Thursday, 15 July 2021
Department of Rural and Community Development
488. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the degree to which her Department continues to target urban or rural deprivation by way of specifically designed assistance in financial terms; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38965/21]
491. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of projects throughout the country in urban or rural areas currently in place through her Department aimed at addressing issues of social or economic disadvantage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38968/21]
492. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the degree to which she and her Department continue to liaise with urban and rural communities with a view to identifying the most appropriate means of offering support to meet their specific concerns particularly in the aftermath of Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38969/21]
493. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the success to date of the various initiatives introduced by her Department to address issues of social or economic deprivation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38970/21]
494. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development her medium to long-term objectives to ensure that economic progress is spread evenly throughout the country in a sustainable way; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38971/21]
495. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which her Department continues to be in contact with urban or rural based groups seeking to improve opportunities for employment and social development within the communities; the success of such schemes to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38972/21]
504. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of persons in urban and rural areas likely to benefit from initiatives taken by her and her Department through the aegis of the various schemes in place; if any new schemes or extension to existing schemes are proposed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38982/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 488, 491 to 495, inclusive, and 504 together.
My Department delivers a wide range of policies and measures to support urban and rural communities. All policy is underpinned by broad consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including rural and urban stakeholder groups, young people and the wider public, Government Departments and State Agencies. This engagement process provides important insights into issues impacting on rural and urban communities and in identifying areas for response relevant to the work of my Department.
My Department introduced specific supports, interventions and funding packages, having assessed the emerging needs of urban and rural communities impacted by COVID-19. A range of COVID-19 related supports were introduced to support the response and recovery from the pandemic in 2020 including; COVID-19 Stability Fund; Broadened Community Enhancement Programme; Town & Village Renewal – Accelerated Measure; Philanthropy Fund ‘Innovate Together’; Broadened CLÁR Programme; Comic Relief match funding; Libraries Development- Small Scale Capital Works Programme; Community Services Programme (CSP) Support Fund; Social Enterprise Funding; Volunteer Support Programme and the COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
My Department continues to provide COVID-19 supports to communities right across the country. On 6th May I launched the 2021 Stability Fund, with an allocation of €10m, targeting organisations which deliver critical services to vulnerable people within their community but which now face closure or loss of service due to the impact of the pandemic. This €10 million investment builds on the €45 million Stability Fund 2020, which supported almost 600 organisations across the country.
The application process for the 2021 Stability Fund has now closed, with applications appraised and assessed in batches to facilitate timely drawdowns. Decisions will be released on an ongoing basis. I was pleased to announce Tranche One of successful grantees under the 2021 Stability Fund on 9th July 2021, supporting 180 organisations with close to €4.5m in allocations. Further tranches will follow in due course.
The recently launched €4.5 million 2021 Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) 2021 will also support local groups to re-open their facilities post COVID-19. The application window is open, groups should contact their LCDC for information on making applications.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the invaluable role played by Social Enterprises in their communities. Across Ireland throughout this pandemic Social Enterprises have made an important contribution in areas such as mental health, social inclusion and the circular economy.
In February, I announced a €800,000 call for proposals from Local Development Companies to provide supports to assist Social Enterprises in their recovery from COVID-19. given the high level of interest and quality of the applications, on 8 July I increased this allocation to €945,000.
The programme, which is funded through my Department’s Dormant Accounts Fund, will provide free training and mentoring to social enterprise managers, directors and staff across the country. It is estimated that over 550 social enterprises will benefit from these supports over the next year, which will build their capacity in areas such as strategic planning, digital innovation, capacity building and governance.
The COVID-19 Social Enterprise Regeneration Programme builds on successful schemes for Social Enterprises funded by my Department in recent years, such as the Training and Mentoring Scheme and the Small Capital Grants Scheme for Social Enterprises. This announcement underscores my commitment to supporting Social Enterprises and to delivering the National Social Enterprise Policy 2019-2022 which was published by my Department in 2019 and is part of a suite of policy initiatives from the Department of Rural and Community Development to support those who work with communities and disadvantaged groups.
The programme will be delivered by the Local Development Companies on a regional basis and will be managed on the Department’s behalf by the Irish Local Development Network (ILDN). The regional rollout of the scheme contributes positively to the commitment under Our Rural Future to deliver a suite of new measures to support the development of Social Enterprises in rural and to contribute to job creation locally.
Other supports provided by my Department for communities impacted by COVID include:
- €50 million 2020 support package for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Charities and Social Enterprises launched by Government and administered by my Department. This funding was made available from the Dormant Accounts Fund through the COVID-19 Stability Fund and the Innovate Together Fund.
- €4.2 million for 2 rounds of the 2020 COVID-19 Emergency Fund which was focused on groups participating in the Government’s “Community Call” initiative.
- €7 million was provided in funding for the Community Enhancement Programme in 2020. This comprised of €2 million in June and a further €5 million in August under the Government July Stimulus package.
- €4.75m Community Services Programme, or CSP, 2020 additional support fund, developed by my Department in response to the difficulties being experienced by organisations due to COVID-19, to continue to retain their CSP supported employees on their payroll, regardless of whether the organisations are in a position to continue to provide normal activities or whether they have had to close their facilities/services as a result of the COVID restrictions. The programme currently supports over 420 community organisations under the Community Services Programme, or CSP, to provide local services through a social enterprise model, in both urban and rural communities. Our 2020 allocation is €46.89m and we achieved full spend in 2020. We have an additional €2m for 2021. Some €49m is available to support community organisations under the programme in 2021.
- €25 million under the 2020 Town and Village Renewal Scheme focused on interventions to support the economic and social recovery of our rural towns and villages and assist them in responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19.
- My Department worked with Pobal to put in place guidelines for the community and voluntary sector for reopening or operating their premises safely, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- My Department worked to support the Community Call initiative which was an unprecedented mobilisation of both state and voluntary resources to combat the effects of COVID-19. This included providing funding for a COVID-19 Community Outreach initiative implemented by the Wheel and Irish Rural link, which supported the voluntary sector.
- My Department provided flexibility under the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP 2020, €39.1 million) to allow Local Development Companies work to support initiatives put in place to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Groups or organisations qualify for support schemes or programmes provided by my Department where they meet the requisite eligibility criteria. Some examples of key supports, interventions and funding provided by my Department for communities throughout the country are as follows:
- €6.5 million funding towards the regeneration of Dublin’s North East Inner City (NEIC) support in 2020, and the same amount will be available in 2021.
- €340,000 under the CLÁR 2020 programme through the addition of a new funding measure - Meals on Wheels and Linked Services which placed a particular focus on supporting CLÁR communities to deal with the impact of COVID-19 in their areas.
- €5.8 million in funding was approved under CLÁR 2020 for 186 projects. The CLÁR 2021 budget is increased by 10% to €5.5 million.
- €1.3 million support for voluntary organisations who provide transport for service users in rural areas under the 2020 Mobility and Cancer Care Measure.
- I have secured an additional €2 million in Budget 2021 as part of the expanded Town and Village Renewal Scheme.
- €20 million, initial allocation in December 2020 for Transitional LEADER Programme which will come into effect from 1st. April 2021. A key focus of the Transitional Programme will be on building capacity within communities which have not received LEADER funding to date. The programme will also support job creation, foster and encourage entrepreneurship, and support projects which address the climate agenda, digital transformation and the Smart Villages approach to building on local strengths and assets. Under the Transitional Programme, the grant rate for enterprises and commercially-focused community projects will be increased from a maximum of 50% to a maximum of 75%. This will further help to support enterprise development and job creation in rural areas in a post COVID and Brexit environment.
- Since the establishment of the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, 164 projects have been approved for funding of €249 million for projects costing €328 million.
- The projects approved for funding are large scale, ambitious projects that have the potential to allow rural communities to transform and reshape their towns and villages and position them to take advantage of the opportunities arising from the pandemic in terms of remote working and of people returning to rural areas to live and work.
- I announced the third call for Category 2 applications to the Fund on 12th May with a closing date of 30th July. I am seeking large scale projects that will drive economic growth, combat dereliction and breathe new life into town centres.
- The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme, or SICAP, is our country’s primary social inclusion intervention. It is a national programme delivered with funding of €190 million over a five-year period from 2018 to 2022. The work in each area differs to support local structures and needs rather than imposing general solutions. It will include work to combat isolation experienced by disadvantaged individuals. SICAP supports a range of groups in society which are disadvantaged and marginalised.
- My Department provides support to Local Authorities towards the cost of additional staff to support the community function in Local Authorities. These are key posts which continue to support the coordinated Local Community Development Committee arrangements and the implementation of Local Economic and Community Plans in particular monitoring the emerging needs of urban and rural communities throughout the country with a view to responding specifically as required.
In addition my Department has published a number of important policies which will bring tangible benefits to communities throughout the country, including:
- The recently launched Our Rural Future, a new whole-of-Government Rural Development Policy for the next five years, which sets out a range of measures to strengthen the resilience of our rural communities and economies, including addressing the impacts of challenges experienced by people living and working in rural Ireland and maximising opportunities for rural areas.
- The development of the National Volunteering Strategy provided an opportunity to engage with the sector and the establishment of a National Advisory Group representative of all stakeholders and chaired by the Minister of State, including engagement with our young people through a consultation event with Foróige. €5.1m is allocated in 2021 to provide support to Volunteer Centres, Volunteering Organisation and to assist with the implementation of the new National Volunteering Strategy 2021-2025. Supporting the role of volunteers in our society is an important element of my Department’s work.
Ongoing dialogue is maintained by my Department with rural and urban stakeholders, in order to identify and respond to issues impacting on individuals and communities. I will also continue to collaborate with my Government colleagues and will monitor the issues which impact our urban and rural communities in order to respond to emerging needs.