I thank the three Deputies for raising this issue.
My Department's local and community development programme, LCDP, is the largest social inclusion intervention of its kind in the State. The current programme officially ended at the end of 2013, having operated for four years with funding of €281 million over that period. It is being implemented on a transitional basis for 2014 with a budget of €47 million, pending the roll-out of the new social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP, in April 2015. Therefore, this is a gap or interim year.
In accordance with the public spending code, legal advice and good practice internationally, and in order to ensure the optimum delivery of the services to clients, the programme is subject to a public procurement process, which is currently under way. Stage one, expression of interest, has been completed. Stage two, invitation to tender, got under way on 20 October and will involve the successful applicants from stage one being invited to apply to one or more local community development committees in local authority areas to deliver the programme. Contracts for SICAP will be determined following the outcome of this extensive procurement process.
The SICAP is one of my key priorities on the community side of the Department, and its overall indicative budget for 2015 has been maintained close to 2014 levels. The Deputies should be aware that the indicative SICAP lot budgets are based on a nine-month period from April to December 2015, as opposed to a 12-month period. This may be reflected in some calculations. The 2014 budget for LCDPs was based on a 12-month period. Therefore, we are not comparing apples with apples in some cases.
The programme’s target groups are children and families from disadvantaged areas; lone parents; members of new communities, including refugees and asylum seekers; people living in disadvantaged communities; people with disabilities; the Roma community; the unemployed, including those not on the live register; Travellers; and young unemployed people from disadvantaged areas.
In allocating resources in the prevailing stringent budgetary situation, I was particularly conscious of the need to support funding levels for the LCDP and SICAP to ensure that resources were allocated in the fairest way possible and to make the maximum contribution to job creation and economic recovery. We may debate the fairest way possible, but we thought this was the fairest way. The Department’s intention is, over time, to use our knowledge of population levels and disadvantage to ensure that available resources are targeted at areas of greatest need. The ultimate ambition is to ensure they go where they are needed most. As a tool to assist with this, a resource allocation model, RAM, has been developed. In order to achieve the objective of moving towards allocating resources according to this model, the Department has in recent years worked to ensure that those areas with the greatest needs based on the RAM are protected, where possible, from cuts and moved towards achieving a fairer share of resources because, under different models, in the past we have had arguments on the allocation of resources. In deciding on funding allocations for SICAP, the principles of the RAM model were used. Overall, the SICAP allocations were lower in some instances than those for LCDP, commensurate with the overall funding available and the demographics of each lot. In instances where the application of the RAM would have resulted in a significant reduction in the funding allocation to a particular lot, my Department modified the results to ensure that the severity of the reduction was minimised.
The RAM, underpinned by the Pobal-HAASE deprivation index, which is used in regard to allocations, allows funds to be allocated in a manner which means that a disadvantaged person in any area of the country will have equality of resources available to their area to support their needs. This is the ultimate objective and it is what we are trying to achieve.