Thursday, 4 November 2004

Questions (213)

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

210 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the publication of the research project, How are our Kids?, by the Tallaght West Childhood Development Initiative; if he will examine the recommendations in relation to the remit of his Department; if he will consult South Dublin County Council in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27674/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I am aware of the research project referred to in the question. I will refer to its recommendations which fall within my remit.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is involved in significant housing projects in south Dublin and west Tallaght. Its commitment is indicated by the increased funding provided to South Dublin County Council for the construction of new local authority housing in recent years. The council spent €20 million providing new local authority housing in 2000, for example, and €55 million is being given to the council this year for that purpose. As a result of the record funding, the council will build over 600 houses this year. Many new houses are being provided in areas of west Tallaght such as Cushlawn, Fortunestown, Jobstown and Fettercairn. Almost 600 new houses have been completed recently or are under construction in such areas. The new housing schemes are being provided with appropriate community and crèche facilities which are essential to ensure the success of the developments, given the large number of young children who will live in the new estates. The total value of the investment in west Tallaght is over €100 million.

As well as building new houses, the council plans to upgrade and refurbish a large proportion of its many existing houses. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government approved funding of €8.7 million in 2003 for refurbishment work to over 300 houses in a number of estates in the county. The refurbishment of 100 houses in an estate in Cushlawn in west Tallaght, at a cost of €2.8 million, is well under way. The local authority is promoting a special programme to install central heating in 1,000 of its houses. It expects to install central heating in over 800 houses by the end of the year under the programme. Installation is nearing completion in over 270 units in a number of estates in west Tallaght, including Killinarden, Donomore, Dromcarra, Drumcairn, Bawnlea and Kilcarrig.

In addition to the local authority housing programme, I have approved funding of over €48 million this year for two voluntary housing projects at Kiltipper and Fortunestown, involving the provision of 268 dwelling units for households on the council's waiting list. Work on the projects is under way and the Fortunestown project should be completed early next year.

Local authorities, including South Dublin County Council, have been asked by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to produce five-year action plans relating to the full range of social and affordable housing programmes and supporting measures between 2004 and 2008. The plans will ensure that a fully strategic approach is taken by local authorities and that they avail of the certainty provided by multi-annual expenditure programmes. The main objective of the action plans is to ensure that the investment available for the programmes achieves the desired long-term effect by tackling real need and breaking cycles of disadvantage and dependency. Funding is available under the five-year multi-annual capital envelopes to that end. The action plans identify areas of need and set out how local authorities proposes to address such needs over the period of the plans. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is assessing the draft action plans with a view to finalising them by the end of the year.

The Government is committed to the better integration of service provision and the promotion of an expanded social inclusion role for local government. The county and city development boards which have been established in each county and city, including south Dublin, are led by local government. The boards bring together the public sector agencies, the social partners, local government and local development agencies to co-operate and plan for the betterment of communities. The community and voluntary forum which has been established to facilitate community representation nominates two members to the south Dublin development board. Following extensive consultation, the board produced a ten-year strategy for the economic, social and cultural development of the county, A Place for People. The strategy is being implemented by the board's member agencies. The south Dublin development board is involved in co-ordinating the RAPID programme in its area.

Strategic policy committees have been established by South Dublin County Council as part of the local government modernisation programme. Through their representation on the committees, local communities can have a real say in local authority policies, plans and programmes that affect their areas. Local authorities are drawing up corporate plans, which will be the blueprint for the delivery of their services over the next five years. They have been required to place social inclusion at the heart of the plans so that it will be part and parcel of the day-to-day work of elected members and staff.

The main objective of the pilot social inclusion unit which has been established by South Dublin County Council is to embed social inclusion across the policies and services of the local authority. All local authorities are members of the local government anti-poverty learning network which was established by the Combat Poverty Agency in 2000, in conjunction with the Departments of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Social and Family Affairs. The network has played a key role in helping local authorities to embed social inclusion in their work.