I propose to take Questions Nos. 119, 132, 774, 796, 797 and 798 together.
This Department's expenditure on school meals in 1999 amounted to £565,000. Estimated expenditure, based on the current scheme, for 2000 and 2001 is £860,000 and £930,000 respectively. Expenditure figures for academic years are not available within the Department.
Applications from schools to participate in the scheme are dealt with in the first instance by the local authorities. The details of the primary schools which are benefiting from the scheme are therefore not available within the Department. Returns to the Department from the 31 local authorities which operated the scheme in 1999 indicate that in the region of 370 schools received meals in that year.
I have felt for some time that the current school meals scheme falls a long way short of what is required and that a major reform of the scheme is needed. Accordingly, I established an interdepartmental working group chaired by my Department to review the scheme from first principles.
The review is being undertaken as part of the series of expenditure reviews which seek to ensure that spending programmes are still relevant and to identify priorities for adjustments in expenditure. In this case, proposals are being developed for a reformed school meals scheme that will meet the needs of today's school-going children in an efficient and effective manner.
The working group undertaking the review is composed of representatives from my Department, the Departments of Health and Children, Education and Science, Environment and Local Government and Finance, Dublin Corporation and the County and City Managers' Association. This is indicative of the broad range of stakeholders in this area.