Thursday, 24 October 2019

Questions (3)

John Curran

Question:

3. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the analysis carried out to ensure that those communities most disadvantaged as previously identified in RAPID areas are receiving adequate support and funding under the community enhancement programme since the closure of the RAPID programme and the establishment of the community enhancement programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43882/19]

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Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Rural)

Is Deputy Calleary introducing Question No. 3 in the name of Deputy Curran?

Yes.

The RAPID programme devised by Deputy Ó Cuív during his time in the Department was a very focused plan, especially with regard to urban disadvantage. There were 51 areas in it and it was beginning to achieve some success until funding was cut. The Minister, Deputy Ring, has now reviewed it and has come up with a new programme that takes in RAPID and extends it out. What is the current position? Has the Minister done analysis to show the impact of the dilution of the original RAPID scheme on those initial communities and on other communities?

Under the original RAPID programme, funding was ring-fenced for areas designated as RAPID. The key difference with the new community enhancement programme is that funding is allocated to every local authority area, on the basis of the deprivation level in each area. This is done using the Pobal Haase Pratschke, HP, deprivation index, which measures the wealth or disadvantage of a particular area using data compiled from the census.

Once funding is provided to each local authority area, the local community development committee, LCDC, then administers the programme. LCDCs monitor the programmes and ensure that the funding is benefiting communities, urban and rural, across the country in the fairest way possible. This approach ensures that local knowledge and more up-to-date information is used to allocate funding, rather than only providing funding to areas designated as RAPID a number of years ago.

The community enhancement programme is not the only way in which my Department provides support to disadvantaged areas. For example, the social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP, running from 2018 to 2022 is our country’s primary social inclusion intervention. This is a €190 million national programme delivered locally to help those in the greatest need.

The original remit of RAPID was to address the way we do silo government in this country. I do not mean politically, it was to do with Departments doing their own thing. RAPID was supposed to bring everybody together, and specifically in the most disadvantaged areas, to agree on programmes and invest accordingly in a very targeted way. This new way loses that targeting and the focus. I am aware that the LCDCs are in charge of the programme on the ground but is the Minister monitoring it nationally? Is there a system so we can measure on a consistent basis the impact across the country? Are there measurable targets to be met where we could see if an LCDC or a local programme is not delivering or where improvements or enhancements could be made?

The Minister made a commitment to my colleague Deputy Curran earlier this year that he would look at the community enhancement programme for re-profiling, to use the Minister's own phrase, in terms of money not being spent elsewhere in the Minister's Department during the final quarter of this year. Will the Minister indicate if he will be investing any more money in this programme before the end of the year?

On the RAPID programme, to be fair it was closed in 2003 and reopened again in 2011. A value-for-money report was done on that programme, which stated that if we were ever to do another RAPID programme again it must be done a different way. There was a community facilities programme and a RAPID programme so I amalgamated both of them and brought it into the community enhancement programme. I then brought it down to the local level with the LCDCs because I felt that these are the people on the ground. The Deputy is aware of how these LCDCs are set up. They are made up of the local communities, including the elected representatives and different sections of society. By bringing it down to the grassroots I felt that they would have a better understanding and would be able to target areas in most need of the funding.

Deputy Calleary is quite correct that in my budget baseline last year, I had €4.5 million, which is the same for this year. I had savings last year and put a further €8 million into the scheme. This year I put €4.5 million plus €500,000 for the men's and women's sheds. If I am to re-profile money again it is something I would look at.

The Deputy asked a serious and good question about monitoring the programme. I have to monitor and am doing a review to ensure that this does not become a fund that is not targeted to the people that need it most, particularly in disadvantaged communities. We are monitoring the programme and reviewing it. We are looking at it and if I feel there is a need to make changes in the programme, I will.

What measurement is in place in the Department to ensure the consistency of the LCDCs across the country?

Can we look at a comparison between the 51 areas that were in the original RAPID programme and which were getting places, to see how they are faring under the new model of the community enhancement programme? Has there been a loss of investment or a loss of improvement in those areas as a consequence of the new programme?

The Deputy is on the same hymn sheet as I am. I want to make sure this funding is targeted to the areas where it is needed most.

The Deputy asked about consistency. This is the reason I asked for the review. I went through a number of counties looking at the way they were allocating the funding. Some counties seemed to have a different way than did other counties. I needed to get some consistency in the ways they allocated funding. I do not want it to become a fund for anybody; I just want it to be targeted to the areas that need it most. The Deputy is aware that in disadvantaged areas in particular, they have used the funding for CCTV and to buy equipment. In some areas it has been used very well but I saw some grants that I was not happy with and this is why I asked for the review. There are other schemes where they could make applications for those other grants. I want this programme to target disadvantaged communities be it for CCTV, to buy a lawnmower, for repairs to a community hall or to buy a small bit of machinery. This is what I want done. We are reviewing it and I am watching it. If it is not working, then I would have no difficulty in having another look at ways and means of doing a different scheme. I wanted to bring it down to the communities because I wanted to give the LCDCs the opportunity. They are on the ground and I know they will make the best decisions for the communities they represent.