Local Authorities Social Inclusion Strategy (LASIS)
Westmeath Local Authorities (Westmeath County Council and Athlone Town Council) with the assistance of the Combat Poverty Agency developed a Westmeath Local Authorities Social Inclusion Strategy (LASIS). A Steering Group was established to oversee the development of the strategy, made up of representatives of the local authorities (Core Group for the project), the Combat Poverty Agency and some local development agencies that have a focus on social inclusion.
The focus of the Westmeath Local Authorities Social Inclusion Strategy (LASIS) was to ‘roll-out’ the National Anti-Poverty Strategy (NAPS) at a local level. A key aspect of the process was the inclusion of social inclusion as a cross-cutting theme in the Corporate Plan of the Westmeath Local Authorities, completed in 2004.
Westmeath Local Authorities Social Inclusion Strategy (LASIS) will outline objectives, actions and targets for tackling poverty/social exclusion, through the work of the Westmeath local authorities, having due regard to the overarching County Development Board Strategy for the Economic, Social and Cultural Development of Westmeath 2002 – 2012 “Bringing Quality to Life”.
Local Authorities having a greater role in fostering social inclusion was emphasised in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (2000), which stated that local authorities will continue to expand their role in social inclusion and work to embed the National Anti-Poverty strategy in their policies and actions.
Building an Inclusive Society (2002), the revised Anti-Poverty Strategy indicates that local authorities will develop social inclusion strategies at local level, which will influence in particular, the operation of strategic development objectives agreed by the County/City Development Boards (CDB)s. The broad intention of these moves is to give local government a much stronger role in influencing and co-ordinating local development initiatives, including social inclusion.
The Local Government Act 2001 developed some of the roles which the Government Task Force had identified and defined a role and strategic position for Local Government with Local Governance. Part 9 of the Act defines the functions of local government in terms that have not been presented with such clarity in previous national legislation. Specifically, the Act requires a local authority in performing any of its functions to have regard to “the need to promote social inclusion” (section 69). Part 13 of the Act elaborates on the role of the local authorities in promoting “effective participation by the local community in local government” (section 127).
Social Inclusion – “Social Inclusion can be defined as a series of positive actions to achieve equality of access to goods and services, to assist all individuals participate in their community and society, to encourage the contribution of all persons to social and cultural life and to be aware of, and to challenge all forms of discrimination.”
Social Inclusion incorporates the need to ensure that minority groups people of different nationalities, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, people with disabilities, the elderly, children and young people are recognised as valuable members of the community. It is essential that all people are provided with equal opportunities to participate in the life of their locality and do not suffer from discrimination.
Poverty – “People are living in poverty if their income and resources (material, social and cultural) are so inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living which is regarded as accepted by Irish society generally. As a result of inadequate income and resources, people may be excluded and marginalised from participating in activities, which are considered the norm for other people living in society.”
Ensuring social inclusion is a primary challenge facing society in Ireland, both now and in the future. Tackling poverty and social exclusion remains one of the major challenges facing Irish society. We must develop communities in which all people have equal opportunity to participate; a society where all people have access to the facilities and services they need to lead a high quality life. This includes access to a range of quality housing, education and health services as well as employment, culture, sport and recreation.
A Local Social Inclusion Strategy was developed for 2004 – 2009, Social Inclusion Strategy 2005-2009; this strategy has now come to an end and Westmeath Local Authorities are planning the development of the new Social Inclusion Strategy for Westmeath 2010 - 2014.
A process for the development of a poverty profile for the county and consultation with stakeholders, is being undertaken in order to identify possible priorities and actions for the future development of the 2010 - 2014 Local Authorities Social Inclusion Strategy (LASIS).
Further information on this can be obtained from the Community & Enterprise Section of Westmeath County Council.