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Regeneration

Volume 459: debated on Friday 20 April 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland which communities have received funding from the Renewing Communities programme since the establishment of the scheme; and how much each received. (132281)

The Renewing Communities programme was established April 2006 as a wide range of over 60 actions spread across eight Government Departments. It incorporates existing policies and programmes that are central to Government’s efforts in tackling deprivation wherever it exists. These are mainstream programmes involving allocations of funding in excess of £200 million and supporting disadvantaged communities across all of Northern Ireland.

In addition, a smaller number of pilot projects have been developed to target disadvantaged communities and to test new ideas and new ways of working to combat specific aspects of local deprivation. These pilot projects account for an annual budget of approximately £14 million over the two years 2006-08. Careful analysis of these projects will show that many are open to participants and communities from across the traditional divide. While we are barely half way through what is a two year funding initiative, it is too early to report accurately on the actual spend in specific communities. However, it is worth noting that around one third of all the Renewing Communities Actions are specifically targeted on pilot programmes in single identity Protestant communities experiencing some of the worst levels of deprivation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps were taken to ensure that (a) the Renewing Communities programme and (b) the projects supported by funding from that scheme honoured the equality provisions as laid out in the Northern Ireland Act 1998; and if he will make a statement. (132282)

In developing the Renewing Communities Action Plan, all Government Departments were asked to identify existing policies and programmes that were relevant to addressing the needs of disadvantaged communities, including those in Protestant areas, in line with recommendations made in the cross-departmental Taskforce Report published in April 2006. This included two emerging programmes in the Children and Young People’s package and the Skills and Science package announced in early 2006. Each of these major policies and programmes, forming the core of Government’s response, have already been subjected to equality screening by the responsible lead Department.

Also included in the Renewing Communities Action Plan are a number of initiatives designed to try new ideas for tackling specific aspects of deprivation and to test new ways to work with and in disadvantaged communities. After thorough evaluation and assessment, if these projects prove successful, then the appropriate lead Department will take steps to roll out successful programmes across all communities experiencing similar deprivation. At this stage the lead Department will be required to carry out an equality assessment prior to the introduction of any new policy.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the operation of the Renewing Communities programme since its establishment; and what the future plans for the scheme are. (132283)

The Renewing Communities Plan has been a positive development for Northern Ireland. A cross-departmental Delivery Team, chaired by the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, has been established to review and monitor progress of all of the actions contained in the Renewing Communities Action Plan. The Delivery Team has reported regularly to me on the progress of the programme across all of the actions and of the arrangements to ensure cohesive inter-departmental working where appropriate. Individual lead Departments and their delivery agencies have been tasked with the responsibility for the evaluation of all their relevant actions before the Delivery Team completes an overview assessment of all the programmes of actions.

Following these two levels of assessment, the Delivery Team will determine those particular programmes which are considered to have potential to be rolled out across all disadvantaged communities and mainstreamed as part of each Department’s contribution to tackling deprivation wherever it exists.