As the Deputy will be aware my Department was established on 6 June 2002 to promote and support the sustainable and inclusive development of communities, both urban and rural, thereby fostering better regional balance and alleviating disadvantage.
My Department has responsibility for a wide range of programmes covering community and local development, drugs, volunteering, Gaeltacht, Irish language and rural development. Many of these measures, individually and collectively, focus on communities, particularly those that are vulnerable or under threat. Those communities may be in rural or inner city settings, grappling with difficulties caused by a range of factors, including declining populations, unemployment, language issues, social disadvantage or drug misuse. As well as communities that can be defined in terms of geographic location, the Department also supports communities that are defined on the basis of a common focus on a particular issue. My Department operates a number of National schemes such as the Community Services Programme, Local Development Programme, Dormant Accounts Fund and Community Development Programme which provide significant resources to both urban and rural communities.
The Local Development Social Inclusion Programme (LDSIP) provides a series of Measures, funded under the National Development Plan 2000-2006, that are designed to tackle social exclusion, deliver a more sustainable economy, improve employment prospects and balance regional development. These Measures are particularly targeted at the areas of greatest need throughout the country. The LDSIP aims to empower communities in these areas to tackle disadvantage and to have a fresh start.
The LDSIP seeks to improve the quality of life for all members of our communities but specifically targets the following Groups:
The long-term unemployed
Disadvantaged young people
Low-income farm Households
Young people at risk
Disadvantaged communities living in isolated rural areas or deprived urban areas.
Pobal administers the LDSIP on behalf of my Department. The LDSIP is delivered by 38 Partnerships, 31 Community Partnerships and 2 Employment Pacts, which are not-for-profit private companies focusing on combating disadvantage and social exclusion in their areas. It is intended to extend the scope of the LDSIP to provide full national coverage under the programme for 2007. Further developments in relation to the programme are dependent on the finalisation of the next NDP.
In regard to the Community Services Programme, the Partnership Agreement, "Towards 2016" commits the government to providing an additional €30m over the next three years to the CSP. This will increase the annual budget from €42m to €72m by 2009. Applications for extra funding in 2006/7 have been assessed and 125 successful projects have been notified.
Funding is available directly from my Department for RAPID areas under the RAPID Leverage schemes, which I introduced in 2004. These schemes cover Local Authority Housing Estate Enhancement, provision of Playgrounds, improved Traffic Measures, locally based Health projects, Justice projects (including Community Based CCTV) and Sports Capital Programme Top Up. I have already announced schemes in all these areas to cover 2006, 2007 and indeed some schemes extend into 2008. I am constantly reviewing the needs and views of the RAPID areas and communities and will consider expanding the remit of the current schemes when and if the need arises.
The Community Development Programme was established in 1990 in recognition of the role of community development in tackling the causes and effects of poverty and disadvantage. The Programme is designed to reduce social exclusion by targeting support at disadvantaged and socially excluded communities in order to improve their capacity to benefit from social and economic development. The Programme is not a grant scheme as projects are funded on a contract basis, and only projects within the Programme are funded. 182 projects, located in recognised disadvantaged urban and rural areas nationwide, are currently supported under the Programme. In keeping with the bottom-up ethos of the Programme, volunteers drawn from the local community manage these projects. Typically, a project will be core-funded to support two staff members and the cost of administration and overheads of a resource premises. Once-off grants are also available, covering minor maintenance of premises, purchase of office equipment and selected programme activities.
Some €24 million has been allocated to the Programme in 2006. This will bring funding to approximately €148m under the Programme through the current National Development Plan since the foundation of the Department in 2002. Funded projects are expected to:
have an anti-poverty focus and promote the participation of people experiencing poverty and exclusion at all levels of the project
act as a resource within the communities of which they are a part
be managed by local voluntary management committees made up predominantly of people from the local area/target groups who themselves have experience of disadvantage and social exclusion
promote co-ordination and co-operation between community, voluntary and statutory groups in their areas.
Reports from the Projects indicate that some 30,000 people use the services and resources of their local CDP on an annual basis with 15,000 of these participating in CDP based training and education courses. CDPs also provide resources/facilities for over 700 local community organisations. These include groups representing lone parents, people with disabilities, the elderly, youth groups, childcare groups and other miscellaneous groups working with disadvantaged communities.
The Community Development Programme 2000-2006 expires at the end of December 2006 in line with the current National Development Plan (NDP) and all such programmes. My Department is currently framing a successor programme to support Community Development Projects under a new NDP to cover the period 2007 to 2013. The development of a new programme must ensure that actions undertaken by Projects and funded by the Exchequer should be fully consistent with the strategic framework agreed for the NDP. The new partnership agreement, Towards 2016; the recent National Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion (NSSPI), submitted to the EU in September of this year; the forthcoming National Action Plan for Social Inclusion (NAP inclusion); and the NDP (2007-2013) will provide an extensive strategic framework to create more coherent and integrated structures.
Disbursements from the Dormant Accounts Fund are for the purpose of assisting three broad categories of persons — those who are economically or socially disadvantaged; those who are educationally disadvantaged and persons with a disability. In accordance with the Dormant Accounts Board's Disbursement Plan, allocations from the Fund are targeted in particular at those areas designated as most disadvantaged (i.e. RAPID, CLÁR and Local Drugs Task Force areas). In this regard, €11.35 million was approved in July 2006 to support 188 priority projects in RAPID areas.