Written Answers. - Publication of White Paper.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

745 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs when he will publish the White Paper on the relationship between the voluntary and community sector and the State. [1111/99]

As indicated in my reply to questions on 29 April and 4 June 1998, I have established a steering group drawn from a range of relevant agencies and Departments and from the voluntary sector with the following terms of reference:

•advise on the consultation process with the voluntary and community sector (and with relevant statutory agencies) in relation to the White Paper,

•participate in same (i.e. provide speakers as appropriate),

•mediate and comment on feedback and advise on issues and directions for the White Paper.

The group has met on seven occasions to date. As I also indicated in my reply to the previous question, my intention was that the White Paper be published before the end of 1998. However, at the steering group meeting on 28 May 1998, members of the group expressed concern that this might be too tight a timeframe to allow for adequate consultation with the voluntary and community sector and asked that this timeframe be extended for some three months or so, so as to ensure that time is available for the widest range of voluntary and community groups to be involved in discussions and debate about the forthcoming White Paper. As my primary concern in the preparation of the White Paper is to ensure that it reflects the issues that are of real importance to the sector and that there is genuine consultation in this regard, I have agreed to this request.
The consultation process with the voluntary and community sector provides for a three phased approach. The first phase provides for information seminars and invites submissions from interested parties. The second phase involves a series of joint regional workshops for the voluntary and community groups and the statutory agencies. The steering group will develop a number of discussion papers reflecting the issues which have been raised in the first two phases of the consultation process. The final phase provides for a national seminar to which people, who have been involved in the initial phases, will be invited to discuss the issues addressed by the steering group in their papers.
The first phase of the consultation process has now been completed and the second phase is now taking place. Following completion of the consultation process with the voluntary and community sector, it is envisaged that the White Paper will be published during summer 1999.