I propose to take Questions Nos. 121, 137 and 296 together.
On 8 February 2007 I launched the Social Finance Foundation to implement the Social Finance Initiative announced in Budget 2006. The Foundation has been established on a not-for-profit basis to act as a wholesale supplier of social finance for on-lending by specialist social finance lenders to support social and developmental projects and social enterprise in local communities.
The Foundation is a private company established under Company Law and is governed by its Board of Directors under its Memorandum and Articles of Association. The company has received seed funding of €25 million from the Irish banking sector for distribution to qualifying lending intermediaries. These intermediaries are expected to comprise existing social finance lenders, as well as those that emerge as a result of the establishment of the Foundation.
The Foundation's lending policies and procedures as well as the appointment, role and responsibilities of staff and their terms and conditions of employment are matters for the Board of the Foundation. The board is chaired by Mr. Peter Quinn and information on the other directors of the Foundation is included in the press release issued by my Department which is available on the Department's website at www.finance.gov.ie The Chair indicated at the launch that the Foundation intends to commence its lending activities by mid-year. An invitation for expressions of interest from lending intermediaries is expected to issue shortly.
The €25m funding made available by the banks for the Initiative represents a very substantial increase over the resources currently devoted to social finance lending. I believe this level of seed funding is sufficient to meet initial requirements for the implementation of the Initiative. Looking to the future, as I indicated when I announced the Initiative in Budget 2006, the door is also open for other sectors and indeed private individuals to participate. I see the launch of the Foundation as a catalyst for deeper participation by private finance in the area of local and community development and social enterprise, providing a long-term sustainable funding stream for suitable social finance projects, over and above the significant seed funding contributed by the banks.