The Department of Rural and Community Development was established to support the creation of vibrant and sustainable communities across the country, which supporting the development and promotion of the modern and efficient services needed for such communities to thrive is key to achieving. The Department provides a wide range of supports to communities in rural Ireland, including in the Border regions, through funding programmes such as the rural regeneration and development fund, the town and village renewal scheme, the outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme, the community services programme, libraries capital investment programme, the LEADER programme and others.
Local communities deserve much of the credit for harnessing these supports and driving and delivering economic growth regionally and in rural areas. The Government remains committed to funding to enable and facilitate access to the services that are necessary for communities to thrive in the 21st-century economy. The Department is finalising an implementation plan for the framework policy for local and community development in Ireland, published in 2016. I am confident the implementation plan will propose actions that will support the local and community development sectors to continue providing valuable needed services to both urban and rural communities.
On support for voluntary community groups, my Department operates a number of programmes and schemes that provide funding and other supports, such as the social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP, LEADER and the community enhancement programme, which are open to those in the voluntary sector who satisfy the criteria during the application timeframes set for each scheme. The Department's community and voluntary supports and programme provide a framework of supports for the community and voluntary sector, including support for 21 volunteer centres, eight volunteer information services and a number of volunteer-support organisations, such as Volunteer Ireland. My Department is supporting the upgrading of the volunteer information services to volunteer centres in 2019. In addition, my Department recently issued a call for inputs to a paper on key aspects to be included in a national volunteering strategy, with a view to obtaining views from the sector in preparation for the development of a volunteering strategy in 2019.