I can confirm that I received a copy of the Final Report of the Joint Committee on Key Issues Affecting the Traveller Community on 14 December 2021. My Department has recently provided an update to the Joint Committee on the recommendations outlined in the report as relevant to my Department. I have provided the updates requested on the relevant recommendations as follows:
Recommendation 50: Greater supports should be provided to social enterprises - these could include a community asset transfer policy to enable community organisations and social enterprises to make a request for land and buildings from local authorities and other public bodies. An additional funding stream should be established for CSP places for Traveller Projects particularly for new start up social enterprises.
DRCD response to recommendation 50: Each year my Department provides funding for social enterprise from the Dormant Accounts Fund (DAF). This year the available funding will again be €2.3m. In 2021 DAF funding was used to provide small capital grants to 250 social enterprises, and 50 organisations received funding to develop programmes to raise awareness of social enterprise locally, regionally and nationally. 25 social enterprises also received funding under a start-up scheme for new social enterprises, and a training and mentoring scheme is providing support post-Covid for social enterprises nationwide.
My Department is now considering how the funding will be spent in 2022.
DRCD Response to recommendation 50 re Community Services Programme (CSP): CSP) supports community based organisations to provide local services to disadvantaged communities and target groups, through a social enterprise model. The CSP focuses on communities where public and private sector services are lacking, either through geographical or social isolation or because demand levels are not sufficient.
Since the CSP was designed in 2006 emerging from the former Social Economy Programme, there have been major economic and social changes in Ireland. Therefore, when responsibility for CSP was transferred from the then Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to my Department of Rural and Community Development, my Department appointed Indecon International Economic Consultants to undertake an independent review of the CSP with the report published in September 2020, which contained 11 key recommendations and examined, among other things:
- options for expanding the range of eligible services and participants,
- how funding might be provided to a greater number of applicants,
- options for restructuring the scheme having regard to the range and scale of organisations supported by the programme,
- the scope to refine or expand eligible activities to strengthen synergies with other programmes, and
- the types and levels of CSP support.
The Indecon report outlines that service provision can help empower local communities and can directly assist in reducing social exclusion among marginalised groups. Indecon recommends in the report that targets are set for the horizontal objective of the programme to achieve increased employment for disadvantaged groups, and acknowledges that there is a need to provide a greater level of financial support to organisations employing individuals from disadvantaged or marginalised groups who are more distant from the labour market, such as members of the Traveller Community.
Indecon also recommendations that rates of funding and eligibility criteria should be tailored to reflect variance in each sub programme area. For projects focused on enhancing social inclusion and support for sustainable communities, resource prioritisation should be informed by levels of social disadvantage.
My Department and Pobal are currently working on the restructuring of the programme, in collaboration with a Consultative Group, whose membership is secured from key sectoral stakeholders including CSP supported organisations, national organisations, community representatives and social enterprise representatives, with a view to having it finalised by end of 2022.
Pending the transition to the new restructured programme, the scheme is closed to new applications through the expression of interest process. However, it is anticipated that the Programme will open calls to address identified gaps in service delivery in 2022. Funding for additional new entrants will be considered in light of available budgets, during the year.
Recommendation 51: The Community Services Programme should be expanded with a particular focus on areas where there are a large number of Travellers living to give Travellers who are not employed or have not been employed a positive experience of employment.
DRCD response to recommendation to 51 re CSP: The Community Services Programme (CSP) currently supports over 420 community based organisations to provide employment opportunities for specific disadvantaged individuals and to provide local social, economic and environmental services to disadvantaged communities and target groups, through a social enterprise model. The different types of services supported by CSP seek to address vital societal concerns such as inequality, marginalisation and deprivation, as well as contributing to healthy, safe and vibrant communities across Ireland.
One of the objectives of the CSP Programme is to create sustainable jobs for those most distant from the labour market, in particular for those who are long-term unemployed and from specific target groups one of which is the Traveller community.
CSP guidelines mandate that 70% of all CSP-supported FTE contract positions (excluding managers) should be filled by individuals from designated target groups. The current CSP Operating Manual references Travellers wherein it states that 70% of supported FTEs must be drawn from named target groups, one of which is “Travellers in receipt of jobseeker’s payments or One Parent Family Payment” - this applies to all strands of the programme. In addition to this, Strand 3 of the current programme (companies employing people who are distant from the labour market) specifically targets those most distant from the labour market and one of the named target groups for this strand is Travellers.
According to the information provided by the CSP organisations as part of the December 2020 returns, there were 69 CSP workers employed via 20 CSP supported organisations who self-identified as members of the Traveller community, the December 2021 returns are currently being collated.
Indecon International Economic Consultants undertook an independent review of the CSP on behalf of the Department. It recommends, in the published report, that targets are set for the horizontal objective of the programme to achieve increased employment for disadvantaged groups. It also recommends that the existing supports should be amended to provide a tailored package of supports reflecting the differentiated requirements for funding under each sub-programme.
My Department and Pobal are currently working on the restructuring of the programme, in collaboration with a Consultative Group. It is planned that the restructuring will deliver a renewed and clearer vision for CSP that is aligned with the strategic objectives of the Department. It will also help the programme to maximise its impact in terms of reducing social disadvantage and building more sustainable communities. In the interim, all existing CSP contracts are extended up to end December 2022 pending the transition to the new restructured programme, which is anticipated to roll out in early 2023.
Recommendation 64: Local Development Companies should take specific actions to increase uptake of programmes by Travellers that result in employment opportunities.
DRCD response to recommendation 64: In relation to recommendation 64, the LEADER sub-theme of Provision of Basic Services Targeted at Hard to Reach Communities, already strategically focuses on improving access to basic services for people living in rural and remote areas and groups who are at risk of social exclusion. In some cases, it might involve the introduction of a new service or the re-introduction of a previously withdrawn service under the following categories; community, education/training, social/cultural and recreation. Examples of groups who may be at risk of social exclusion include, but are not limited to, those living in disadvantaged areas, those living in remote and less accessible areas, migrants/new communities and Travellers. To date, the LEADER Local Action Groups (LAGs) have approved a total of 9 Traveller related projects worth in excess of €220,000. The overarching aim of these projects is to build the capacity of these individuals to enable them to progress on to existing mainstream education/employment or training services.
DRCD further supports under the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP 2018 – 2022): The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP 2018 – 2022) is the Irish Government’s primary social inclusion programme. It is funded by the Irish Government through my Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD) and co-funded by the European Social Fund. Travellers are named as one of SICAP’s target groups.
Goal 1: Supporting communities: SICAP provides supports to communities and target groups to engage with relevant stakeholders in identifying and addressing social exclusion and equality issues, developing the capacity of local community groups (LCGs) and creating more sustainable communities.
To date (2018-2021), SICAP has supported 93 Local Community Groups (LCGs) that name Travellers as their primary target group. This accounts for 2% of the total number of LCGs supported (4,844).
The types of supports received are as follows; support participation in community planning, support for social inclusion and equality issues, support to build capacity, support for participation in decision-making structures and support for initiatives addressing social exclusion and inequality.
Goal 2: Supporting disadvantaged individuals: to improve the quality of their lives through the provision of lifelong learning and labour market supports
To date (2018-2021), SICAP provided one-to-one support to a total of 1,878 Individuals who identified as a Traveller when registered with the programme. This accounts for 2% of total number of individuals supported (86,641). The types of supports received are as follows; personal skills, wellbeing and capabilities supports, information about life-long learning opportunities, labour supports and ongoing in-work supports.
In May 2021 I, in my role as Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development & Department of Social Protection, wrote to every government Minister asking each to place particular emphasis on the disadvantaged situation of Travellers when putting forward their proposed measures under the 2022 Dormant Accounts Fund (DAF).
2022 DAF Allocations of €55.5 million are approved. The Dormant Accounts Fund Action Plan 2022 sets out the 42 measures approved to be implemented across 10 Government Departments in 2022. Travellers Specific actions are 9,25,33,34,41 and the numerous actions which will assist travellers and others are outlined in the Action Plan.
As part of the Public Service Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy my Department is developing a Traveller Internship Programme. This will be a collaboration between the Department’s HR Unit, a Programme area and a Local Development Company.
My Department has welcomed this opportunity to provide feedback on the above recommendations and it is my intention to continue to actively work towards increased supports for Travellers to assist in achieving full and equal participation in society.