I listened with interest to what has been said. I think there is some doubt about the commitment of the Government, the Department of Health and other Departments to alleviate the problems of young people and I would like to put on the record the facts and to outline what is being done.
The Government have been concerned for some time now with the growing problem of the young homeless, particularly in our large urban areas, and they have taken a number of initiatives in advance of the enactment of the Child Care Bill. In 1988, the Government established a special £4 million fund for disadvantaged youth from the national lottery funds set aside by the Government for youth affairs. The overall objective of the fund is to develop a wide range of community youth projects aimed at meeting the needs of those among our young people who are facing special and complex problems. In particular, the Government decided that the needs of groups considered to be particularly at risk, such as the young homeless, young travellers and young substance abusers, should be given priority consideration in the allocation of the special fund. To advise the Government on the disbursement of the £4 million fund, an interdepartmental committee was established with representatives from the Departments of Education, Health, Justice, Labour, Environment, Social Welfare and the Gaeltacht.
In passing, I might mention this is but another example of the close liaison and integrated approach which exists between Government Departments in addressing the needs of young people, to which I referred at last week's committee meeting. From this special fund, I am pleased to be able to say that the Government allocated a sum of over £1 million to a wide range of new initiatives geared specifically to the needs of the young homeless, young travellers and young substance abusers. These funds have been allocated through the health boards, mainly to a variety of voluntary organisations in different parts of the country. The allocations include increased funding to enable some existing services to be enhanced as well as allocations to enable new services to get off the ground.
The main initiatives being assisted are in the Eastern Health Board area where the problems are greatest and include the following: improvements to existing residential facilities for out-of-home children in the north inner city; new residential projects for homeless adolescents at Ballymun for girls, Tallaght for boys and Clontarf for boys — overall, these should provide up to 25 places in total when fully operational next year; an innovative foster care project by the Eastern Health Board for difficult adolescents, who previously have been placed without success in a variety of other settings — the aim of this new scheme which is called "Cares for Young People" is to place up to ten very difficult children, aged 14 to 16, with suitable families who are at present being specially selected and trained; a new after-care service for young travellers leaving two special residential centres for young travellers in County Wicklow; when fully operational it is hoped to have up to eight places for young travellers aged 16 to 18. Outside of Dublin a number of other initiatives for homeless adolescents, young travellers and young substance abusers are being supported in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Tralee, Tullamore and Sligo.
In addition to these projects which are being funded through the health boards, special allocations have also been made to other voluntary organisations working with the young homeless. For example, the well-known organisation Focus Point has to date received approval for an allocation of over £0.5 million from the special fund towards the running costs of its services. In addition, Focus Point, which, as Deputies are aware, is led by Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, has received approval from the Minister for the Environment for capital funding amounting to £1 million from his Department's voluntary housing scheme towards the costs of their major new flats and housing development at Stanhope Street, Dublin, for young, vulnerable, homeless persons.
I understand that a request from Focus Point for further capital funding of £920,000 is under active consideration by the Department of the Environment at present. Furthermore, Focus Point has received £105,000 to date from the Department of the Environment towards their running costs and a request for further revenue funding is being considered at the moment.
From the details I have outlined, I hope the committee will be assured that the Government are determined to see that the necessary resources are applied and will continue to be applied to meet the complex needs of the young homeless and other groups of young people who are particularly at risk. I feel it necessary to put these facts on the record to correct the mistaken impression that seems to be abroad that the Government are not concerned with and have no plans for dealing with the problems facing our young homeless.
The special fund for disadvantaged youth which has been established by the Government has been widely welcomed as a most significant initiative and the Government are fully committed to ensuring its continuation. The special fund, together with the Department of the Environment voluntary housing scheme, has for the first time enabled a number of flexible and relevant responses to be developed in a most difficult area of social need. I hope these facts help in showing the diversity of services being initiated by the Department of Health, the health boards and the various voluntary organisations with the co-operation of the other Government Departments involved.