I will expand the adult literacy service as resources become available. Some €93.5 million was committed to the service in the National Development Plan, 2000-06, with a target of reaching 113,000 clients. Investment in this area has increased 16 fold since 1997 and is already ahead of the levels provided for in the national development plan. The funds are being used to expand the scale and scope of provision, improve outreach and referral links and promote flexibility and quality. My priority is to continue to build on this work as far as resources allow and to continue to expand the range of provision to include family learning, workplace learning, provision for special needs and for those for whom English is not the mother tongue, as well as optimising the use of TV so that people can access help in the privacy of their own homes.
In 2000, the first ever TV series "Read Write Now" attracted an average weekly audience on 155,000. In 2001, an average of 235,000 people per week availed of literacy assistance in their homes through watching the second literacy series. A third series is currently being broadcast. In all cases, the TV programme has been backed up by free learner support packs and a freephone helpline provided by the National Adult Literacy Agency. Videos of the first and second series have been sent to literacy schemes, training centres, public libraries and video outlets. This strategy will be built on into the future. In addition, an innovative workplace literacy programme, Return to Learning, following a pilot scheme last year, has been introduced nationwide.
The adult literacy budget has been increased from just over €1 million prior to 1997 to €16.460 million in the current year. Participation in VEC literacy schemes has been increased from 5,000 in 1997 to over 24,000 during the same period.