Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (40)

David Stanton

Question:

170 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the way in which the Government assists disadvantaged members of the Irish community in Britain; his further plans in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25313/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The DION fund for Irish emigrant welfare in Britain is allocated by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the basis of recommendations from the DION committee. The committee, which was established in 1984, replaced earlier consultative arrangements on emigrant welfare services for vulnerable Irish people in Britain.

The DION committee's role is to advise and report on welfare services for emigrants, to make recommendations on the provision of financial assistance towards the employment of professional workers dealing with the welfare problems of Irish people in Britain, and to consider and make recommendations on specific questions at my request.

Since the DION fund was established in 1984, more than €21 million has been distributed under it. Recipients of DION grants are organisations that provide frontline advice, counselling and support services to Irish people in need in Britain. Priority targets for funding are services that support the elderly, the homeless and people affected by illness or substance misuse problems, as well as the Traveller community. The fund also addresses problems relating to access to housing, training or employment.

The DION fund has more than quadrupled in the past five years. This year's initial allocation to the fund was €3.57 million. However, an additional €1 million has recently been secured and most of this amount will be directed to organisations in Britain. Some 57 different organisations working with Irish people in need have already received funding this year.

A new dedicated unit, the Irish abroad unit, was recently established in my Department to co-ordinate the provision of services to emigrants. I am confident that this initiative will inject a new momentum into this important area of policy. Officials of the unit and of the embassy in London are working in close consultation with the wide range of people engaged in the delivery of services to Irish people in Britain so that Government funding is targeted effectively and best meets the needs of our vulnerable community.