In 2002, the Committee in its Concluding Observations on Ireland, called on the State to ensure that the Combat Poverty Agency,1 a statutory agency which provided policy advice, research and public education on anti-poverty and social inclusion issues, was ‘well-resourced and able to fulfil, in an effective manner, its statutory advisory functions’. However, in July 2009 the Combat Poverty Agency was abolished as an autonomous body2 and its functions were subsumed into what is now the Social Inclusion Unit of the Department of Social Protection, despite calls to maintain its independence.3
At the same time, a number of changes affecting local programmatic responses to poverty and social exclusion were introduced by Government. These changes have had a profound impact at local level, both in terms of the funding available and the organisational capability to respond to the needs of disadvantaged communities. An example is the loss of locally-based independent Community Development Projects which successfully operated in disadvantaged communities and provided a collective voice on social inclusion issues at local level.4 The Local Government (Reform) Act 2014 has put further obstacles in place for the community development network by restructuring its management and introducing bureaucratic measures for participation in local government structures. Between 2008 and 2012, significant funding cuts were made in key community development programmes, including a 35 per cent cut to the Local Community Development Programme; a 29 per cent cut to the Initiatives Against Drugs programme; and a 17 per cent cut to Family Support projects.5 These measures are retrogressive in nature as they have disempowered marginalised people as well as resulting in less opportunities for participation at local level by people affected by poverty and social exclusion.
FLAC urges the Committee to recommend that the State:
Ensure an independent statutory body is mandated and adequately resourced to provide advice and guidance to Government on how to reduce poverty and promote social inclusion.
Allocate adequate funding to local community development projects.
1 The Combat Poverty Agency was a statutory agency established under the Combat Poverty Agency Act 1986 and had four general functions: policy advice, project support and innovation, research and public education on anti-poverty and social inclusion issues.
3 See for example Hugh Frazer, ‘Silencing Dissent’, Irish Examiner, 7 July 2009. Hugh Frazer was Director of the Agency from 1987 to 2001.
4 B. Harvey (2012) Downsizing the Community sector: changes in employment and services in the voluntary and community sector, Dublin: Irish Congress of Trade Unions, p.43.
5 B. Harvey (2012) Downsizing the Community sector: changes in employment and services in the voluntary and community sector, Dublin: Irish Congress of Trade Unions, p.3.
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