject of the report on the pilot “Town Centre Living Initiative” (TCLI) published in June 2020. The research explored how more people might be encouraged to live in rural town and village centres and thus increase residential occupancy. This independent report, produced on behalf of the Department, outlined differing approaches taken by each of six towns funded under the initiative and highlighted 15 suggested actions based on its outcomes.

An Inter-Departmental Group, chaired jointly by my Department and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, is currently considering the introduction of a Town Centre First (TCF) policy to rejuvenating our towns and villages and will report to Government on its findings. The work of the Group includes a consideration of all of the 15 suggested actions in the “Town Centre Living Initiative” Report.

The Public Participation Network (PPN) is a structure that brings together Community and Voluntary, Environmental and Social Inclusion groups in each local authority area. Public Participation Networks were established on foot of the report of the Working Group on Citizen Engagement with Local Government published in 2013. The report recommended greater input by communities into decision making at local government level.

Public Participation Networks (PPNs) have been operational in all Local Authority areas for 4-5 years.

The PPN is the main link through which the local authority connects with the community and voluntary, social inclusion and environmental sectors.

Where community representation is to be provided on appropriate committees of the Local Authority, such as Strategic Policy Committees/Local Community Development Committees etc., it must be sourced through the PPN. PPNs have a significant role in the development and education of their member groups, sharing information, promoting best practice and facilitating networking.

A fundamental independent “root and branch” review of PPN structures is to be conducted to ensure that PPN’s continue to be fit for purpose and support the ongoing development of PPNs.

A key element of this review will be widespread consultation with all stakeholders. My Department conducted a tendering process through the Office of Government Procurement and the consultancy firm has been appointed.

The work will begin soon and we expect a final report on the review towards the end of 2021. The review will also look at HR issues (which falls under the ‘Resources’ heading of the recommendations).


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