The Department of Rural and Community Development has the smallest budget of any government department, but what does it do with its allocation?

Out of a Budget in excess of €75 billion, the amount allocated to the Department of Rural and Community Development – at €291 million, the smallest budget of any government department – seems like peanuts, but those peanuts can go a long way.

Here’s how the Department’s 2019 budget allocation breaks down (as of 22 March):

• The Rural Regeneration and Development fund gets €86m for a total of 84 approved projects. The fund aims to revitalise rural Ireland, make a significant and sustainable impact on rural communities, and address de-population in small towns, villages and rural areas.

• The Town and Village Renewal scheme supports the rejuvenation of rural towns and villages with populations of under 10,000 people. Funded projects must be of viable, long-term benefit. It gets €53m for 675 projects.

• The Local Road Improvement scheme provides funding to help councils carry out improvement works on private and non-publicly maintained roads. The Department has provided funding of more than €48m for works on over 1,100 roads since September 2017.

• The Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure scheme funds new facilities, as well as the maintenance, enhancement and promotion of existing outdoor recreational infrastructure in rural areas. Since 2016, the scheme has provided funds of €41m to cover 600 projects.

• The Community Services Programme supports community-based organisations to provide local social, economic and environmental services through a social enterprise model.More than 400 organisations have benefitted to the tune of over €40m.

• A new Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) launched last year. It aims to reduce poverty and promote social inclusion and equality. It supports work with the most disadvantaged and the hardest to reach in communities. The programme is the successor to others stretching back over two decades, and has been allocated €190m for the five-year 2018–2022 period.

CLÁR supports the sustainable development of rural areas that have suffered the greatest levels of population decline, with the aim of attracting people to live and work there. It mostly funds small infrastructural projects such as play areas, cancer care transport and community safety measures. Since 2016, €25m has been spent across 1,270 projects.

• The LEADER programme is an EU initiative to support rural development projects initiated at the local level in order to revitalise rural areas and create jobs. Funding of almost €58m has been approved for 1,686 projects, and a further 379 projects – with a value of more than €22m – are in the approvals process.

• The Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) is a flexible, streamlined and targeted approach to fund facilities in disadvantaged communities. It covers small and large, from lawnmowers and IT equipment to minor renovations and buildings. During 2018, €12.5m was spent on CEP; €4.5m has been earmarked for 2019.

• The Seniors Alert Scheme encourages community support for vulnerable older people through the provision of personal monitored alarms, allowing them to live securely in their homes with confidence, independence and peace of mind. More than 19,000 personal alarms were delivered in 2018 at a cost of €7m.

• The new Library Strategy aims to develop the public library service over the next five years. Libraries are an essential community service. Digital services and facilities had a price tag of €7m over the course of 2018.

Other initiatives

Walks Scheme: 39 trails, with a value of €2m in 2018 and €4m for 2019

Tidy Towns: €1.4m in 2017 and 2018

Funding for agricultural shows: €800,000 in 2017; €600,000 in 2018

Men’s Sheds: €500,000 allocated in 2018

2019 budget

2019: Current €153m + Capital €138m = Total €291m

2018: Current €144m + Capital €87.5m = Total €231.5m

Interested in reading more about the state of Ireland’s community development sector? Check out our latest issue.

Main photo: moerschy/Pixabay