Financial assistance and training supports should be provided to help public and private sector employers encourage staff to work from home or from remote working hubs, a report from an Oireachtas committee recommends.
Each Government department and agency should include a metric on remote working in its annual report, actions to achieve the 20 per cent target and further actions to increase it thereafter, it says.
In its pre-budget submission, the Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands has also called for the establishment of multi-annual funding arrangements for the charitable and voluntary sector.
The committee said such funding would facilitate and better enable “long-term planning, assist effective staff recruitment and retention, and thereby deliver better and more sustainable services”.
Among the committee’s 45 recommendations is a call for current funding to the air and ferry services to off-coast islands to rise to “cover increased costs and develop new and improved services to the islands”.
It also says that a new air service, which would initially be for three days a week to Inishbofin, should be funded in the upcoming budget, particularly as the island off the coast of Connemara already has an airstrip.
Funding for the Local Improvement Scheme, which provides financial assistance to help local authorities carry out improvement works on private and non-publicly maintained roads, should be doubled “at a minimum” in Budget 2022, the report says.
The committee has also recommended that funding be provided for the provision of 24-hour accessible defibrillators in all towns and villages across the country as well as for the establishment of Age Action groups in rural areas.
A total of €10 million should be put in place to provide direct funding for major and minor capital development works on the islands as well as support to co-finance or provide leverage funding with other State bodies and local authorities for “vital infrastructure on the islands”, it added.
“This would help islands overcome the delay in prioritising projects due to cost benefit analysis favouring projects on the mainland,” the report says.
Independent TD and chair of the committee, Denis Naughten TD, said the Covid-19 pandemic has made it very clear that a shift to remote working across Ireland is possible, “offering the chance to breathe new life and build new communities in rural Ireland”.
“It is essential that Budget 2022 grasps this opportunity to help make that move to remote working possible in the long-term,” the Roscommon-Galway TD said.
“The committee’s pre-Budget submission is recommending that financial assistance and training supports are provided in the first instance to support public and private sector employers to encourage staff to work from home or from remote working hubs.”
Mr Naughten also pointed out that several of the committee’s recommendations are in relation to community organisations and the voluntary and charitable sector.
“These groups are the backbone of life in Ireland, providing jobs, tourism, care and health supports and housing to a significant part of our population,” he said.
“It is essential they are supported. Similarly, there are several schemes and initiatives in rural Ireland that must be protected.”