Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) representing Ireland’s 49 Local Development Companies today (Thursday) presented the Minister for Community Development & Charities Joe O’Brien TD their Pre-Budget Submission 2022 ‘The Chance for an Inclusive and Developmental Budget’. Amongst the main priorities of ILDN members are calls for increased investment in the Social Inclusion & Community Activation Programme (SICAP) including the development of a Digital Inclusion Fund. Budget 2022 provides an opportunity to take a significant step towards the restoration of the SICAP Budget to 2008 levels. Currently, the Social Inclusion budget stands at less than 50% of what it was in 2008 – (€39m spend in 2020, €84.7m in 2008) and Ireland ranks high internationally for social exclusion.
Commenting after today’s meeting, ILDN Social Inclusion Chair, Adeline O’Brien said; “The COVID19 pandemic has pushed SICAP target groups further into poverty, disadvantage and marginalisation. As the National Social Inclusion Programme, more investment is needed in SICAP to tackle the issues that pre-existed and are now compounded by COVID. The effects of national responses to COVID such as lockdown, social isolation etc. have also compounded issues for disadvantaged groups across the country such as access to basic services, domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health, unemployment, food poverty etc. Increased investment in SICAP is urgently needed”
Raising the prospect of a Digital Inclusion Fund, O’Brien continued; “As we move into the COVID19 recovery phase, digitization and the remote delivery of services will be become more normal across society and are part of Government strategy. The ILDN are concerned that this will cause further disadvantage to groups with poor access to and experience of digital platforms. To protect vulnerable groups, typically SICAP target groups, ILDN proposes a Digital Inclusion Fund (DIF) to be administered by Local Development Companies in conjunction with SICAP.”
“We continue to see demand grow for services and supports delivered under the Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme (SICAP),” according to Paul Rogers, CEO Northside Partnership “Anti-poverty programmes such as SICAP have not had a budget increase since significant cuts were imposed in 2009 following the Global Financial Crisis. As we exit the Covid-19 pandemic phase we call upon government to invest further in these essential supports so that Northside Partnership and our Local Development Company colleagues can further help those most at risk of social and economic exclusion.”
ILDN CEO Joe Saunders said; “we welcome the opportunity to meet with the Minister for Community Development & Charities and to appraise him of our priorities for Budget 2022. Amongst the matters we raised with the Minister were the ILDN recommended reforms of Tús, Community Employment & Rural Social Schemes in order to maximise eligibility and participation. We also took the opportunity to suggest the introduction of a Core Costs Model to ensure the future sustainability of the Local Development Sector.”