I thank the committee for its invitation to attend today to discuss the mid-year review of expenditure for my Department.
Before I go through some of the details on the progress being made by my Department, the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Canney, has asked that I offer his apologies. Unfortunately, this committee meeting clashes with oral parliamentary questions for the other Department that he represents. He hopes to join us at a later stage.
The Department has provided a short briefing note to members, which includes a summary of the programme areas and sets out expenditure to the end of September on these programmes. My Department is just over two years old. In that time, we have made huge progress and there has been a significant increase in the funding dedicated to both rural and community development.
The allocation for my Department increased by 26% in budget 2019 from €231 million to €291 million. This allowed increased funding for a range of areas, for example, €52 million for the rural regeneration and development fund, RRDF, €3 million to develop libraries, €2 million for the community enhancement programme, and €1.3 million for the PEACE programme. For 2019, the budget of €291 million for the Department comprises f €153 million in current expenditure and €138 million in capital expenditure.
As requested, the committee has been provided with information on the expenditure by my Department to the end of September 2019, and the position is very positive. The total gross spend by my Department at the end of September was €190 million. This sum comprises of €120 million in current expenditure and €70 million in capital expenditure. This overall level of spend for the end of September is as planned at the start of the year. Current expenditure is at 97% of profile and capital expenditure is at 105% of profile. Since the end of September, there has been a further spend of more than €10 million, with €5.2 million in capital expenditure and €5.2 million in current expenditure. This brings the total expenditure to date to just over €200 million.
Capital spend is €75 million at this point, which when compares with a spend of €28 million at the same point last year clearly shows the progress made by my Department in terms of the delivery of our capital programmes and the timely drawdown of funding by local authorities and others. It also demonstrates that we are on track to continue the strong expenditure performance achieved last year, and to again ensure that the resources provided to my Department are fully used to the benefit of communities across the country.
Regarding rural development, one of the key areas of progress in 2019 has been the ramping up of the LEADER programme. I am pleased that both project approvals and spend have increased strongly this year. At this stage project approvals stand at €90 million, with a further €25 million worth of projects going through the approval process. I, therefore, expect that by the end of 2019, 80% of the €164 million allocated for project approvals will be approved. The balance will be approved before the end of 2020 and the projects will have up to three years to draw down payments. Almost 2,500 LEADER projects have been approved and are progressing across the country. They are contributing to the economic and social development of rural Ireland. They will ensure a strong flow of investment in rural Ireland at a time it needs it most, not least to protect against the uncertainty of Brexit. In terms of spend in 2019, while I initially allocated €30 million to the programme, expenditure stands at €33 million. Given this strong performance, I have allocated an additional €10 million to the programme. This is being reallocated from savings that are likely to materialise under the RRDF.
With regard to this fund, while I have reallocated the €10 million to the LEADER programme, progress with the fund has been strong. A total of 84 projects have been approved for funding with 38 projects under category 1 and 46 projects under category 2. As many as 62 projects have completed the required procurement processes and are being delivered. To date, 24 of these projects have drawn down some funding with the spend to date standing at €11.1 million. Given the fact that so many projects are being delivered and making claims, I expect a strong outturn from this programme in 2019.
While the LEADER programme and the RRDF represent the biggest rural programme areas by expenditure level, I would like to emphasise the continued importance of the other rural programme areas. The town and village renewal scheme, Ceantair Laga Árd-Riachtanais, CLÁR, the walks scheme, the outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme, ORIS, and the local improvement scheme are having positive impacts on rural areas throughout Ireland.
While we need large-scale strategic investment, such as that provided under the RRDF and LEADER, we also need to ensure that every town, village and rural area can benefit from funding for their economic and social development. We have built up a very strong pipeline of capital projects across these schemes, as a result of which expenditure is very strong. To date, €9.8 million has been spent under the town and village renewal scheme; €8.7 million under the national rural development schemes; and €5.6 million under local improvement schemes. Each of these areas will see a full spend in 2019.
Regarding programme B, community development, as the committee will be aware, the two most significant programmes in expenditure terms are the community services programme, CSP, and the social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP.
The community services programme provides financial support to community organisations to deliver local services through a social enterprise model. The funding supports the cost of employing a manager or a specific number of full-time equivalents. The CSP is a vital resource for a range of community organisations. It provides supports for staff in community halls. It supports the provision of vital services in disadvantaged areas. It also supports organisations that provide employment for those most distant from the labour market, including people with disabilities, Travellers and ex-prisoners. The allocation for 2019 is €46 million and to date, €42.6 million of this has been spent. Overall, the CSP is assisting more than 400 organisations by providing a contribution for more than 1,900 positions.
The social inclusion and community activation programme provides funding to help individuals and communities in our society who are experiencing disadvantage. It aims to tackle poverty and social exclusion through local engagement and partnerships between individuals and community organisations. In particular, it seeks to assist a range of disadvantaged groups, including lone parents, persons with disabilities, the long-term unemployed, Roma and Travellers. This programme area has an allocation of €43.2 million, with spend to date at €41.4 million. Like the CSP, this is a vital resource for those individuals most in need and for the organisations working to help them and their communities.
The Department also operates a range of smaller community development programmes and schemes. As I noted earlier in respect of rural development, while the funding may be smaller, the impact on people and communities is very important. The senior alerts scheme has reached a further 13,000 people so far this year. This is similar to the numbers last year and means that a total of 55,000 people have now been funded under the scheme. It is having a positive impact on older people and delivers benefits to them and to society. It enables many older people to live in their own homes with greater peace of mind.
The community enhancement programme has also been very successful again this year. It provides capital funding for communities across Ireland to enhance facilities in disadvantaged areas. Under the 2019 programme, more than 2,000 communities and community groups benefited from funding of €4.5 million, with local decision-making ensuring money is put to use where it is needed most.
Given the topic of today's committee meeting, my opening statement has focused on my Department's expenditure position and the impact of some of the programmes we fund. As I said, the position is very positive, with all our programme areas progressing well and expenditure on target.
Before closing, I also wish to mention briefly our work on policy and strategy development. Over the past two years we have published a number of strategies and policies, including the public libraries strategy, Our Public Libraries 2022; the National Social Enterprise Policy for Ireland 2019-2020; and Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities, the five-year strategy running from 2019 until 2024 to support the community and voluntary sector. These strategies have been developed in partnership with the key stakeholders and with a strong focus on public consultation. This means that the policies and strategies we develop reflect the views of those working on the ground and that the implementation of the objectives and actions will have real benefits for communities and individuals. We are also working on a volunteering strategy, with the Minister of State, Deputy Canney, chairing a group on that work. We are developing a new rural development policy. This will build on the success of the Action Plan for Rural Development. Again, consultation is key to this work, with events held around the country to allow inputs from communities to this policy.
My Department's mission is now more important than ever before, given the many challenges communities and individuals face. In this context it is important we take stock and consult with our stakeholders and the public to continue to inform the strategic direction of the Department. This will help to ensure we put our funding to best use and that our programmes and schemes continue to have a positive impact on communities throughout the country.
I would welcome any questions from the committee.