Key Messages for General Election 2020

Irish Local Development Network CLG (ILDN) is the representative body of Ireland’s 49 Local Development Companies (LDCs). These are not-for-profit, community-based, multi-sectoral partnerships that deliver community and rural development, labour market activation, social inclusion and social enterprise services across all parts of the country.

Each year, Local Development Companies support over 15,000 community groups and 173,000 individuals through programmes like LEADER, Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme (SICAP), Local Employment Service and Jobs Clubs.

Given the commitment of Local Development Companies to social inclusion, Irish Local Development Network believes that the incoming Government must prioritise the people and places that haven’t yet shared in the economic recovery.

1 Address Ireland’s High Rate of Social Exclusion

Social exclusion is higher in Ireland than the EU average. Our rating of 28.9 out of 100, ranks well behind Denmark (17.5), Germany (20.8), Latvia (22.2) and Estonia (25.2). Eurofound (2019), Living and Working in Europe 2015 – 2018 points out that specific measures, beyond attaining economic prosperity, are required to create a more socially inclusive country:

The fact that social exclusion is lower in countries such as Estonia and Latvia than in Luxembourg and Ireland – the countries with the highest GDP per capita in the EU – indicates that economic prosperity is not the only factor determining whether people feel part of society.

Ireland’s national social inclusion programme (Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme - SICAP) addresses deprivation through targeted and innovative, locally-led approaches, delivered by the Local Development Companies.

The overall annual budget for this work was slashed by over 50% a decade ago and has not benefitted from the improvement in public finances.

Key Recommendation: SICAP funding must be immediately restored from its current level of €38m (annually) to the 2008 level of €84.7m (for its predecessor programme, the LCDP).

2 Focus Labour Activation on ‘Hard-to-Reach’ through Community-Based Provision

The decrease in the unemployment rate is something to be wholeheartedly welcomed.
However, those still experiencing unemployment and precarious employment - as well as others who don’t qualify for the Live Register for other reasons – need particular supports.

Increasingly, many people experience multiple barriers to entering employment and these may be a mix of socio-structural (e.g. lack of childcare, access to stable housing, affordable transport) and personal (skills deficits, addiction and well-being issues) factors.

Local Employment Services (LES) and Jobs Clubs, where they exist, have proven successful in assisting these jobseekers. The recent Indecon evaluation reports that they have achieved an exceptional rate of 28.8% for getting people placed in work over 30 hours a week in addition to those who moved to part-time work and further training. Nearly 90% of employers report that the LES and Jobs Clubs have helped find suitable candidates for vacancies.

However, Local Employment Services and Jobs Clubs only cover part of the country and the existing ones are currently under review and may be subjected to a commissioning process in 2020.

Key Recommendation: Provide adequate funding for nationwide employment services through a community-based, not-for-profit model that positions jobseekers and those most distant from the labour market at their centre.

3 Simplify Rural Funding Structures and Reduce Bureaucracy

The LEADER programme has been a key enabler of rural communities for three decades and in recent years, a wide range of other funds have become available causing confusion amongst community applicants. Greater value can be achieved by the integration of funds and the use of the Community Led Local Development (CLLD) approach to draw down additional EU funding.

Key Recommendations:

  • Simplifying and reducing bureaucracy – including the promotion of independent Local Action Groups (LAGs) for LEADER delivery
  • Protecting the core LEADER principles – which have served rural Ireland well
  • Expanded use of available EU CLLD funding opportunities
  • Exemption of State Aid Rules for LEADER Programme