Written Answers. - Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

126 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs his views on the findings of the social inclusion strategy 1999-2000, annual report of the NAPS Inter-Departmental Policy Committee and if he will make fresh efforts to deal with spatial aspects of poverty here. [20497/00]

I welcome the findings of the second annual report of the National Anti-Poverty Strategy Inter-Departmental Policy Committee 1999-2000 which I launched with the Taoiseach last Friday, 29 September. The progress which has been made since the launch of the strategy in 1997 is very significant. The key targets set under the strategy have now all been met. Unemployment is down to 4.3%, long-term unemployment is down from 7% in 1996 to 1.6% today and consistent poverty has almost halved from 15% to just over 8% today.

While progress to date has been striking, much needs to be done. The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness provides that the National Anti-Poverty Strategy will be updated and existing targets reviewed and revised where appropriate. Possible new targets will be considered in consultation with the social partners and emerging causes of poverty will be analysed. Urban and rural poverty will be addressed in a co-ordinated and coherent manner and this process will be strengthened by the ongoing reform of local government which will maximise the involvement and participation of local communities in the democratic process.
My Department has for a number of years operated a range of grants schemes and community development support programmes which concentrate on a wide range of support for local self-help groups, community development, welfare rights and information work, and on the provision of seed money to enable community groups to pilot initiatives identified as meeting new and emerging community needs. The community development support programmes were included in the National Development Plan with a commitment of over £100 million over the lifetime of the plan.
These programmes focus on investment in capacity building, so that socially excluded groups and local communities can be active participants in identifying and meeting their own development needs, working alongside the other social partners.
The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness provides for the establishment of an interdepartmental committee to identify and clarify the range of existing and proposed social inclusion measures in the national development plan from which integrated targeted intervention measures can be developed. This committee will have regard to the experience and implications of many existing initiatives including the community development programme. The committee will make recommendations to the Government by December 2000, enabling 25 areas to be designated with a prioritised list of measures that can be implemented within a three year time frame. The committee will explore all avenues and actions that can be front loaded, within existing budget lines, at the 25 designated areas, following their designation. Substantial increases in funding are provided for social inclusion measures in the national development plan and this process seeks to ensure that these funds and actions are co-ordinated and targeted at the areas of greatest need.
Question No. 127 with Question No. 106.