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Northside Partnership Budget Priorities Presented at Oireachtas Committee by ILDN

Northside Partnership Budget Priorities Presented at Oireachtas Committee by ILDN

  • May, 2021
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Northside Partnership’s priorities for next year’s Budget were presented to an Oireachtas Committee this week by the national representative body of Northside Partnership, the Irish Local Development Network (ILDN).  Northside Partnership CEO, Paul Rogers, welcomed the ILDNs appearance at the committee and echoed the points made by ILDN representatives who attended the Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting.

Addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Social Protection Rural & Community Development & the Islands, ILDN CEO Joe Saunders said;  “Given the uncertainty in the labour market, the high numbers requiring activation over the next two years and the capacity available to the state through Local Development Companies, now is not the time to embark on a realignment of existing LES operational areas as is being proposed with the introduction of a dual strand procurement process that will fundamentally disrupt activation services when they are needed most.  

This proposal offers an agile and affordable response to the inevitable high demand for employment services

What ILDN proposes is:

  • All Local Development Companies that do not have an existing LES would pilot an LES-type service, reflective of the Covid-19 context and changing Socio Economic profile.
  • In this period, existing LDCs with LES contracts will continue to deliver the current LES service but provide enhanced services.

This proposal offers an agile and affordable response to the inevitable high demand for employment services –

  • There is integration with existing rural employment and inclusion services.
  • The infrastructure for the delivery of such a service currently exists within the Local Development Companies and there is no need for the state to set up new infrastructure.
  • There is no disruption to existing services from realignment of operational areas or loss of skilled staff.”

Commenting on Tús, Rural Social Scheme & Community Employment the ILDN CEO, Joe Saunders added; “We believe it will be critical to allow for maximum participation in important schemes such as Tús, CE & the RSS in the years ahead. 

“The Tús programme has seen reduced numbers prior to the pandemic and exacerbated by it. A number of reforms to eligibility criteria, length of time on scheme and crucially improved referral processes are needed to ensure that this programme stays at the heart of the state’s activation options and continues to serve those most in need of valuable work experience prior to fuller re-entry to the labour market.

“The RSS in particular faces a critical juncture and it faces inevitable decline if impending impacts of eligibility rules are not addressed. The 6- year rule introduced in 2017 is about to kick in and if left in place will remove 38% of the Scheme’s 3000+ participants in a 3-year period. Together with the 13% who will leave at retirement age, this means over half of the Scheme will be removed. This represents a cliff age for rural communities in work undertaken, experience and leadership lost, a reduction in biodiversity in pushing landowners off the land and their replacement by monoculture practices. ILDN urges the Government to review this rule ahead of Budget 2022 and bring forward reforms to protect participation in this important scheme.

“Eligibility reform is needed to ensure that this important scheme survives. In our submission to the Committee we have laid out a number of potential reforms to all three schemes which we believe would be of benefit.”

Raising the matter of the Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme (SICAP), ILDN Social Inclusion Chair, Adeline O’Brien, said; “the SICAP budget stands at 50% of what it was in 2008 – (€43m currently, €84.7m in 2008).

 “Those who are already disadvantaged are likely to be more so in onsets of crises in health, economy, education and employment such as with Covid19. This is exacerbated by poorer access to information technology, digital/online services.  As we move into the recovery phase, digitization and the remote delivery of services will be become more normal across society, thus causing further disadvantage to groups with poor access to and experience of digital channels.  

ILDN proposes a Digital Inclusion Fund (DIF) to be administered by Local Development Companies

“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. 

Whilst specific funding is required, the DIF will benefit from existing integrated services and facilities with LDCs. Further investment in SICAP is also important in the context of the implementation of the Government’s White Paper on ending Direct Provision.”