Achieving Integration Locally Cork NCP
21 November 2009
My name is Tony Power and I work in the Social Inclusion Unit of Cork City Council. I am here to talk about Cork City Council's role in "Achieving Integration Locally".
The role of the Social Inclusion Unit is to promote Social Inclusion in the day to day activities of the City Council.
We do this in a number of ways:
Information / Research
The Social Inclusion Committee
Policy Development is about ensuring that each Department's policies take cognisance of Social Inclusion and that all services are open and accessible to all citizens of the City equally. We have a Customer Care Charter, a Communications Policy and as an example of Departmental policy, the planning dept takes great care to involve as many community groups as possible in developing plans. For example:
A Local Area Plan for Blackpool is currently being developed and all Communities within Blackpool will have an opportunity to view the proposals and submit their suggestions and requirements and needs.
Awareness Raising -
This is achieved through holding and organising seminars and workshops for all staff, examples of this are: Launching an Employee Booklet on social inclusion which explains terms and concepts of social inclusion. A number of workshops and presentations to a large number of staff were organised. We have also provided Diversity Training and Intercultural Training for staff.
Currently, the Housing Department have requested additional training on interculturalism for frontline staff as there is a growing number of tenants from within the new communities.
Information / Research
The Unit carries out audits and research projects on poverty in the City with a view to informing City Council in preparation of any new plans or policies. This function also takes cognisance of New Communities and the impact of services in these Communities.
We have a Social Inclusion Committee which comprises Senior Representatives from each Department in the City Council - both from the Administrative side and also from our Operational staff.
This Committee oversees an Action Plan for the council and promotes social inclusion issues and awareness within their own Departments.
Some documents have been produced in relation to Social Inclusion and Integration. There is an Employee Booklet, a Newcomers Guide to Cork translated into several languages and this year prior to the Local Elections, work was done on translating the Franchise Information leaflets into other languages.
This work has all been internally focused in the sense that it is about making Senior Management and frontline staff aware of issues from a Social Inclusion perspective and hopefully, the Council responds appropriately to all its citizens.
The City Council is involved in the Cork Integration Forum formerly the Cork Networking Committee. As part of its commitment to Integration we are represented on the Cork City Integration Strategy Monitoring Group.
The Strategy is led by Cork City Partnership and all agencies have identified actions to deliver. The Council's main actions involve organising Sports Information Days, Soccer World Cup Tournament, Cork City Marathon, Cork City Local Sports Partnership and the St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Further actions involve an e-bulletin newsletter to be rolled out to Ethnic Minority Groups. A local Intercultural events calendar has been included in a Community Diary website hosted by Cork City Council. This website is currently being updated and improved for ease of use and access.
The Franchise Department has translated leaflets on Voting Rights and Procedures on Local Elections into several languages and all are freely available on the Council website.
The Strategy promotes an Inclusive Intercultural City in which all are valued regardless of nationality, religion or ethnic background.
Cork City Council through Community & Enterprise Dept also manages the Integration Grant. Around €40,000 was made available from the Minister for Integration this year and our office invited and co-ordinated submissions from the various agencies and organisations representing the new communities for specifically identified projects. A number of proposals were submitted for funding.
The Council in conjunction with all relevant stakeholders has committed to the development of a LAPSIS (Local Anti Poverty & Social Inclusion Strategy) for Cork City. This document one finalised will be an Action Plan for Social Inclusion measures across all areas of the City and should help identify gaps in service delivery and improve access to services for all. This initiative has been adopted by the City Development Board as a key strategy to 2012 and its implementation is monitored by the City Monitoring Group.
Cork City Council is in the process of developing a Corporate Plan which will be a blue print of strategic priorities for the Council over the next five years.
Some of the actions coming from this document will be that Cork City Council in conjunction with Cork City Partnership will examine and improve community participation and representation in Cork City, to ensure that the most marginalised groups in the City have effective representation/ participation. To help achieve this the following steps
Consultation Handbook for all agencies
Improve Communication of community activities within communities
Revitalise Community Associations in the City to make them truly representative and more effective.
We support Lifelong Learning and aim to improve access to information on education, training, and progression for all. This is not done in isolation, but in conjunction with all agencies in the City. The City Council facilitates the City Development Board and the City Monitoring Group whose membership includes all relevant Agencies in Cork.
The City Council in the area of Sports have organised sports information evenings for ethnic minorities. This involves a showcase event where sports clubs and facilities have promoted their services. I attended one of these evenings in March of this year in the Glen Resource Centre and it was very well attended.
We have provided funding and support for the Annual World Cup Soccer tournament which has been very successful.
The Cork City Marathon is a major event in the City calendar and we have promoted the involvement of all socially excluded groups in the race. A major success of the Marathon has been the Relay Team event and this has grown in the three years of the Marathon.
The Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre supported by Cork City Partnership and City Council and with some sponsorship from a few businesses in town fielded 16 teams to run the Marathon. The Council charged a nominal administrative fee and waived the balance to support the entry of marginalised groups. Local business support enabled the provision of some running kit for the teams to enable participation. In fact, I was informed only the other day that an award will issue shortly to the Kinsale Road Groups as they fielded the most teams.
From my involvement, this year, and meeting so many of the participants from Kinsale Road, it is my belief that they have the runners to field a Winning Relay Team, and it should be acknowledged that Sorina Gabor of City Partnership has been instrumental in this success.
In relation to Arts, Cork City Council has an Arts plan which states, "Access to excellent arts and cultural practice is a civic right for all." The Arts office funds multicultural art programmes through its community arts development fund. The fund supports projects which encourage community groups to participate in the arts. An example of this is the Irish/Africa Gospel Choirs competition which has been held in 2006, 2007 and 2008. This is a national competition and has been hosted in St. Finbarr's Cathedral with the Lord Mayor presenting the winning choir with a Cork Crystal vase and a cheque for €1,000.
In collaboration with NASC, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, a documentary has been produced about family re-unification and its effects on families directly involved, living in Cork.
In a City Integration Strategy report to the City Development Board in September, a number of issues were raised.
The difficulty in reaching the target groups was identified. At an information evening last May, there was a poor attendance from members of the Immigrant community. The need to identify other mechanisms for information distribution requires attention.
The economic downturn, affecting us all, hits the immigrant communities harder as it becomes more difficult to access employment and in some cases causes hardship in meeting rent.
The biggest challenge in my mind is communication. The secret of good communication is listening to the other side. The means by which we communicate need to be improved and strengthened and today is a good example of affording an opportunity to inform and listen. New means of making information available need to be found.
And finally, to end on a positive note.
Combating Social exclusion, marginalisation and ensuring services can be accessed easily are the responsibility of all agencies working together. No one agent will succeed in isolation. In this regard, NASC, Cois Tine, Welcome English, Cork City Partnership, New Communities Partnership, Cork City Council to name just a few, have a good record of working together and in the current climate, it is heartening to see the levels of co-operation, the pooling of resources and planning to limit duplication of services gives one hope for the future.
I feel confident that the Cork City Integration forum (formed in June 09) will provide a strong platform for new communities to have issues raised and more importantly, addressed.
I hope I've given some flavour of the work of City Council and it was not an exhaustive list by any means, and assure you that the City Council is committed to treat all citizens equally, fairly and will do whatever it can to support all groups within the city.
Tony Power, Speech to New Communities Partnership, Achieving Integration Locally. 21st November 2009.