On October 14, 2021, Ireland‘s Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, and Minister of State, Joe O’Brien TD, announced a rural community revitalization budget package worth €376 million ($436 million USD) for 2022.
Some €200 million in funding is to be used to expand all of the Department’s rural schemes, such as Town and Village Renewal, CLÁR, Outdoor Recreation, LEADER and the Rural Regeneration Development Fund (RRDF).
Budget 2022 also provides for the appointment of the first-ever Town Regeneration Officers.
These posts will be crucial in helping to revitalize the centre of our towns.
Reflecting the commitments under the Government’s rural development policy, Our Rural Future, Budget 2022 will further the development of the country’s first-ever national hub network, Connected Hubs, and offer incentives for remote working.
There will be additional funding to invest in our outdoor amenities and adventure tourism, as well as our island communities.
The Department’s Budget also provides for further development of the popular “Walk’s Scheme” in rural communities and the delivery of the proposed National Outdoor Recreation Strategy.
Minister Humphreys said, “‘Our Rural Future’ is already making a hugely positive impact in towns and villages throughout Rural Ireland. This week’s Budget, which includes over €376 million in funding, will ensure we continue to place Rural Ireland at the heart of our post-Covid recovery.”
“Thousands of communities right across the country have already benefitted from funding under the likes of Town and Village Renewal, CLÁR, Outdoor Recreation LEADER and the Rural Regeneration Development Fund (RRDF),” she added. “I’m really pleased to announce that every single one of our schemes will receive additional investment as part of Budget 2022.”
Furthermore, some €170 million in funding will be provided for Community Development Programmes.
This includes a 10% increase in the Social Inclusion & Community Activation Programme budget – a move that will provide up to 60 new community workers nationwide.
“This will allow us to deliver more projects such as libraries and community facilities, further enhance our streetscapes, as well as invest in our islands and outdoor amenities such as our parks, walkways, cycleways and greenways,” Humphries continued. “The renewal of our town centres is also a key part of this Budget. That’s why I’m really pleased to announce funding for Town Regeneration Officers, who will be key in coordinating and utilising the funding streams available and revitalising the centre of our towns and villages.”
Minister of State O’Brien, who has responsibility for Community Development and Charities, said “The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) is the principal social inclusion programme in Ireland, and the announcement today of a 10% budget increase for the programme will further enhance the vital work of SICAP.”
“In real terms, the additional funding will see at least 60 additional community workers on the ground in communities across Ireland. Having these extra workers available to work with disadvantaged groups and marginalised communities will add to SICAPs ability to improve social and economic outcomes for many families and individuals who need support,” he added. “The community spirit underpinning SICAP and that was so evident throughout the pandemic must be harnessed and built upon. Today’s budget increase is a significant strengthening of community supports and I look forward to welcoming the new community workers into communities across Ireland over the coming months.”
Learning from the experiences of the Pandemic, a specific funding scheme for community centers will be launched early in the New Year.
“Furthermore, we will continue the expansion of our ‘Walk’s Scheme’ – attracting more tourism to Rural Ireland. We’ve also learned the true meaning of ‘community’ during this Pandemic. I’m delighted therefore to announce that I intend to launch a new funding scheme for Community Centres early in the New Year – a scheme I expect there will be huge demand for. A key part of this is budget is ensuring we capitalise on the opportunities presented by Remote Working,” she concluded. “As we continue to develop our national hub network, ‘Connected Hubs’, I am pleased to have secured additional funding for next year which will allow us to introduce further incentives to attract remote workers to Rural Ireland. I have said before that, as Minister, I am determined to revitalise and re-imagine rural Ireland – making it a better place to live, work and raise a family. The funding provided in this budget will help to make this objective a reality.”
Overall, the €376 million budget secured by Ministers Humphreys and O’Brien is the largest ever budget secured for rural and community development projects.
The €376 million budget provision for the Department of Rural and Community Development will allow for:
- Capital investment for rural regeneration and development to increase from €87 million to €97 million:
- Outdoor Recreational Infrastructure Scheme from €12 million to €15 million;
- Rural Regeneration and Development Fund from €55 million to €60 million, and;
- Town and Village Renewal Scheme, including for the remote working hub network (ConnectedHubs.ie), from €20 million to €22 million.
- Increased capital funding for the LEADER programme from €44 million to €48 million, providing an allocation to meet existing commitments under the 2014-2020 programme and the transitional programme, and enabling the locally led rural development programme to support rural economic and social development.
- Additional investment in the Local Improvement Scheme (from €10.5 million to €11 million) and in the CLÁR Programme (from €5.5 million to €7 million).
- Funding for the islands to increase from €11 million to €13 million to enable progress on key infrastructure upgrades and to support the provision of transport services for the islands.
- Increased current funding for Rural Recreation, including the Walks Scheme, (from €4.6 million to €6.6 million) to support the ongoing expansion of the Walks Scheme and ensure delivery on the forthcoming National Outdoor Recreation Strategy.
- New funding of €2 million to support implementation of the forthcoming Town Centres First Report being developed in conjunction with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. While this report is being finalised at present, funding is being allocated to support Local Town Regeneration Officers to drive the process of town centre regeneration at local level.
- Additional funding of €1.6 million for the wider implementation of Our Rural Future providing support for the promotion and further development of the role of the National Hub Network; additional support for the Tidy Towns competition, and developing a pilot scheme to incentivise remote working in rural areas.
- Enhanced supports for community development and the voluntary sector, including:
- Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) funding increasing from €40 million to €44 million, providing up to 60 additional full-time posts for community workers in Local Development Companies to support the most vulnerable groups in our communities.
- Funding for the Scheme to Support National Organisations (SSNO Scheme) to increase from €5.9 million to €6.7 million.
- Additional support for the Dublin North East Inner City initiative (from €6.5 million to €7.5 million).
- Continued support for the Community Services Programme, with its annual allocation maintained at €49 million.
- An additional €5 million in capital funding which will facilitate the establishment a capital grants scheme for community centres in 2022 as committed to in the programme for Government.
- The funding provided to the Department also facilitates the agencies of the Department, namely the Charities Regulator, the Western Development Commission, and Water Safety Ireland to continue their important work.
- Our Rural Future is the whole-of-government policy for rural Ireland for the period 2021-2025. It represents a new milestone in the approach to rural development policy for Ireland and adopts a more strategic, ambitious and holistic approach to investing in and maximising opportunities for rural areas. The policy’s objectives will be achieved through the delivery of more than 150 commitments to be implemented through annual work programmes across a range of government departments and agencies. The 2021 work programme is available on the Department’s page on the gov.ie website and preparation for the 2022 work programme will commence in the coming weeks.
Photo of Cork, Ireland via Pixabay.