The Community Support Programme is an important collaborative initiative between the Department for Social Development and all 26 district councils aimed at developing a core local community infrastructure across Northern Ireland. This infrastructure supports the delivery of a number of important Government programmes, such as Neighbourhood Renewal and Investing in Health, which aim to tackle the root causes of deprivation and social exclusion, as well as other Government objectives around poverty through the provision of funding for frontline advice and information agencies, such as Citizens' Advice Bureaux and Independent Advice Centres.
The work of the Community Support Programme has been strengthened by the implementation of the recommendations of the policy document "Beyond the Centre", published in 2000, which provide a clearer focus on people-centred community development and on targeting social need. On the basis of "Beyond the Centre", all 26 councils are developing integrated community support plans for their respective areas based on an assessment and prioritisation of need.
On the basis of numerous examples of good practice arising from this work, the Community Support Programme now has significant opportunities for growth and development, both as a means for better integrating the current multiplicity of local funding streams and as a more robust model for social investment by Government.