Community development

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Community Development Programme

The current evolution of community development projects continued to be a source of contention and was raised in the Dail by Jack Wall (Lab, Kildare S) (Dail Eireann, Debates, 1st July 2010, 400-2).  The Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, Pat Carey, told him that it was not his department’s intention to diminish the intensity and vigour of community development.  He acknowledged and recognized the superb work being done, including the community development projects.  The vast majority of these interventions had been in existence for the best part of 20 years: any intervention in the community development or any other area that was not prepared to look at itself, have itself examined and evaluate whether it was doing the job that was appropriate today had questions to answer.   These projects were very appropriate when established in the 1980s ad the vast majority of them were able to evolve over the period and were still relevant.

He had recently visited a number of projects in Cork and saw community development projects that were drivers of development. ‘They made very good interventions.  Unfortunately, elsewhere in the country I saw community development projects that had become isolated from some innovative work’.   He did not want to see any group that feels it has been doing very good work to be thrown to the four winds.

The majority of groups had now seen the merit of going down the route of integration.  Last night was the cut off point for groups to sign up.   He was very conscious that if he gave any indication of a model he favoured early on, everybody would run after it.  Over the next weeks and months his officials and he would work out how they could make the best impact on people’s lives and ultimately this was about having an impact in marginalized communities, urban or rural.  They will in time become part of a very effective overall plan, he assured him.  There would be some teething problems and bedding down time would be needed, but the essence of the model and the approach taken was the correct one.   Using a sports analogy, he was prepared to allow a little bit of injury time, but days rather than stringing it out for several weeks.

Elsewhere, he provided the assurance that ‘despite what is said by some community development projects and by others’, integration does not mean the closure of a community development project or the cessation of its activities in a given area ((Dail Eireann, Debates, 30th June 2010, 71).  Any worthwhile community development activity or service delivered by one can continue to be delivered in the new programme by the same staff who currently do this work.  He also informed the Dail that an information seminar for stakeholders had been held by Pobal, on the department’s behest, on 10th June (Dail Eireann, Debates, 23rd June 2010, 497).  The next phase covered the development of local integration plans for reduced structures from January 2011 (Dail Eireann, Debates, 24th June 2010, 703-4).   On the issue of assets, where community development projects had raised concerns about full integration, where assets would usually transfer by agreement, he wanted to emphasize that other arrangements were possible (Dail Eireann, Debates, 7th July 2010, 294).   Ownership of buildings need not transfer to a local development company and this had been made clear at the information event.

In the Seanad, Jerry Buttimer (FG, labour) raised the issue on the adjournment (Seanad Eireann, Debates, 1st July 2010, 919-921).  The model submitted by the National Community Development Forum last 11th June, he said, would enable the community development projects to continue their excellent work – but the minister had refused to meet the group and acknowledge its proposal.  He asked  the minister to clarify would it be accepted or rejected.

Responding for the government, the Minister of State at the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, Mary White told him that alternative proposals were required by 30th June and there were no proposals to extend the deadline.   It was anticipated that any alternatives would be used in only a small number of areas.  The department would respond to all constructive proposals based on specified criteria and officials would be available to meet project boards, but a model that did not entail significant change was unlikely to meet the specified criteria.

She added that despite the tone of some coverage of the re-design, those involved in community development had nothing to fear from the new model.  It was all about ensuring that frontline services were maintained and that the important services provided continued to play a vital role in strengthening the most disadvantaged and marginalized communities.  It was important to acknowledge the work carried out, but communities and the challenges facing them changed and our approach to them must change.

Later, the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Pat Carey told Leo Varadkar (FG, Dublin W) that he had been able to respond positively to possible alternative models put forward by PAUL partnership and Limerick city CDPs, HSE south and a number of CDPs in the Cork and Kerry area.  While agreement had not been finalized, he was confident that a real possibility for agreement existed (Dail Eireann, Debates, 6th July 2010, 982-3).   Additional proposals  for example from the Northside partnership, the National Community Development Forum and others had been under consideration but a model that did not entail significant change was unlikely to meet the specific criteria.

> Additional references: Dail Eireann, Debates, 1st July 2010, 433-4; 16th June, 605; 15th June, 326-7

> Funding for 2010 allocations to Local and Community Development Programme: Dail Eireann, Debates, 6th July 2010, 984-5

> LEADER funding: Dail Eireann, Debates, 1st July 2010, 402-4; 6th July 2010, 987-8; 15th June, 328-9