Dáil Éireann - Volume 490 - 29 April, 1998
Written Answers. - National Anti-Poverty Strategy.
Mr. Rabbitte Mr. Rabbitte
19. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress to date in implementing the national anti-poverty strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10045/98]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern) Dermot Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): This Government has pledged itself to achieving a society based on social inclusion, and to addressing the structural causes of poverty as it affects a significant minority in our society. This is reflected in the Government programme An Action Programme for the Millennium. A key element to achieving  this is the national anti-poverty strategy which has been in place for just over one year.
The initial focus of the strategy has been on putting in place appropriate institutional and administrative structures to ensure that the implementation of the NAPS was supplemented by efficient and complementary mechanisms. These included the Cabinet subcommittee on social inclusion and drugs, including local development, chaired by the Taoiseach, which now meets on a regular monthly basis; the continuation of the NAPS interdepartmental policy committee, comprised of senior officers who have responsibility for ensuring that the NAPS provisions relevant to their Departments are implemented; the NAPS unit based in my Department which co-ordinates the implementation of the strategy; the appointment of NAPS liaison officers in relevant Government Departments to fulfil a communication and co-ordination role.
The primary focus of the first year of the NAPS was to have the concept of social inclusion firmly embedded across the Civil Service. I am satisfied that this has been achieved due, to a great extent, to the existence of these structures which facilitate co-operation in relation to social inclusion issues at all levels. As a result, Departments are responding to the challenge to develop new and more open ways of developing their policies.
The Cabinet subcommittee reviews the strategies which are in place to deal with poverty and exclusion and provides strong leadership for the strategy. Much progress has been made in this first year in moving towards the targets set out in the NAPS statement. Indeed, it is now envisaged that many of these targets will be reached sooner than anticipated.
Some examples of positive, concrete initiatives which are making inroads on the NAPS targets in its five key thematic areas are a multi-annual employment plan has been put in place aimed at reducing unemployment and preventing young people from drifting into unemployment; a variety of new measures have been introduced to tackle early school leaving; social welfare payment rates have been increased so that 94 per cent of all social welfare claimants will be over the rate recommended by the Commission on Social Welfare; rural poverty is being addressed in the forthcoming White Paper on Rural Development; a new integrated services project has been introduced to co-ordinate services in a number of particularly disadvantaged urban areas, and the national drugs strategy has been progressed.
At departmental level, NAPS baseline documents and 1998 workplans have been prepared by the relevant Departments. These documents will provide a broad indication of where current programmes and initiatives are impacting on poverty, and will facilitate identification of potential cross-cutting actions which could prevent duplication and provide more focused action to promote social inclusion.
 Recognising the need for greater awareness of the NAPS and the causes and realities of poverty in general, a public information and education strategy has been developed and implementation will begin shortly. Work is also continuing on the preparation of guidelines for proofing Government policies for their impact on poverty. Consultation will take place soon with the social partners on a discussion document to progress this issue, which will be an important element in ensuring that future substantive relevant Government policies support social inclusion.
Finally, an interdepartmental working group is currently examining the feasibility of establishing a community trust to support voluntary and community activity and to promote social inclusion. The involvement of the business sector in this initiative is extremely important and I hope to see some progress on this in the near future.
Dáil Éireann 490 Written Answers. National Anti-Poverty Strategy.