Rural and Community Development | To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which she and her Department have targeted areas of social isolation with a view to improving the prospects for those currently living in such areas
To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which she and her Department have targeted areas of social isolation with a view to improving the prospects for those currently living in such areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
In delivering on its mission, my Department provides a wide range of strategic interventions, funding programmes and policies to support communities. This includes measures to address the issue of isolation as referenced by the Deputy. Addressing the issue of individual isolation in communities became even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
My Department continues to provide funding to tackle isolation and support those in our communities in most need of assistance through schemes such as the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP), the Community Services Programme, the CLÁR Programme and the Community Enhancement Programme.
The Community Services Programme (CSP), for example, currently supports over 420 community organisations to provide employment opportunities and local services through a social enterprise model. The CSP focuses on communities where public and private sector services are lacking, either through geographical isolation or because demand levels are not sufficient.
My Department is also responsible for the Seniors Alert Scheme which encourages community support for vulnerable older people in our communities through the provision of personal monitored alarms to enable them to live securely in their homes with confidence, independence and peace of mind. Funding is available under the Scheme towards the purchase by a registered community-based organisation of a personal alarm or pendant.
Amongst the measures which will further support people living in rural areas is the rollout of Broadband Connection Points and the national hubs network. These will enable onsite access to digital services including digital skills training, remote work and study, community development activities and a range of arts, culture and social events.
My Department is also responsible for a number of key policies responding to the needs of individuals and communities throughout the country. These include:
- Ireland’s first National Volunteering Strategy 2021 – 2025, setting out a long-term vision for volunteering and volunteers in Ireland.
- Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities: A Five-Year Strategy to Support the Community and Voluntary Sector in Ireland 2019-2024. This Strategy seeks to strengthen the community development, local development and community and voluntary sectors generally.
- The National Policy on Social Enterprise, which sets out measures to build awareness of and strengthen and grow social enterprises.
- Our Rural Future, the national rural development policy, which places an emphasis on building resilience and enhancing participation and inclusion in rural communities.
- My Department is also developing a National Islands Policy and has undertaken a wide consultation process including public consultation on the islands to hear first-hand the challenges they face and how the Department can address these.
My Department continues to monitor issues impacting on communities in order to respond to emerging needs.
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