As the Deputy will be aware, the RAPID programme is a focused Government initiative which targets the most concentrated areas of disadvantage. The programme calls on Departments and State agencies to bring about better co-ordination and closer integration in the delivery of services. The RAPID programme has two strands, the first of which targets 25 urban areas, while strand II targets 20 provincial towns around the country. It is the role of my Department, supported by Area Development Management Limited, to co-ordinate the programme's implementation. It is a matter for individual Departments to report on progress in relation to implementation of RAPID proposals that fall within their remit.
In each of the areas in question an area implementation team was established to prepare a plan. Plans were approved by the relevant city or county development boards prior to being sent to the national programme co-ordinator at Area Development Management Limited. Proposals from those plans were then forwarded to the relevant Department for consideration. The scale of the proposals in the plans is grand and in many cases the work involved in analysing projects is proving to be intensive. A number of indicative projects contained in the plans have required additional information to enable Departments to clarify the nature, scale and cost of the projects. While progress in implementing the plans has been slower then anticipated, the funding agencies need time to consider the plans to ensure that the correct decisions are made and that funding is available to meet the priorities identified. In the meantime, it is important that the other key element of the RAPID programme – bringing about greater coherence in the delivery of all social inclusion measures – is addressed and implemented.
The Deputy will be aware that there are 14 RAPID areas in Dublin. As regards my Department, 39 proposals from the Dublin RAPID plans fall to be considered under the young peoples' facilities and services fund, the community development programme and funding for local drugs task forces. In the case of proposals relevant to the young people's facilities and services fund, the national assessment committee of the fund, chaired by my Department, is examining capital proposals submitted by the development groups under round II of the fund.
With regard to services projects, the committee awaits the completion of the external evaluation of the fund before seeking such proposals under round II. The first draft of the evaluator's report was received in mid-January and is being considered by the NAC at present. Proposals submitted under the RAPID plans will be considered in the context of decisions to be made under round II and in light of the overall funding position for 2003. A number of proposals in RAPID plans relate to the community development programme and while there has been no additional allocation of funding in respect of projects to date, Deputies should note that in many cases pre-development work is under way. The full establishment of groups as community development projects in 2003 is subject to available resources, but those in RAPID areas will receive due priority. A number of proposals from RAPID plans are also being pursued through the local drugs task force plans.
One of my Department's primary objectives is to maximise the impact, coherence and effectiveness of the programmes for which it is responsible. As a first step towards achieving this objective, I will undertake a review of the programmes and activities that fall within the remit of my Department with a view to achieving optimal coherence across the various schemes. I will consult the relevant parties, including the local drugs task forces and the area implementation teams, and all views will be considered in the context of this review. I have an open mind with regard to the possible rationalisation of structures, including RAPID and the local drugs task forces and I am happy to await the outcome of the review. My overriding concern is to ensure that expenditure on such programmes has the most effective positive impact on the communities involved.
It is important to re-state that the Government remains committed to the RAPID programme and its implementation. The 45 areas selected have been consistently targeted as areas of special need through various Government interventions in recent years and this will continue under the implementation of the different RAPID plans. In this context, Deputies should note that my officials have had a number of bilateral meetings with other relevant Departments in recent months to try to advance the implementation of the programme. I hope to meet my ministerial colleagues in the other Departments in the coming weeks to further advance the plans.