The Deputy will be aware that one of the key objectives underlying the establishment of my Department is the achievement of a more co-ordinated engagement by the State with urban and rural communities around the country as they pursue their development. My Department operates a range of grant schemes which concentrate on a wide range of support for local self-help groups, community development, community support for older people and the provision of seed money to enable community groups to pilot initiatives identified as meeting new and emerging community needs. In addition, long-term funding is provided to locally based voluntary and community groups involved in anti-poverty and social inclusion initiatives through the community development support programmes.
Under the local development measure of the regional operational programmes of the national development plan, funding is available to 38 partnerships, 33 community groups and four territorial employment pacts that deliver the programme at local level. Partnerships and community groups operate in areas designated by the Government as disadvantaged. My Department is also responsible for the RAPID programme, which is a focused initiative to target the most concentrated areas of disadvantage in the country. It calls on Government Departments and State agencies to bring about better co-ordination and closer integration in the delivery of services. There are two strands of the RAPID programme – strand one targets 25 urban areas while strand two targets 20 provincial towns around the country.