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The New Programme - addressing volunteering

Ó Cuív believes volunteering

must bestrong Interview: Allen Meagher

Bowing out of Community after eight years at the helm, Minister Éamon Ó Cuív looks back most fondly on how RAPID has been transformed into what he terms a people’s programme. At the same time, he accepts the policy of increasing ‘coherence’, of simplifying State-support for communities, was “quite controversial” but insists it remains the right approach. “When I was responsible for the RAPID Programme, I insisted that local community representatives - meaning the people living in the housing estates – had a key say in their own future. In urban disadvantaged areas, it’s all decided for them, from the shape of their community centre to the shape of their house. Everything in their life is decided by the State and not by them and I set about slowly but surely trying to change that and say ‘Now the people that live here have to be the key players in determining the services provided, the type of community they live in.’” His comments sound remarkably similar to those of community activists who fear that up to 2000 experienced volunteers in the poorest communities are being sidelined as their projects are absorbed into a new Programme this year that has the backing of Minister Ó Cuív himself. “I’d hate to see that happening. I’d like to see the CDP committees (the proposed ‘Advisory Councils’) staying very involved but that they wouldn’t have all the responsibilities of corporate governance. I think that is frightening people out of volunteering now.” Minister Ó Cuív made it clear that Family Resource Centres will be the next to be absorbed into the new county-wide structures. “It’s still complicated enough and that’s why the next step of the process, the bringing (into the new Department) of the family function which includes the Family Resource Centres, and the equality functions… will mean simpler funding streams for the groups and a more coherent plan for providing services for people in all the different areas.” But can the boards of Partnerships be made to listen to these advisory councils? What advisory council has ever been listened to? “I’m a bit concerned about what CDPs are saying about Partnerships. If what they’re saying is true, that

means that firstly, the Community and Voluntary Sector on partnership boards are not wielding the influence they should. Secondly, I’d be concerned that the statutory agencies that are on the boards to serve and and not to dominate, are dominating the Partnerships. It means we will have to be very careful that the statutory agencies are on the Partnerships to listen to the Community and Voluntary Sector, not to use some numerical weight to control. “The Community and Voluntary Sector was meant to be truly representative (on partnership boards) and there was meant to be particular emphasis on disadvantaged areas. If the Partnership is wrong, we have to make sure it is the way it was meant to be. If it’s right, then they will be the first people at board level driving that communities have a bigger say in their own future. So it is a complex equation to get right.” He argues that efforts to create greater coherence with regard to State funding to communities is “quite controversial probably, but I think in time it’ll be seen as the way to go, that we needed more coherence in


the sector.” Many in the Community Sector oppose the structure of the new Local and Community Development Programme, or oppose it outright. Some say it means the death of true Community Development in Ireland. A CDP conference participant in Waterford, Chris O’Leary said: “We simply won’t be here next year”. “Well the CDPs as they were will be gone (yes) but in some areas of the country, there were no CDPs. It really depends on the goodwill of everyone making this work. It will allow for greater focusing of the money and the actions. Something that hasn’t been alluded to – if you found you had three CDPs, and one was in an area that wasn’t such a disadvantaged area, but there was another (needy) area, there is no reason you wouldn’t set up a voluntary committee there.” Doesn’t that mean that one slightly disadvantaged community’s loss is another more marginalised community’s gain?



Hot in Issue 32: Looking down the track at New Programme 6 pages of Sector News/ Report from Palestine/ Volunteering while unemployed/ New P...


Hot in Issue 32: Looking down the track at New Programme 6 pages of Sector News/ Report from Palestine/ Volunteering while unemployed/ New P...