The Carnegie UK Trust has welcomed the publication of a Community Response Plan by the Department for Communities, and has called for this collaborative approach between local and central government to be sustained following the COVID-19 response.
The Trust, which is currently working with three councils in Northern Ireland in support of Community Planning, works to improve personal, community and societal wellbeing in public policy, and has been calling for increased co-operation between and across the tiers of government.
The Community Response Plan includes key responses to the pandemic by the department, in partnership with local government and community organisations. Bringing together knowledge, expertise and resources, the Community Response Plan helps ensure that communities and the most vulnerable in society are supported.
Sarah Davidson, CEO of the Carnegie UK Trust said:
‘The devastation which COVID-19 is causing to the lives of individuals, communities and businesses cannot be understated, but we can see some positive things emerging from the situation. The response and coming together that the pandemic has prompted shows how we can come out from this as a society which places the wellbeing of its citizens at its heart.
‘This Community Response Plan represents strong leadership at a central government level by the Executive, the Minister, and her Department, but at the same time it acknowledges that local government and community organisations are often best placed to advise on the needs of local communities and to deliver to them.
‘Community Planning was introduced in Northern Ireland following the Review of Public Administration in 2015, and since then, local government has been leading the way in navigating the challenges of working with a range of organisations to deliver outcomes for the communities they serve. It has not been an easy task, and the Trust has been supporting some of the councils in a project which will make recommendations to the Executive at the end of this year on how the process can be improved and made more efficient.
‘Since the outbreak of the pandemic, we have seen food packages distributed to the vulnerable; support to sports clubs to ensure their survival; and freezing rent increases. It may not be branded as such, it may not involve the usual meetings, action planning teams, networks and forums, but it is Community Planning in action. The familiar barriers to co-operation have been parked for now in pursuit of a common purpose.
‘One of the challenges – and indeed opportunities – for government and its partners emerging from this will be to capture what has worked well, and embed this in the post-COVID-19 recovery phase. Although we do not know what our ‘new normal’ will look like, we do know the skills that it will require – collaboration and a citizen centred approach.’
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About the Carnegie UK Trust
The Carnegie UK Trust has a long history of research and practice development on public services and community empowerment across the UK and Ireland.
The Trust invests in evidence-based policy development and translates its findings into real-world activities. This allows them to build up a clear set of messages and use these to influence decision makers. By doing this, their recommendations can bring about change and, most importantly, improve people’s wellbeing.