The new LEADER programme provides for significantly enhanced potential to support social inclusion and anti-poverty work. The Local Area Groups (LAGS) will be chosen by mid-July. The CWC has been working to ensure that this is made explicit in guidelines to be issued by the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government. The CWC met with Minister Ann Phelan recently. Among the suggestions to the Department and the Minister were:
- Local Action Groups be required to set out clear social inclusion goals and expected outputs for the programme and demonstrate how they will promote poverty reduction and social inclusion across all actions in the Local Development Strategy.
- A definition of social inclusion and a requirement in relation to how the LEADER objectives of promoting social inclusion, poverty reduction and economic development in rural areas are to be achieved be made explicit to all LAGs;
- The Department encourage Local Action Groups to ensure that the consultation process for the development of Local Development Strategies specifically targets groups experiencing poverty, social inclusion and inequality. Unless these groups are specifically targeted in consultation processes there is a significant danger that they will not engage. “The central element of a CLLD or LEADER approach is that communities are the key decision makers when it comes to funding to support the development of their own areas. This is founded on the belief that people who live and work in rural communities are best placed to decide what support is needed to facilitate the development of their communities” http://www.environ.ie/en/media/Media,40932,en.pdf . To this end we requested that the Department encourage Local Action Groups to make every effort to contact the representative groups of communities experiencing poverty, social exclusion and inequality including those representing; older people, disadvantaged women, long term unemployed people, young people experiencing poverty, Travellers, Roma, migrants (including asylum seekers and refugees), people with disability.
- Training and support for the LAGs in this area;
- A professional community worker would be employed by the LAGs (or their implementing organisations) for every €1 million LEADER funding.
Following the CEDRA report, the Department are to establish Rural Economic Development Zones (REDZ) on a pilot basis. These will be situated in functional areas surrounding towns and are thought to represent Ireland’s actual economic geography in that they are the spaces from which most employers in an area source labour. The CEDRA report identified potential Economic Development Zones in all areas of Ireland and recommended the implementation of a pilot initiative that supports the formulation of a localised strategies approach to the development of REDZ. The recommendation envisages full engagement with and participation by communities at a local level in order to foster a sense of ownership of REDZ. The pilot will identify 18 REDZ projects with a view to determining best practice.
At the recent meeting with the Minister the CWC recommended including a social development dimension to the REDZ.