Tuesday, 16 November 2021
Department of Rural and Community Development
Flexible Work Practices
687. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development her plans to ensure the full accessibility of remote working hubs to be developed for persons who are blind or vision impaired; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55547/21]
Our Rural Future, Ireland’s Rural Development Policy 2021-2025, recognises the opportunity for rural rejuvenation that remote working presents and also the potential of remote working hubs as key economic assets for our rural towns and villages. My Department operates a number of funding schemes that focus on projects supporting remote working through the development of hubs, including the development of BCPs as long-term, digitally-enabled community assets.
In May I launched the National Connected Hubs network together with the connectedhubs.ieplatform. This platform will offer a suite of booking, hub management and e-commerce applications to members of the Network. The Network will also facilitate the sharing of innovation, experience and best practices across the community. These supports will serve to maximise benefit to member hubs, hub clients, employers, local communities and the wider economy.
The National Hub Network Working Group led by my Department has identified and mapped over 450 remote working hubs across the country. These hubs are invited to join the Connected Hubs Network to create shared infrastructure that will deliver real benefits to local communities. To date, approximately 160 hubs have joined the Connected Hubs Network, with this number rising on an ongoing basis.
In March 2021 the National Disability Authority (NDA) published their assessment report for progress made on actions under the National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017 – 2021 for 2020. The report emphasises the importance of persons with disabilities being considered as part of any recovery from the current crisis. The National Connected Hubs networkis a key part of our plans to make remote working a reality for thousands of people post Covid-19. In July this year, through the Connected Hubs funding stream, I awarded close to €9 million in funding to over 100 successful applicants. This funding supports the addition of capacity to existing remote working infrastructure in digital hubs and broadband connection points throughout the country. Disability access upgrades were explicitly included as one of the eligible criteria under my Department’s Connected Hubs 2021 call.
The development of a national hubs network is a key commitment in Our Rural Futureand I am committed to continuing my Department's support for the development of remote working hubs in recognition of the vital role that they can play in our post-Covid recovery. The National Hub Network Working Group will explore all opportunities for further development of the Connected Hubs Network, including the ongoing provision of funding for disability facilities.