I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 79 together.
Unemployment is increasing across the country due to the downturn in the economy and this has impacted on the Tallaght area also. This situation is unwelcome and I share the Deputy's concern in the matter. The increases are, however, an indication of the challenges that are now facing the labour market and the economy as a whole. This current economic uncertainty and consequent rise in unemployment requires a national response as the current challenges we are facing are not confined to one specific region.
Employment/unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey published by the CSO. It does not provide data on particular counties but only on Regions. Employment in the Dublin Region, which includes Tallaght, has dropped by 19,800 and unemployment has increased by 15,000 in the year to Quarter 4 (September — November 2008), the latest period for which data is available. The number of persons signing on to the live register in the Tallaght region as at end April, 2009 stands at 8,787, an increase of 97% over the last twelve months. The Live Register, however, is not a measure of unemployment as it includes part-time, seasonal and casual workers who might be signing on from time to time.
In response to the challenge of increasing unemployment my Department through FÁS, the National Training and Employment Authority, is prioritising on a national basis, the need to assist and up-skill those who have become unemployed as a result of the present downturn in the economy. In addition to the 51,000 FÁS training places announced on the 5th February, 2009 a further 18,725 training places for the unemployed were provided in the Supplementary Budget to bring the total number of training and work experience activation places funded by my Department in 2009 to approximately 128,000. This is a substantial increase on the 66,000 places, which were available at the end of last year.
In terms of job creation, Enterprise Ireland's (EI) activity in Tallaght is focused on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs in manufacturing and internationally traded services companies. Enterprise Ireland activity is focused on the retention and creation of new jobs in existing companies and the creation of new jobs by supporting entrepreneurs to set up High Potential Start-Up companies. The agency works closely with the Tallaght Institute of Technology in encouraging the commercialisation of research and has approved financial support of over €2.6m to the Institute for the development and management of a Campus based Incubation Centre. This centre provides entrepreneurs with affordable space in an environment, which provides support to them to research their new ideas, and to afford them the opportunity to bring about new indigenous businesses. The agency has also approved support of €1.225m for a Centre of Excellence at the Institute of Technology Tallaght, the focus of which is Microsensors for Clinical Analysis.
South Dublin County Enterprise Board (CEB) continues to provide support for small businesses with 10 employees or fewer in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level throughout South Dublin, which is inclusive of the Tallaght area. Business growth and job creation are inherent considerations in the activities of the CEB. The CEB delivers a series of programmes to underpin this role and they can provide both financial and non-financial assistance to a project promoter. During 2009 South Dublin CEB will continue to support enterprise development in the area through the provision of both direct and indirect assistance and will ensure that available funds are targeted to maximise entrepreneurial development.
The Government remains intent on meeting the on-going challenges in the labour market, including the on-going needs of the unemployed in the Tallaght region. We will, through FÁS, continue to focus on providing training opportunities to those who are unemployed to improve their skills, increase their employability, thereby enabling them to get back into employment as soon as possible.