Through our ongoing engagement with the Community and Voluntary sector, my Department is keenly aware of the challenges faced by the sector whilst meeting increased demands on many of their services. My Department is providing additional vital supports to rural and community organisations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is supporting the following initiatives:
On 16 March 2020, my Department launched the COVID-19 Government Action Plan in partnership with other Departments, State agencies and our extensive network of community and voluntary organisations. These initiatives provide support for volunteering, funding to ALONE for their crisis telephone support line, and an email helpdesk facility to assist smaller community groups with their queries.
On 9 April 2020, an initial €2.5 million COVID-19 Emergency Fund was introduced to provide immediate and urgently needed funding to community and voluntary groups that are participating in the Government’s “Community Call” initiative which is being led by the Local Authorities.
On 11 May 2020, a €40 million support package for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Charities and Social Enterprises was launched by Government and is administered by the Department. This funding is being made available through the Dormant Accounts Fund, which is specifically set aside to support initiatives which will benefit the most disadvantaged groups in society.
The package included:
A €35 million COVID-19 Stability Fund which will provide a level of support to qualifying organisations who are most in need and have seen their trading and/or fundraising income drop significantly during the crisis; and
A €5 million Government commitment to a Philanthropy Fund, (Innovate Together) which will focus on supporting responses to the COVID-19 crisis that require innovative and adaptive solutions to existing and emerging challenges.
To date, funding of over €25 million has been allocated to more than 480 organisations under the COVID 19 stability Fund. This funding is supporting the delivery of critical services in every part of the country.
This funding is provided in addition to the more than €45 million in funding, announced last November, for the Dormant Accounts Action Plan 2020. That funding was allocated for 43 separate measures to be delivered across nine Government Departments to benefit disadvantaged groups.
The funding package for these organisations is complementary to the range of other supports provided by the Government to support businesses, employers and employees on foot of the crisis.
As a result of COVID-19 my Department also developed a €1.2m Support Fund to assist Community Service Programme, or CSP, supported organisations.
In June 2020, the Department launched the 2020 Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) with funding of €2m. The CEP provides capital grants towards enhancing the facilities available to communities. The CEP is administered by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) in each Local Authority area.
In August 2020, with funding from the July stimulus package, the Department launched a €5m fund under the CEP for community centres and community buildings.
The Department’s other investment programmes, such as the 2020 Town and Village Renewal Scheme, CLÁR programme, Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme and Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, which support large and small scale capital development in rural areas, continue to be rolled out and all place a particular emphasis on supporting a post-COVID recovery.
In respect of the Department’s other programmes, funding commitments are being maintained, and though delays may be experienced in delivery for a period of time it is expected that all projects and initiatives will continue when safe to do so.
My Department also funds the COVID-19 Community Outreach (CCO) programme. Coordinated by the Wheel and Irish Rural Link the programme links and supports the work of thousands of community groups across Ireland who are responding to meet the needs of communities during the COVID-19 crisis.