Tuesday, 5 April 2022
Department of Rural and Community Development
Refugee Resettlement Programme
98. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the steps that she is taking to ensure Ukrainian citizens fleeing conflict who are accommodated in rural areas have access to vital services to support their integration into the community (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17934/22]
111. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the steps that have been taken to help support the integration of Ukrainian refugees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17957/22]
119. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development her views on the best way that her Department can support Ukrainian refugees, particularly in relation to access to local services and mobility; the measures that have already been taken by her Department in relation to same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17958/22]
125. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the position regarding the measures taken by her Department to support the community integration of persons fleeing from Ukraine as a result of the Russian invasion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18045/22]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 98, 111, 119 and 125 together.
As the Deputies will be aware, Government is working to ensure that local capacity, resources and knowledge are brought to bear on the overall humanitarian response to people fleeing Ukraine and seeking protection in Ireland.
My Department is contributing to the effort by linking with key stakeholders at community level, providing information, assisting the co-ordination of supports through the community sector, and enabling flexibility in programme delivery to shift focus on the Ukraine response. In this regard, my Department has offered every flexibility to Local Development Companies, freeing around 600 Community Development Workers to help support arrivals from Ukraine into their locality. In addition, organisations supported under the Community Services Programme can include Ukrainian arrivals in the target groups for their services. In some cases, exceptional additional funding for staff resources is being provided by my Department to organisations providing volunteer support in frontline reception hubs.
My Department has committed to meeting regularly with key national stakeholders from the Community and Voluntary sector and recently hosted an information webinar attended by over 160 participants from organisations involved in the Ukraine response effort. The webinar provided information, disseminated key messages and encouraged communication and co-ordination.
I recognise that the capacity, willingness and expertise exists at local level to co-ordinate responses, signpost services, and link voluntary and statutory efforts. Huge efforts were made by volunteers during the pandemic, and dedicated volunteers across the country are already working again to help people from Ukraine arriving in Ireland. Government is working to ensure that local capacity, resources and knowledge are brought to bear on the overall humanitarian response and will work closely with Local Authorities to ensure a well-co-ordinated and seamless approach.
Building on structures developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Community Response Fora are being repurposed in each local authority area. The role of each Forum will be to coordinate the community-led response in the provision of assistance and support to Ukrainian refugees as they are accommodated around the country.
In this regard, my Department, together with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, has prepared a Community Response Framework to guide that work. It sets out a national template for arrangements to be put in place in each area to enable all involved at a local level to work together to support the integration of Ukrainian refugees to our communities, under the stewardship of the local authorities.
Local Community Development Committees(LCDCs) are strategically well-placed to assist with the local responses, linking in with state bodies represented on the LCDCs and with other local authority services and initiatives. In this regard, both the Chair and the Chief Officer of the LCDC are members of the relevant Community Response Forum.
Public Participation Networks(PPNs) in many local authority areas are serving as networking and information hubs for community and local member groups in their area. PPNs are providing information and resources on how people can assist or donate aid, and coordinating information from those responding to the crisis.
Our volunteer support programme, which includes Volunteer Ireland and the network of volunteer centres, is heavily engaged in sourcing volunteers to address the many requests for specific volunteer roles emerging across the country. These include reception centres, provision of basic supplies, integration services, access to information, etc. The Community Volunteers pilot programme is also providing a way for local communities to offer support to those in need. Developed based on lessons learned about volunteering during COVID-19, the programme is funded by my Department, coordinated by Volunteer Ireland and Volunteer Centres, and supported by the Local Authority in each area.
The response to COVID-19 showed what we can achieve by working together: national government, local government, and community, voluntary and local development sectors. My Department is coordinating with all our stakeholders, including LCDCs, Volunteer Centres, Community Volunteers, and Public Participation Networks, to maximise the effectiveness of the response.