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Threat to Community Sector - Back to Black?

October 11th, 2010 ·

Back to Black? (by Mick Rafferty)

There is a ghost haunting the community sector at the moment, it is the ghost of its past achievements languishing with the prospects of its main source of funding being abolished. In reading the McCarthy report, we were reminded of a Dylan Thomas poem ‘The hand that signed the paper felled a city’.

Examine the casualness of a single paragraph in the McCarthy report which states under the heading, Reduction in allocation for Local and Community Development Programmes,

‘There is little evidence of positive outcomes for these initiatives. Furthermore, the current delivery structure for these Programmes in not optimal. The Group recommends that

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Partnerships and Volunteer Centre structures (both funded mainly by D/CRamp;GA) be merged with County Childcare Committees (funded by Department of Health amp; Children). Significant savings for D/CR amp; GA should accrue from the merger of these local delivery mechanisms. Overall, the Group targets total savings of €44m attribute to a re-structuring of delivery mechanisms and a reduction in the number of funded projects.’

It is this basic paragraph that haunts the community sector. It is so presumptuous as to defy logic; its ill founded basic assumptions must be challenged for their right wing ideological claptrap.

There is anger that the looming cuts will be done arbitrarily by people who do not understand community development. The word is that they are treating the community sector as if it were an extension of the statutory sector, providing services cheaper and without any of the restrictive practices of a Trade Union organised labour force.

There was a chilling encounter on the Pat Kenny show lately between Minister O`Cuiv, on the one side, and Mary Murphy and Paedar Kirby the editors of a new book on civic society. The latter’s argument was that dissent was good not only for democracy but also for socially sustainable equitable economic development, that dissent is not blind opposition but a constructive analysis of Government policy against the

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yard stick of equality and Justice. The Minister asked were not politicians also part of this so called civic society and on what basis did you professionals know more about the issues affecting people than them. The editors pointed out that the present Government first targets in the present recession were agencies who could give an independent assessment of the affects of cuts on the weakest and most disadvantaged in society. They pointed out the Combat Poverty Agency, the Equality Agency and the Committee on Multi Culturalism and other independent agencies were either abolished or their funding cut as to make

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their operations weakened. The Minister’s response was that some of them had simply been integrated into various Government Departments to make them more efficient. There is he argued too much duplication in State Services. Cheap generic stendra online. Therefore, if there is no such thing as civic society and by extension no such thing as the community sector, it is necessary to make adjustments so that whatever the State fund serves the State. The Minister went on to extol the work of the RAPID programme where local people are involved without outside professional intermediaries. To paraphrase Bertold Brecht ‘And if the people disagree we will elect a new people’.

This is all quite depressing and maybe inevitable given the right wing ideology that drove the present government. It is also inevitable given the highly centralised nature of Irish State, the politician’s dependency and cultivation of clientism and the speculative nature of Irish capitalism. This toxic mixture of individualism and the dominance of the market means, in reality, very little long term structural support for a society based on principles of Equality. What should balance this rampant capitalism is an investment in the development of Civic Society. This Government follows The Maggie Thachter line that there is no such entity as Society only the market. This is the world view that has led to an unprecedented recession in the world economy and our Government policy has shown no sign of having learnt one lesson. To persist with that world view they are willing to raze and let collapse the very systems and structures that would be a major contributory factor to a recovery.

There is a concept in physics called the hysteresis loop. It is a complex concept to do with how systems retain memory and also how once a system is in place it takes less energy to keep it going than to let it collapse and build it up again. In the community sector it can take a huge amount of time and energy to set up a project and comparatively little energy to keep it going, like wise with community networks. Indeed the same is true of communities themselves. Many of the present woes in urban Ireland can be traced to the destruction of inner cities communities, their extended families and their values of responsibility respect and neighbourliness. The State did not let those communities collapse they were the catalyst for this collapse. The hospital cutbacks in the eighties is another example of collapsing a system which was relatively efficient, for the sake of meagre savings, and then never being able to get it back to the way it was. The most glaring example of this phenomenon is our prison system. If resources were put into nurturing the potential of the child, would we need to spend millions on incarcerating the unfulfilled adult?

The hysteresis loop concept shows that if a piece of iron is brought into a magnetic field it will become magnetised and retains that magnetisation after it leaves that field at no cost. In the community sector this is called passing on knowledge and experience of responding to social issues. Hysteresis was initially seen in physics as problematic but is now thought to be of great importance in technology. The idea of the State supporting equilibrium between economic process and social process is anathema to the present government. It prefers to see the civic sector, society, through the eyes of their economists as largely de trop to profits which of course it is but not in the long run.

What is being said is that if human systems that are built up to deal with complex human issues are deliberately collapsed then the social cost, in the long run, is far greater than allowing them to continue to operate in the first place. If the proposed cuts in the McCarthy report are ideologically driven by a world view based on the economics of greed and if the prized fighters of that ideology ( the economist and bankers) are calling for the reduction in the minimum wage and lowering of social welfare benefits what should be our response? Back to black, become petrified and isolated in the face of the task or rekindle the base values and vision of a society based not on greed but need. This means putting our collective heads above the parapet and stating our case loud and clear: we stand for fairness and equality and we are an indispensable tool in the advancement towards a Society in which such values are the basis for economic growth.

At the moment the best opportunity is to organise and mobilise through SIPTU.

Contact Stephen Lewis 018586400 or 0876576956

The Red?

Summary of effects of the McCarthy report on Community

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and Voluntary Sector

Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

* Cuts to Community Services Programmes - €64m

* Cuts to Gaeltacht Schemes - €20.8m

* Cuts to islands infrastructure - €20m

Staff cuts 196

This Programme has a 2009 allocation of €164m and employs 42 staff.

· CRamp;GA will no longer exist and all LDSIP and CDP projects will now come under the Department of Social and Family Affairs

· Discontinuation of Dormant Accounts Fund Board €1.7m

· Discontinuation of RAPID scheme €1.4m

· Reduction in allocation for community and voluntary sector supports €10.0m

· Reduction in allocation for Community Services Programme €10.0m

· Reduction in allocation for local amp; community development programmes €44.0m

Total Current Savings €67.5m

Total Capital Savings €6.1m

Total Identified Savings €73.6m


Reduce allocation to certain Local Drugs Task Force (LDTF) Projects

Social Welfare

Cuts to all social welfare payments by 5% - €850m

· Reduction and changes to child benefit - €513m

· An end to receiving two welfare payments - €100m

· An end to payments for Community Employment Schemes for those already on benefit - €100m

· weberik casino Grading of jobseekers allowance by age - €70m

· Cutting the Family Support Agency - €30m

· online casino slot Changing eligibility for Family Income Supplement - €20m

Enterprise Trade and Employment

Close down the Jobs Initiative Scheme €10.0m

Abolish FÁS training allowances for participants who do not qualify for

Jobseekers Benefit/Allowance

Replace supplementary allowances with a standard cost of training allowance

Abolish the higher training bonus of €31.80

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Environment, Heritage and Local Government

· Review the Local Authority tenancy system and amend the criteria for local authority housing lists

· The Group considers that housing stock should be fully utilised by those with a long term housing need. The definition of housing need should be amended and the link to rent supplement should be removed to ensure that local authority housing lists cater for those with long term housing needs. There should be minimum delays between lettings of the housing stock.


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Tenancies should be reviewed periodically, at a minimum at 5 year intervals, and the housing needs of tenants reassessed, regardless of income or family circumstances. Local Authority tenants should not have the right to hold a tenancy for a particular abode for their lifetime or be able to pass on a tenancy to a family member. As family circumstances change, the accommodation provided should match the circumstances, e.g. as a household reduces in size a smaller alternative should be provided.

Reconsider the policy of selling existing local authority housing stock

The Group is of the opinion that discounts for tenant purchase should be withdrawn and local authorities should maintain a housing stock. In line with the Group’s view on reviewing the local authority tenancy system, tenant purchase of local authority housing stock should be confined to existing tenants.

Part V of the Planning and Development Act

The purchase option in Part V of the Planning and Development Act

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in its requirement that the Local Authorities must purchase a proportion of the units in each development. The Group recommends that Part V be amended to provide greater flexibility in implementation and protect the position of the Exchequer.

· Discontinue Affordable Housing Schemes

Due to the sharp improvement in housing affordability, all affordable housing schemes should come to an end and the Affordable Homes Partnership should be discontinued. The above measures together could save in the order of €6.2m.

· Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS)

With residential market rents declining (The latest CSO CPI Detailed Sub Indices Release of June 2009

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shows that rents decreased by 16.4% over the previous 12 months), local authorities are in a position to negotiate better contracts

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with landlords participating in RAS. While existing contracts are fixed, every effort should be made to seek reductions in

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line with the reduction in market rates. New contracts should take advantage of greater value for money available in the current market. This will enable greater numbers to be accommodated for the monies provided. The current rent supplement scheme impacts on the size of the housing needs list inflating actual need. Cross checking on studies of need is necessary. A robust figure for housing need is required for planning the number of dwellings to purchase, lease or construct.

National Childcare Investment Programme

The objective of the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) is to create a supply of affordable childcare through the provision of capital grants and also by subventing community notfor-profit childcare services to enable them to provide care to disadvantaged families. The totalgross allocation for the NCIP in 2009 is €137.6m. The total gross allocation outlined in –

Measures identified for Programme E

Annual savings

· E.1 Abolish the transitional provisions for the NCIP €2.0m


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E.2 Alter the means test by eliminating Band C €5.0m

· E.3 Rationalise the administrative structures €3.0m

· Total Current Savings €10.0m

· E.1 Abolish the transitional provisions for the National Childcare Investment Programme

When the original scheme was altered in 2007 it was decided to shift the focus of supports to children rather than crèches.

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Supports and transitional arrangements were put in place to ensure that existing participating crèches did not suffer a sudden loss of income. It is recommended that these transitional arrangements now be abolished yielding savings of €2m in a full year.

· E.2 Alter the means test by eliminating Band C

Funding under the scheme is allocated across three bands depending on parents’ circumstances. Bands A and B are for children whose parents are on social welfare or in receipt of Family Income Supplement or childcare supplements. Band C is for children whose parents are on low incomes but are not encompassed by Bands A and B. It is recommended that the third band, Band C, be eliminated as the first two are sufficient, yielding savings of €5m in a full

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