Wednesday, 4 February 2004

Ceisteanna (65)

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

145 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the way in which he intends to address the problem, as identified by community development groups, of the lack of access to information and to decision-makers at national level; the structures he envisages being created to overcome this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3227/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

The national advisory committee of the community development programme, CDP, has been a valuable forum for exchange of views and information between projects and the Department for over a decade. The committee is composed of representatives of projects and agencies funded under the CDP and includes additional external representation, that is, the Combat Poverty Agency, Area Development Management and the Community Workers Co-operative. It meets on an ongoing basis and its key role is to discuss, agree and make recommendations on issues of national policy that affect or arise from the work of the programme.

In September 2000, the national advisory committee initiated a joint planning process involving all the projects in the CDP with a view to developing a strategic plan which would maximise the impact of the programme within the context of a range of new structures and policy initiatives. This plan included proposals concerning alternative representative structures for the programme. The Department has proposed an expanded structure, designed, in particular, to increase participation by volunteers.

As outlined to the House on previous occasions, a comprehensive consultation process was initiated by my Department with providers of schemes and programmes and the social partners, on improving local delivery structures. In order to ensure that any decisions arising out of the review will have been informed by the expertise of those engaged at a community and local level, all projects and support agencies funded under the CDP were invited to contribute to this process. The CDP projects were represented at a national seminar in June 2003.

Following proposals emerging from the projects in the CDP, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will examine the operation and membership of the social inclusion measures groups of the city and county development boards to ensure balanced representation and their enhanced operation.

The arrangements that I have outlined ensure that the key stakeholders in the CDP continue to have access to information in relation to programme developments and are included in any consultation process initiated with regard to proposals for policy change.