Written Answers. - Community Development.

Bernard J. Durkan


132 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals in respect of rural and community development for the future having regard to the likely EU impact; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3717/03]

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.

The Leader programmes agreed with the Commission in 2001 will operate until December 2006 and will be subject to an independent mid-term review at the end of this year. My Department will contribute to the overall review process and will seek maximum support from the Commission. My Department will continue to implement the current Leader programmes to give the maximum benefit to rural communities. In October 2001, I introduced the CLÁR programme for disadvantaged rural areas. An Agreed Programme for Government includes a commitment to continue the CLÁR programme, ensuring annual funding, and to consider additional areas for inclusion in light of the 2002 population census results. Last month, I announced a substantial expansion of the CLÁR areas.
Rural and community development will continue to benefit from programmes of the nature I have outlined. There is a clear need to streamline and integrate structures, processes and schemes to achieve more effective and efficient support for communities. This will be done against the background of and with reference to developments at EU level. Within the various schemes and programmes for which I have responsibility and through influencing other Departments, I aim to ensure that communities continue to be supported and strengthened through a range of support frameworks.