Local Authorities play an essential role in supporting vibrant and sustainable communities and community based services.
My Department regularly engages with Local Authorities through their representation on the Cross-Sectoral Group on Local and Community Development, who oversee implementation of Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities: a five-year strategy to support the community and voluntary sector in Ireland . This engagement will continue as we endeavour to support the full implementation of the strategy.
My Department has statutory responsibility to coordinate the design and implementation of the Local Economic and Community Plans (LECPs) at a local level. LECPs work with a 6-year life cycle and current LECPs are completing in 2021 and into 2022. An LECP Advisory Group has been established to support the process to develop Guidelines for the forthcoming LECPs, with representation from Local Authorities. This process will be key for building an effective LECP framework on which community based services will thrive.
My Department also has statutory responsibility for the local and community development governance structures introduced on foot of the local government reform process, namely the Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs), the Public Participation Networks (PPNs) and Local Economic and Community Plans (LECPs). As a result, the Department has ongoing interaction with all of these structures to support their ongoing work and the work of Local Authorities in the context of community development and social inclusion, including my Department's Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP). Other examples of my Department's engagement with Local Authorities in the context of delivery of community-based services or requirements include the following:
- The Department funded programmes in 2020 including two rounds of the Community Enhancement Programme (€7m) and two rounds of the COVID-19 Emergency Fund (€4.2m). These were either administered by the Local Authority (LA) or by the LCDC (with support from the LA) in each area, and provide small grants to community groups.
- The Department worked to support the Community Call initiative which was an unprecedented mobilisation of both state and voluntary resources to combat the effects of COVID-19. The initiative was led by LAs in each area.
- My Department has responsibility for supporting the delivery of a public library service by LAs and provides funding to assist the authorities with the provision of this service.
- My Department provides ongoing financial support to support the community function in local authorities including the work of the LCDCs. This funding is in the region of €2m on an annual basis.