Ability is a pre-activation programme for young people with disabilities. The funding for this programme will amount to around €16 million over a three year period and is being provided jointly under the EU's ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (PEIL) Operational Programme 2014-2020 and the Irish Exchequer. The programme will support over 2,600 young people with disabilities aged between 15 – 29 years of age. Pobal have been contracted by the Department to manage the programme.
The aim of the Ability Programme is to help bring young people with disabilities who are not work-ready closer to the labour market through engagement in training and personal development activities, which would be followed by an incremental exposure to work. The programme is being delivered by 27 community and voluntary groups from around the country, selected on foot of a competitive process. The projects being funded have been designed to assist young people in their transition from school to further education and employment. This will be undertaken using person-centred, case management approaches that support participants to achieve their desired employment goals.
The WALK PEER organisation is funded as a standalone project under the Ability programme and not as a programme in its own right. The project aims to support 200 young people with special educational needs aged 15-24 years within 3 special schools settings to develop their employment aspirations, identify their career goals and to experience work in the open labour market. Total Ability funding of €640,848 has been awarded to WALK PEER over the course of the 3 year programme.
If the WALK PEER project was to be replicated on the same scale to an additional 25 counties, based on a simplistic calculation, this would require additional funding in excess of €5m per year.
To extend the WALK PEER project to the 16 counties currently not covered under the Ability Programme would cost in excess of €3m per year. These figures are based on current levels of funding to WALK PEER and do not include set up costs or factor in a county by county analysis (an analysis for example of existing service provision by county, demand factors etc).
Finally, it should be noted that Walkinstown Green Social Enterprises Limited, which is wholly owned by WALK Ltd, was also awarded €430,175 under the Ability Programme to fund the WALK REAL Project, bringing the total combined amount of funding to WALK Ltd to €1,071,023 over the course of the Ability programme.
I hope this clarifies the issue for the Deputy.