A Guide for DFI Members Working for People with Disabilities Through Local Government

October 24 2014, 10:02am


October 2014

A new approach to Local Government in Ireland

Emphasis is now focused on the local community as the primary driver of change. Radical reform in local government was introduced on 1st June 2014. Behind this reform is an attempt to develop a more streamlined and community focused approach to local decision making, with the active participation of local citizens and local stakeholder groups.

For people with disabilities and the organisations that support them, local government reform presents increased opportunities and stronger avenues to advocate directly with decision makers in our local communities.

The reforms also represent an imperative for disability organisations to become more involved in local government structures and to become active participants at local community level. The newly established Municipal District PPNss (Public Participation Networks) present a key avenue into this process and it is an avenue which DFI recommends our members to avail of.

“…Local government will be the main vehicle of governance and public service at local level – leading economic, social and community development, delivering efficient and good value services, and representing citizens and local communities effectively and accountably.”

Phil Hogan Minister for the Environment Community and Local Government
(2011- 2014)


The table below demonstrates how Local Government Structures have changes through this reform and how the role and function of the new Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) differs from the former County/City Development Board. (CDB):

Changes in Local Government Structures
Previous Local Government StructuresReformed Local Government Structures
County/City Development BoardsLocal Community Development Committee (LCDC) responsible for New 6 year Local Community and Economic Development Plans.
Local Authority ManagerNow CEO
Town AuthoritiesMunicipal Governance integrating town and county- 114 reduced to 31
114 City / County Councils31 City County Councils
1,627 Council SeatsReduced to no greater than 950
Members had access to structures but limited responsibility for local decisionsMembers have decision making powers at city/ county level
Central funding with local income from commercial ratesLocal Areas funded though property tax and central funds
Up to 5 Strategic Policy Committees on Transport, Heritage/Culture Environment, Housing and in some places Economic DevelopmentSPCs as before but must now be a Dedicated Strategic Policy Committee for Economic Development in each Local Authority
10 regional authorities and assemblies3 authorities and assemblies

DFI Involvement with Local Government

Organisations that want to ensure funding and involvement in structuring their local area need to be part of the process. Municipal District PPNs and the subsequent representation onto City/County PPNs and LCDCs are a key avenue to ensure that the issues /proposals of people with disabilities can be heard and acted on.

DFI Involvement with Local Government
Local Community Development Committee (LCDC)Decision Making Committee Funding/Planning Oversee C&V and Economic projects in City/CountyCommunity Reps ( 6 reps, 2 each from
City/County PPN – C&V, Environment and Social Inclusion)
Statutory Agencies (HSE)
Locally elected Reps
Local Politicans
Social Partners
Community Reps must be majority on committee Responsible for Local Economic Development Plan for at least 6 years.
Public Participation Network – City/County
Facilitates the participation and representation of communities Provides information relevant to the environmental, social inclusion & community sector and acts as a hub around which information is distributed and received.Community representatives elected to sit on the County PPN will go on to represent the Community and Voluntary Sector on the LCDCCitizen Engagement Report made comittitment to support Community Reps participation on PPN
Public Particpation Network – Municipal District ( MDPPN)Committee serving local municpal districtPeople with disability Community and Voluntary OrganisationsMunicpal District are areas where candidates stood for last local election Organisations register under three separate headings:-
(Environment/Social Inclusion/Community&Voluntary)

Community Representation in Decision Making

How can disability organisations and people with disabilities be participants through Community Representation?

The Community and voluntary Sector will be the majority grouping at the Local Community Development Committee. (LCDC) Representation seats will be filled in the following manner:
Municipal District Public Participation Networks. (PPNs)

Organisations which are community and voluntary-ie not profit making, may register to join the Public Participation Network in the Municipal District where the organisation operates. The Municipal District is essentially the area where candidates stood for local election in May 2014.

eg: Using Carlow as an example, in County Carlow there are two Municipal Districts hence there are two Municipal District PPNs. Carlow and Muinebheag. The DFI office is located in the Carlow Municipal District and will therefore register with the Carlow MD PPN.

The Municipal District PPN is a collective of C&V organisations within the given Municipal District area. Organisations can register under three separate headings

  • Environment (If the organisation is mainly focused on environmental work)
  • Social inclusion ( Voluntary Disability Organisations are in this category)
  • General Community & Voluntary ( mostly organisations with special interests such as local pigeon club, tidy towns etc)

Election to County /City Level

At Municipal District level the PPNs elect members to represent them at a County wide PPN. Also known as the Secretariat

Eg. In Carlow this means that elections will be held in each of the two Municipal District PPNs and candidates selected from each one will represent the C&V sector on the County PPN.
The County/City Public Participation Network (PPN)

Community representatives elected to sit on the County PPN will go on to represent the Community and Voluntary Sector on the Local Community Development Committee (LCDC)

Note: 2 reps each from the from Environment, Social Inclusion and General Community & Voluntary ‘colleges’ ( ‘college’ is a direct reference to Working Group Report on Citizen Engagement with Local Government).

Step by Step Guide

How do I Register my Organisation?

There are a number of ways an organisation may register on a Municipal District PPN:

  • Register your organisation where it is based (national organisations can register in local district)
  • Branch Networks can register as a social inclusion group linked to the national organisation.
  • Support Workers can register in the area they are based
  • Join an already registered local group or network of social inclusion agencies.

How to Register with your Municipal District PPN?

  • Visit your Local Authority website.
  • Find Local Authority Public Participation Network Registration Form.
  • Identify which Municipal District your organisation is located in
  • Register your organisation under the ‘Social Inclusion’ College
  • Fill in Register Form on line or hard copy
  • Confirmation will be given along with further details of community representative elections.
  • If you are unable to locate your PPN on line then you can contact your Local Authority and speak to a member of the Community Enterprise Section.

From Municipal District PPN to making decisions at the LCDC:

  • Member Organisations join Municipal Districts PPNs via the Social Inclusion College (registering as above).
  • Elections take place in each Municipal District PPN to elect Community Reps who then go forward to participate on a County / City PPN.
  • 5/6 elected Community Reps from the County/City PPN (also called the Secretariat) represent the community on the Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) and other community reps may participate on sub groups
  • The Local Community Development Committee is the main decision making body for community involvement. Community Reps form the majority on the committee and through it a 6 year Local Community & Economic Development Plan will be developed as part of the overall Local Development plan for the County/City.

How do these structures support decision making on key issues for people with disabilities?

The Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) will make decisions on a range of community and economic development issues for the foreseeable future. Community and voluntary organisations are represented on that committee by representatives who are elected through the PPNs. If DFI member organisations remain outside of Municipal District PPNs, they cannot participate in the election of community representatives that will eventually make decisions on issues affecting people with disabilities at the LCDC.

Practical Tips

  • Be a member of the PPN or join a Social Inclusion group that is a member
  • Take part in the election of community representatives and consider the nominations
  • Have the information to make a difference-the issue, the idea the solution
  • Take part in consultations as they occur on community and economic developments. People with disabilities are local citizens living in a whole community. they need jobs, housing transport etc. support them to take part and have their voice directly heard or represented
  • Don’t consider environment or broader C&V issues not be relevant to social inclusion. People with disabilities must also avail of positive environmental developments and have opinions which must be heard.

Know who to talk to, and who to influence

  • Know who the local decision makers are, what are their names and who do they represent on which committee, eg: who are the local political representatives on the LCDC? Which community reps sit on the SPC for Housing, Transport etc.?
  • Who is the Chief Officer in the Local Authority in your area with responsibility for the LCDC and participation of local citizens?
  • What pathways exist for your organisation or local citizens generally to participate in decision making, eg is there a Facebook page for the LCDC? Is there a newsletter via the PPNs? Are there meetings to update the PPN members/community meetings etc. or channels you should be aware of for feedback/mandate?
  • Know who the community representatives are and have contact details for them

Have allies to work through issues

  • Identify other organisations in your area with similar concerns/ideas
  • Identify who to talk to about combining your approach to an issue or to promote an idea or a concept at local level
  • Prepare a game plan/strategy for approaching an issue with as many partners or other concerned stakeholders as possible
  • Inform as many people as possible in the locality about the issue you are working through or the proposal you have to improve the lives of people with disabilities or others.
  • Remember that organisations whose main purpose is not disability may have similar issues to you. Think outside the box!!

Take a planned and strategic approach:

  • Having identified allies, identify the key stakeholders affected by the issue, and gather their support.
  • Draw up a list of who to influence or make aware of your idea/issue and how best to draw the issue to their attention. This could include; local representatives, reps from appropriate statutory agencies on the LCDC, community reps on the relevant committee, eg LCDC, SPC, and the media etc
  • Bring about a discussion at PPN level and gain support for the issue to be raised / represented or progressed through decision making committees.
  • If possible try to ensure the issue is raised at the appropriate/relevant decision making fora and that all parties around the table will be aware of the key points for discussion before the meeting convenes.

How can I avoid an issue being stuck in a committee, and create an opportunity for a decision to be made which will expedite an issue?

If your organisation and /or your partner orgs want decision makers to make a decision on an issue of importance to your community, it is vital that the group of allies who are working in partnership to progress this issue/proposal have a unified and strategic approach.

  1. Draw up an agreed package of information on the issue /agreed proposal statement which is shared by all partners. This is the ONLY information the decision maker should receive from the partners or your organisation if working alone to avoid confusion.
  2. An agreed timescale for the process should be developed allowing time for each partner to meet with key decision makers prior to the actual decision making meeting
  3. A target list of key decision makers should be developed and each partner should agree which decision makers to target and who will do so. This is to avoid decision makers being approached on the same issue with the same information pack by different people. It also demonstrates that there is a groundswell of interest and support across sectors in the proposal or issue.
  4. Make sure there is a good lead–in time if possible before the decision has to be made. If this is not possible, a faster more targeted lobbying and information campaign will need to take place.
  5. The issue must have the support of the stakeholders it will most affect so key stakeholders must be aware of the proposal or issue as well. Use information meetings, social media/ PR opportunities to get the message to as many people as possible.
  6. Encourage local citizens/stakeholders to make contact directly with their local representatives about the issue and provide them with the information they need to speak on it briefly and ask/answer a few simple questions.
  7. Community or other reps must have an established mandate to bring the issue to the attention of the relevant committee and be aware of the parameters of that mandate, ie if a counter proposal is made, do the reps have the authority to accept it or will they need to return to the stakeholders and receive further instruction.
  8. Once a decision is made: if successful...Celebrate and inform everyone who was involved in the process. If not successfulbe aware of the appeal process and if appropriate have the necessary appeal ready as quickly as possible. At this stage another campaign may commence in order to overturn the decision.
  9. Whether successful or not, make sure all stakeholders receive information/feedback on the decision. This may also develop a mandate on how to proceed.

The aim of this process is to ensure that on the day when the relevant decision makers sit down at the table to discuss a proposal or issue raised by organisations, each decision maker will already have an insight into the issue, each will have up to date information about it to hand, and each will be aware that everyone around the table has been approached about it. This creates an awareness that the community organisations have combined their efforts, that the issue has been well publicised locally and a groundswell of support exists on the issue in the community.

From PPN to LCDC - A Graphic Overview using Co. Carlow Structures for illustration note all the Structures are in Red

Note: In all 31 local government areas (counties/cities) there are a number of Municipal Districts therefore a PPN is in place for each MD

Example shown here is a real example from County Carlow where there are 2 MDs

Step 1: DFI Member Organisation joins appropriate Municipal District (MD) PPN Social Inclusion

  • Municipal District PPN eg Carlow, Municipal District PPN eg MuineBheag

Step 2: Elections take place in each Municipal District PPN to elect Community Reps to participate on a County/City Wide PPN also referred to as the Secretariat in some counties. Elections take place along college lines. See below from County Carlow:

  • 8 Community Representation seats to be filled
  • 1 from each Municipal District (Carlow and Muinebheag) =2
  • + 6 (2 from each of the 3 colleges) (Community and Voluntary, Social Inclusion and Environmental).

Step 3: City / County PPN Elects Community Reps to LCDC

Step 4: 2 reps to other Local Government Consultation and Participation Foras eg Strategic Policy Committees on Housing, Transport etc.

Step 5: 6 elected Community Reps to LCDC

Final: Local Community Development Committee LCDC and sub groups