asked the Minister for Education the reason for the delays in making payments to pupils taking part in the vocational preparation and training programmes in Tallaght community school, Tallaght, County Dublin, which is being funded by the European Social Fund; and if arrangements can now be made to have the payments made to those entitled without further delay.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Tallaght (Dublin) Student Payments.
When the scheme for payment of allowances to participants in the vocational preparation and training programme was introduced in 1984 it was decided that all payments would be made through the relevant vocational education committee. Accordingly payment of allowances to participants in the programme in Tallaght community school is a matter for County Dublin VEC. From inquiries I have made, I understand that delays in the payments are due to an instruction issued by the VEC to their staff not to pay these grants until approval is given for additional staffing. This is not acceptable. It is a matter for the VEC to order their priorities so that these payments are made in due time.
Does the Minister agree that it is an outrage that these children who have willingly participated in this scheme, who have given of their time and effort, because of internal staffing problems have had their payments delayed and which they need particularly now coming up to Christmas? Will the Minister use her good offices to try to break this deadlock and ensure that these moneys are paid to these children who have been waiting for it for a long time, and ensure that they get this money without further delay?
I share the Deputy's view and regret very much the delays in the payment of this money as a result of directions given by the County Dublin VEC. The Department are giving urgent attention to the resolution of this matter. We want to see this matter resolved because so much extra funding was obtained for these young people, and it is regrettable that there should be this delay.
Is it not a fact that while extra funding was received for ESF grants for a number of schools, money was not made available for administrative staff? The Minister is dodging the real issue, which is that the same number of staff have to distribute large sums of money which they did not have to do before the grants were given. Could the Minister not ensure that an element of this ESF funding is given for administrative staff so that the scheme can be administered efficiently? At present the young people for whom this money was intended are not getting it. The first ESF payment to all colleges took place eight weeks after college resumed.
That is a speech.
Every committee have a general allocation of staff and if there is pressure at certain times it is for the committee, as it would be for any other institution, to order priorities so that payments are made. The question asked my Department whether any increase in staff would be allowed in view of the pressures on staffing resources. That has to be considered in the context of the Government's policy on the limitation of public service numbers. I do not think the Deputy is saying that we should have increase in public service numbers but I reiterate that the matter is receiving the most urgent attention in the Department.
This question relates to one particular school. Again, we are broadening the question.
It concerns all the country.
Arising out of——
I am calling the next question.
Is it not true that when the vocational education committees, and in particular the County Dublin VEC, tried to do what the Minister says, they got a very abrasive type letter telling them they are dispersing funds——
That is not a question; it is a speech.
Yes, it is.
I am calling Deputy Taylor.
What is the total sum of money involved? How much is involved as far as Tallaght is concerned? Can the Minister hold out a reasonable prospect that these children will get their money before Christmas?
Santa might come.
I regret I do not have that information to hand, but I will get the precise figures to the Deputy as quickly as I can. Obviously I am anxious that the problem will be solved long before Christmas and we will be working to achieve that.
May I have clarification of one point?
I am calling Question No. 8.