Thursday, 11 July 2019

Questions (10, 889)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

10. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which he continues to monitor social or economic deficits in urban and rural areas nationally with a view to identifying the more salient interventions available to his Department in order to maximise the social or economic outcome; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30441/19]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

889. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which he has identified gaps in the system in which urban or rural communities, older or younger persons have suffered as a result of geographic location or economic exclusion with a view to offering assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31389/19]

View answer

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Rural)

Deputy McLoughlin has been given permission to introduce a question submitted by Deputy Durkan.

I ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which he continues to monitor social or economic deficits in urban and rural areas nationally with a view to identifying the more salient interventions available to his Department in order to maximise the social or economic outcome; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 889 together.

I am satisfied that my Department delivers an effective package of supports which strengthen rural and urban communities. Funding priorities are reviewed and monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure our supports remain targeted at those most in need socially and economically. 

The social inclusion and community activation plan, SICAP, is the largest social inclusion intervention in the State. The current programme, which runs from 2018 to 2022, was launched last year and will provide approximately €38 million this year for communities in need. SICAP allocations to areas are informed by the Pobal Haase deprivation index, which measures the relative affluence or disadvantage of areas within the State. This ensures that the programme is targeting disadvantage. Other relevant programmes, supports and interventions funded by my Department include the provision of €6.5 million towards the regeneration of the Dublin north-east inner city, NEIC.

My Department also funds the community services programme, which is currently being reviewed and has €46 million available to support community organisations in 2019. The community enhancement programme, born out of a review of the RAPID programme and communities facilities scheme, addresses disadvantage in urban and rural communities and allocated €13 million to more than 3,000 projects in its first year. The 2019 scheme was launched in May last with an allocation of €4.5 million.

My Department also continues to develop policy that can assist with the effective targeting of future funding. We are engaging with communities throughout the country on a new Government rural development policy to follow on from the Action Plan for Rural Development, a cross-Government plan to support economic and social development in Ireland’s rural areas. An implementation plan for the framework policy for local and community development in Ireland, as well as Ireland’s first national policy on social enterprise, are also at an advanced stage of development. In addition, the rural regeneration and development fund will provide €1 billion over the next ten years for rural towns and villages, while the town centre living initiative, a pilot programme aimed at testing approaches to the revitalisation of towns and villages, was rolled out in six towns across the country in 2018.

The Department is confident that all the initiatives it is delivering will combine to have a significant positive impact on all communities, rural and urban, both socially and economically.

The Minister of State mentioned urban regeneration funding of €6.5 million. Rural areas are crying out for an extension of regeneration and additional funding over the next number of years and money is earmarked for the plan for 2018 to 2022. How many rural areas will benefit from this regeneration? There is a need for additional funding and I am sure Deputy Durkan's constituency is like mine in this regard. I welcome the allocation of €38 million for drawdown. There is €46 million for community schemes and this is the way forward. The Minister, Deputy Ring, spoke about how these have been in place for a number of years and we see how many communities have benefitted from that funding.

The rural regeneration development fund is a game changer for rural Ireland. The Department has allocated €52 million in funding in 2019 for projects supported by the rural fund. The first call for applications was closed in September 2018 and 280 applications were received, out of which 38 successful category 1 projects were approved, which have planning and other consents in place and are ready to go. The 46 vital projects in category 2 have been announced with funding of €86 million to support projects worth €170 million. A total of €1 billion is available in the rural regeneration fund over the next ten years and we need to have a cycle of projects coming through, from inception to getting the consents, at which point they move to category 2, the detailed design and procurement stage, before being built. This is the game changer that rural Ireland needs. When we look back on it, we will see it as one of the most significant funding opportunities rural Ireland has had from the Department.

Getting schemes ready, from the planning stages to being shovel-ready, in order that funding can be drawn down in local communities across the length and breadth of the country, is very important. It has been a game changer and it is the only way forward for communities to get funding to enhance their areas. Local people get involved in these schemes once they get the incentive and the funding from the Department. I welcome this and I hope it continues. The Minister of State said there was approximately €170 million over the next number of years for these schemes and that will make a huge difference across the country, including in urban areas where derelict parts of town need regeneration and funding. In the future, we also need to assist local authorities with funding.

The Deputy referred to rural regeneration and social deprivation in urban areas. SICAP is informed by the deprivation index, which measures the relative affluence or disadvantage in areas within the State. It is important that we do not leave anybody behind. The community services programme extended in 2019 will provide an additional €1 million to organisations finding it difficult to meet the minimum wage obligation. The budget for the Dublin north east inner city initiative that was put in place following the Mulvey report budget is €6.5 million in 2019, an increase of €3 million on 2018, which may be of interest to the Deputy. It funds further projects, including pilot drug schemes, social employment projects and community grants and events.

The community enhancement programme, which initially received funding of €4.5 million for 2019, focuses on supporting groups in disadvantaged areas. The framework policy for local and community development in Ireland implementation plan, as well as Ireland's first national policy on the very important theme of social enterprise are in advanced development. We must not forget the urban regeneration fund, which helps larger projects in cities that will start the process and are key to achieving social inclusion.