At a series of consultations that sought frontline views of SICAP, case studies and stories gave us a detailed picture.

In October, Changing Ireland heard about the ups and downs in the implementation of the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP). Mostly ups.

Views were aired by community workers at a series of 17 meetings held around the country during the autumn. Pobal organised the meetings, which drew in hundreds of frontline workers and those overseeing SICAP at local level. The aim was to see what is working best and how to improve the programme.

There is no shortage of case studies to show the programme works and that it is reaching more community groups than ever before. The statistics bear this out. Statistics also show, however, that Travellers should be getting more support through the programme. Contradictions such as this clearly show why speaking to those on the front line is so important.

On that front line, complaints about the quantity of paperwork involved continue to be aired by community workers.

It was also pointed out that asking people if they have a criminal record before you begin working with them immediately puts up a barrier. Community workers felt this obligation compromised them.

Welcome consultations

The fact that community workers and others have been consulted was welcomed.

In discussions, it was agreed that not enough people in communities have heard of the SICAP programme, including the people who directly benefit from it.

A participant said: “We are hopeless at explaining what SICAP is trying to do.”

Another said: “You could spend time with a beneficiary, but at the end they still wouldn’t know it was through SICAP.”

“Our number-one audience is our community,” one community worker pointed out.

Colleagues made the following points:

– We need to link individuals’ stories to the policies that affect them, as Oxfam do.

– The testimony from people who have benefitted is what matters.

– The programme is backed up by community development principles, but that is not appreciated.

– We need to get people on the ground saying what they feel the programme is good for.

– People don’t relate to SICAP the acronym. The name is even a barrier.

Discussion followed about rebranding SICAP, or even renaming it.

The last of the 17 workshops in the series took place in Mayo on 25 October. These consultations were carried out in coordination with staff from the Department of Rural and Community Development.

Between now and 2022, the SICAP programme will be worth €190m to communities.