Written answers

Thursday, 15 September 2022

Department of Rural and Community Development

Rural Schemes

Photo of John LahartJohn Lahart (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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86. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the additional supports that have been provided to the voluntary and community sector over the past two years. [45103/22]

Photo of Joe O'BrienJoe O'Brien (Dublin Fingal, Green Party)
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My Department continuously engages with the community and voluntary sector including through the Cross Sectoral Group (CSG) and in implementing ‘Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities’, the five-year strategy to support the C&V sector.

My Department also delivers a wide range of supports to eligible community and voluntary organisations throughout the country.

These supports include, amongst others, the Community Centres Investment Fund, Community Services Programme Community & Voluntary Supports programme, Community Activities Fund, Community Enhancement Programme, and the Scheme to Support National Organisations.

Community organisations who are social enterprises can also apply for funding under the Dormant Accounts Fund Social Enterprise Measure. €2.3m in funding was allocated in 2020 and 2021.

In June, the Empowering Communities Programme was announced comprising €2m funding for a Community Engagement Worker in 14 small areas around the country which are experiencing significant disadvantage. This initiative is informed by the Community Development Pilot Programme, which I launched in 2021, to pilot community development initiatives that address poverty, social exclusion and inequality, and promote human rights.

The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP), is our country’s primary social inclusion programme. The current iteration runs from 2018 until the end of 2023. Increases in the annual allocations have been achieved over the last couple of years and I was delighted to secure a 10% increase for 2022, the largest increase since the programme began. Over €250 million funding is allocated for the current programming period.

€5.5m funding is available in 2022 to support 29 Volunteer Centres, national organisations such as Volunteer Ireland and to support the implementation of the National Volunteering Strategy. This funding enables Volunteer Centres in each county to play a central role in facilitating and supporting the development of volunteering in their areas.

Targeted supports are provided my Department based on emerging needs of communities. In 2020, €4.2 million was provided under the COVID-19 Emergency Fund which targeted help at groups participating in the Government’s “Community Call” initiative. Through the COVID-19 Stability Fund Stability Fund my Department supported a total of 863 organisations delivering critical services to vulnerable people in 2020 and 2021 with total funding of €48.8 million.

And in June I announced an additional €10.5 million funding under the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme to support people arriving from Ukraine.

I am confident the supports provided by my Department will continue to support and enable the community and voluntary sector to continue to provide valuable much needed services communities throughout the country.

Photo of Claire KerraneClaire Kerrane (Roscommon-Galway, Sinn Fein)
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92. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if she will provide an update on the development of a rural-proofing mechanism, as outlined in Our Rural Future: Rural Development Policy 2021-2025; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44712/22]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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Our Rural Future is the most ambitious and transformational policy for rural development in Ireland for decades. The policy contains more than 150 measures for delivery across the whole of Government, with the underlying theme of economic, environmental and societal sustainability.

The policy commits to developing an effective rural proofing model within the lifetime of the policy. This will aim to ensure that all departments fully consider the effects of new proposals on rural communities and the need to better target the particular challenges and opportunities facing rural areas.

Following a competitive tender process, my Department engaged independent consultants to fully examine the issue of rural proofing in Ireland in order to provide a strong evidence basis for further action. Their work included consideration of rural proofing initiatives internationally so as to inform our approach based on the experiences of others. The consultants have provided their final report to my officials in my Department and it is now undergoing detailed consideration. I hope to receive the report shortly.

In addition, as DRCD will be hosting the 13th OECD International Rural Development Conference at the end of September, in collaboration with our OECD partners, we have designed in a session focussed on rural proofing of services such as healthcare provision in rural areas. This session will be facilitated by the OECD and the World Health Organisation, and will be held in plenary format with more than 400 people from right across the OECD area expected to attend. This presents an unparalleled opportunity to further enhance our understanding of international good practice regarding rural proofing. We will shape our planned next steps based on all of these elements.

My overarching objective is to ensure that we can deliver an effective, efficient and implementable rural proofing model that will support rural development and ensure that we maximise the opportunities for rural areas to the greatest extent possible.


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