Dáil Éireann - Volume 546 - 11 December, 2001

Written Answers. - Anti-Poverty Strategy.

[590] 36. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the plans he may bring forward before the general election to address the issue of spatial inequality. [31618/01]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Public policy has increasingly recognised that there are spatial concentrations of unemployment, poverty and exclusion where individuals, families and communities suffer a form of cumulative disadvantage. Such problems can best be addressed by targeted and integrated policy responses.

County and city development boards are currently drawing up their county or city strategies for social, economic and cultural development, and these are due to be completed in early 2002.

These strategies will have a strong focus on the achievement of greater social inclusion within their areas. The RAPID and Clár programmes, the establishment of pilot social inclusion units in nine local authorities and the ongoing roll-out of the national anti-poverty strategy to local level will greatly assist in delivering on this objective.

At regional level, two regional monitoring committees have been established to oversee the delivery of the regional operational programmes of the national development plan, to monitor progress in development generally in the BMW and South and East regions, and to focus on the reduction of poverty and social exclusion within the two regions. Early in 2002 my Department, in co-operation with the Combat Poverty Agency, will engage with the regional operational programmes in a pilot project aimed at improving the assessment of the impact of the programmes on social inclusion.

Rural poverty and urban disadvantage are, of course, key themes under the current review of the national anti-poverty strategy, which is almost finalised. The review process acknowledged the critical value of access to social infrastructure and services as a key determinant of the quality of life of people. More generally, the increases in social welfare rates and child benefit, and the removal of lower income earners from the tax net, announced in the budget, will further advance this Government's drive to increase the real incomes of those most at risk of poverty.

I am confident that the initiatives contained in the revised national anti-poverty strategy, combined with the budgetary measures, will provide clear evidence of this Government's continuing commitment to every citizen of this State, no matter where they live.