Minister Joe O’Brien publishes independent review of the Community Services Programme by Indecon Consultants
Joe O’Brien TD, Minister of State for Community Development and Charities, at the Department of Rural and Community Development, today (Wednesday, 30 September) published the comprehensive independent review of the Community Services Programme by Indecon International Economic Consultants.
The Community Services Programme (CSP) transferred to the Department of Rural and Community Development in 2018. A review of the programme was considered opportune given the new Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities: A Five-Year Strategy to Support the Community and Voluntary Sector in Ireland 2019-2024 and the National Social Enterprise Policy for Ireland 2019-2022, and also that no formal review had been carried out since the programme was introduced in 2006.
Following a public procurement process the Department of Rural and Community Development appointed Indecon Consultants to conduct an independent review of the CSP.
The Minister commented:
“The Community Services Programme is a critical programme for the delivery of essential services to communities. It allows for the identification of local needs and the development of a bespoke response to those needs. I would like to thank Indecon Consultants for their work and also all the stakeholders that contributed to the review, in particular the CSP supported organisations and their employees.”
The review included a public consultation on its scope. Indecon also undertook extensive stakeholder engagement with CSP supported organisations, employees and national community and voluntary organisations.
The report sets out 11 key recommendations that the Department and Pobal, who administer the programme on its behalf, will use to assist with the re-structuring of the programme. A High Level Action Plan, prepared by the Department and Pobal accompanies the Indecon Report and sets out the proposed timeline for delivery of each phase.
The Minister added:
“I have reviewed the recommendations outlined in the report and look forward to ensuring that the programme is fit for purpose and continues to deliver vital services throughout the country. In the meantime, Pobal will engage with all CSP supported organisations with a view to re-contracting organisations until December 2021 while this important work is going on.”
“The jobs created by the CSP are often for people from marginalised communities such as Travellers, ex-offenders and long term unemployed people and going forward the programme will have a more targeted focus in this regard.”
In concluding, the Minister added
“I would like to take this opportunity to commend the work carried out by the staff and Boards of CSP supported organisations and seek their assistance and cooperation in the re-structuring of this programme. I am very confident that the outcome of this reform will mean a better programme for everyone.”
The CSP currently supports 417 community-based organisations to provide local social, economic and environmental services through a social enterprise model, providing a contribution towards the cost of staff in CSP organisations. It typically supports organisations to meet local service gaps and provide access to services and facilities that would otherwise generally be unavailable. Eligible organisations are supported under three strands –
- Strand 1 – Community Halls and Facilities
- Strand 2 – Community Services for Disadvantaged Communities
- Strand 3 – Community Organisations Employing People Distant from the Labour Market.
Funding is provided to community organisations as a fixed contribution towards the cost of employing an agreed number of full-time equivalent positions (FTEs) and a manager, where warranted. The CSP provides €19,033 per FTE and €32,000 per manager. Almost €47m is available under the programme in 2020, supporting approx. 1,700 FTEs and 321 manager positions.
During 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic the CSP supported organisations ability to generate the necessary funding to co-fund salaries was greatly hampered. Therefore, the Department developed a 2020 CSP Support Fund to assist supported organisations by means of providing additional funding for initially a 12 week period, allowing for a net salary of €350 per week for full time CSP supported employees, in line with other Government supports.
Review of the CSP
The review examined, amongst other things, the –
- The impact of the CSP on the wider community;
- The nature, range, diversity and scale of CSP funded organisations;
- The range of eligible services and part-funded staff;
- The value added to services being delivered to vulnerable communities that would not be delivered otherwise;
- The job opportunities and/or career advancement for part-funded staff from marginalised communities;
- The role and structure of the CSP funding contribution;
- The complementarity and/or overlap with other Government-funded programmes and schemes;
- The programme evaluation criteria;
- The application, re-contracting and appeals processes;
- The Governance and programme management arrangements; and
- Good practice internationally in the provision, funding and governance of similar community services programmes.
The recommendations contained in the report are –
- A renewed and clear vision for CSP, which aligns with the Department of Rural and Community Development’s mission and strategic objectives, should be articulated and communicated by the department to all stakeholders.
- Existing CSP programme strands should be replaced with a number of sub-programmes, focused on key strategic objectives.
- Separate targets should be set for each sub-programme area.
- Rates of funding and eligibility criteria should be tailored to reflect variance in each sub-programme area.
- For projects focused on enhancing social inclusion and support for sustainable communities, resource prioritisation should be informed by levels of social disadvantage.
- A streamlined application process is recommended.
- Facilitation of investment in skills should be integrated into the new programme.
- The Department of Rural And Community Development should explore the scope for alternative approaches to supporting specific areas.
- A percentage of overall annual funding should be allocated to facilitate a periodic call for proposals.
- Significant Enhancements Are Recommended To Support Monitoring And Evaluation.
- New performance indicators should be set.