Child and Family Agency

Questions (343, 344)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

343. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the measures put in place to support neighbouring residents in cases of residential accommodation for young persons with very challenging behaviours living in institutional housing in residential estates; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50774/19]

View answer

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

344. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the safeguards in place for other residents, staff and neighbours of residents living within institutional houses in residential estates that have a record of very violent behaviour; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50775/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 343 and 344 together.

I understand the Deputy to be referring to residential care, which is an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore referred the matter to Tusla, and asked that a direct reply be provided to the Deputy in relation to their concerns.

Child and Family Agency

Questions (345)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

345. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the extreme behavioural problems of a resident in an institutional house (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50776/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I must advise the Deputy that I am not in a position to comment on individual cases. I can confirm that I have referred the matter to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency for their appropriate attention.

Departmental Staff Data

Questions (346)

Seán Fleming

Question:

346. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of persons employed on an agency basis in her Department and in each agency under her aegis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50798/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has not hired or engaged agency staff in the past five years to date.

As the Deputy is aware, there are four agencies within my remit and I wish to advise as follows:

- The Office of the Ombudsman for Children is independent in its function and reports to the Oireachtas on matters within its remit, as required by the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002. I have forwarded the question to the Office of the Ombudsman for Children and asked that they might correspond with you directly in this matter.

- Tusla has confirmed to me that 650 agency staff were employed as at 31 October, 2019;

- Oberstown Children Detention Campus has informed me that 7 agency staff were employed as at 31 October, 2019;

- The Adoption Authority of Ireland does not engage agency staff.

Given the nature of the services provided by Tusla- Child and Family Agency and Oberstown Children Detention Campus, it is accepted that agency staff will always be required to ensure both agencies can continue to provide their services to vulnerable children and their families.

It is proposed that a once off extensive agency conversion be carried out. The grades that will be considered include social work, social care, family support and admin staff supporting frontline and operational teams.

The benefits of this initiative to Tusla are:

1. Continuity of care through workforce stabilisation with greater possibility of standardisation of approach and consistency in service delivery particularly in relation to maintaining long term relationships with children and families.

2. Cost saving – reduction in the overall agency cost incurred.

Converting to a Tusla employee will provide the agency worker with the security of position for the duration of the contract. Agency staff will be offered the same terms & conditions as Tusla staff as is their current status with the external agency in terms of salary, annual leave and standard weekly hours. However, as a Tusla employee and a public servant they would have the added benefit of public service entitlements in terms of employee schemes, flexible working arrangements as well as having access to the public service sick leave scheme, and maternity benefit the terms of which are not available to current agency status.

As at the 31/10/2019 the details of Agency staff are as follows:

Grade Group

Agency

Social Work

220

Social Care

214

Psychologists & Counsellors

2

Other Support Staff inc Catering

2

Other Health Professionals

1

Management VIII+

3

Family Support

20

Admin Grades

188

Grand Total

650

Child and Family Agency Funding

Questions (347)

Brendan Smith

Question:

347. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if a service (details supplied) will be established in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50858/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, provides funding and coordination supports to some 59 organisations that deliver a range of services for victims of domestic, sexual and gender based violence throughout the country.

In 2019, €25.3 million has been allocated to Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence services, an increase of €1.5 million over 2018.

This year, the additional funding of €1.5m will be used for the further investment and development of these services. A proportion of this funding will allow for:

- 12 new outreach workers for women and children affected by domestic violence to improve access to support and services.

- The roll out of a 12 week healing programme for children who have been impacted by domestic abuse which also helps parents/guardians to understand their child’s experiences and support their recovery..

With regard to the future provision of additional refuge spaces, it should be noted that the responsibility for capital investment in new refuges falls under the remit of a number of Government bodies. Tusla is in contact with funded organisations in relation to proposed new developments, with plans underway in a number of areas for additional refuge spaces. These plans are at various stages. Future developments will be informed by Tusla’s review of emergency refuge accommodation nationwide, which will be completed in early 2020, as well as the identified needs of service users throughout the country.

I have requested Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy with regard to the provision of a refuge in counties Cavan and Monaghan.

Childcare Services Funding

Questions (348)

Brendan Smith

Question:

348. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to increase substantially the level of capital grant assistance available towards the upgrading of existing childcare facilities and the provision of new childcare places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50859/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, one of my key priorities is to support the early learning and care and school age childcare sector through the provision of capital funding, where it is most needed.

My Department reviews the capital programmes annually as a whole and determines the priorities for Early Learning and Care and School Age Capital grants for the year ahead. I have allocated significant funding in recent years for this purpose and for improving the quality of infrastructure nationwide.

Capital strands are made available to achieve the strategic priorities for the year as determined by the Department, having regard to the funding available, developed using analysis of the current state of the childcare sector, learnings from previous capital programmes and feedback and input from stakeholders, including childcare providers and Pobal.

The Capital programmes are necessarily a budget limited exercise. Therefore, the maximum grant size available under each of these strands is determined in consideration of both optimising what can be delivered by each individual grant, as well as maximising the amount of providers and children that will ultimately benefit from the funding.

Planning for 2020's Capital offering is currently underway and the details of this will be communicated to providers in due course.

Childcare was identified as a strategic priority in the National Development Plan and €250m in capital funding was secured for childcare under the plan. This represents the kind of large scale investment in the sector by the State that has not been undertaken since the earlier National Childcare Investment Programme that concluded in 2010.

This investment will be essential to respond to the increased capacity we expect as the new National Childcare Scheme is introduced. The NCS will radically change how this country supports the cost of early learning and care and school age childcare.

Research is on-going to determine areas of specific need that the NDP funding will address when it comes on stream in the coming years. The exact shape and priorities of this funding is currently being developed: more information will be made public on childcare plans under the NDP as it becomes available.

Childcare Services

Questions (349)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

349. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps she will take to ensure that the national childcare scheme will not penalise certain categories of lone parents in which it will act as a disincentive to taking up training, education or employment as identified by a group (details supplied); the action she will take in relation to same in the coming years and not merely the arrangements in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50864/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The NCS is fairer and more far-reaching than many of the current targeted schemes. It removes many of the very restrictive eligibility requirements of the current schemes, linked to Social Protection payments or a Medical Card in order to receive supports. Moving to this new system will be a significant step forward in combating the poverty traps inherent in the current schemes.

Under the current targeted schemes, there are many families with low income-levels who are not currently able to access subsidised childcare, either because they are in low-paid employment or because they are rotating between short periods of employment, unemployment and training. The new Scheme will change this. Many parents will see an increase to the level of subsidy they currently receive, and many new families will benefit for the first time.

The OECD's 2017 Faces of Joblessness report compared the child care supports for lone parents previously available in Ireland with the expected impact of the National Childcare Scheme. It found significant improvement for lone parents. It found for example, that for certain lower paid lone parents working full time, the Scheme will bring net child care costs down from being the highest across the OECD, to 11th highest. Of course, this analysis was conducted before Budgets 2019 and 2020 which have since further enhanced the Scheme for lone parents and other groups.

Analysis of the impact of the new scheme conducted using the ESRI's SWITCH model indicated that, on average, the boost to disposable income by the NCS will be larger for one-parent families than for couples, reflecting the typically lower income profile of one-parent families.

Employed lone parents are the family type which will experience the greatest gains, with an effective average disposable income increase of €48 per week.

These findings reflect the very considerable work undertaken to poverty-proof the NCS by ensuring that families at or below the relative income poverty line will benefit from the highest subsidy rates. The Scheme is designed so that families who need the most support can receive it.

Parents who are working, studying or who meet certain other conditions will qualify for an enhanced-hours subsidy, up to a maximum of 40 hours per week (rising to 45 hours from September 2020). This supports a key objective of the scheme which is labour activation and in particular female labour activation. The definitions of ‘work’ and ‘study’ are set out in regulations made under the Childcare Support Act 2018 and are comprehensive, covering differing types of work and study arrangements, such as part-time, week on/ week off and zero hour contract arrangements. The legislation also provides for “bridging periods” when a parent is moving between work and study.

These inclusive arrangements will ensure that parents in a variety of work/study situations will be able to avail of the National Childcare Scheme.

Arrangements are in place to monitor the success of the National Childcare Scheme in meeting its objectives, and the Scheme has been designed to be flexible and responsive. Section 26 of the Childcare Support Act 2018 provides for a review of the operation of the scheme to commence 12 months after the first payment of subsidies under the scheme. A report of this review will be laid before each House of the Oireachtas. The stated policy intention of section 26 of the legislation was to ensure an early review of the Scheme to identify, in a timely way, any key issues or challenges which need to be addressed rapidly. A longer-term review will also be carried out after three years.

The Scheme also has a Monitoring and Evaluation Framework in place to support both ongoing and periodic assessment of the Scheme’s success in meeting its objectives, including its objectives in supporting labour market activation and female labour market activation. It sets out the measures which policy-makers will use to monitor the Scheme on a continual basis, as well as to evaluate the Scheme at regular intervals, through a system of regular reporting by Pobal to the Department.

Under Budget 2020, the existing “saver” arrangement was extended, to ensure that no one loses out in the initial transition to the new Scheme. In this Budget, additional funding was secured to extend the savers beyond August 2020. This means that persons who are registered on the CCS or TEC schemes before they close, and who retain their eligibility, will be able to remain on them indefinitely, for example, until they no longer require early learning and care or school age childcare.

This and the other changes announced as part of Budget 2020 reflect the underpinning design of the Scheme to be flexible, allowing income thresholds, maximum hours and subsidy rates to be adjusted in line with Government decisions and as more investment becomes available.

Early Years Sector

Questions (350)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

350. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on a proposal by an organisation (details supplied) for the establishment of an early years and school age agency to replace Departments and agencies in order to ensure a streamlined, seamless and all-encompassing system in order that early child education and welfare issues are responded to appropriately and to achieve better value for money; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50868/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

In First Five, the Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families, published in November 2018, my Department committed to complete a review of the operating model for Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) in this country.

The existing operating system developed over the years in response to emerging needs. It operates across many levels, and includes organisations such as Pobal, 30 City/County Childcare Committees (CCCs), and 7 National Voluntary Childcare Organisations (NVCOs) which are funded by my Department to carry out a range of administrative, operational, communications and training functions in relation to ELC and SAC services.

Investment in ELC and SAC has increased by 138% over the last five years, the number of ELC and SAC places has doubled, new schemes have been developed, including the recently opened National Childcare Scheme, and are serving twice the number of children than previously, and there has been significant development of policy, legislation and quality initiatives. Hence, my Department’s commitment in First 5 to examine the efficiency and effectiveness of the operating system is timely.

The project planning phase for the Review is nearing completion and my Department expects to have terms of reference agreed in the coming weeks. My Department will lead on the review, with appropriate assistance from external bodies, and will engage with all relevant stakeholders during the process, including Early Childhood Ireland.

It should be noted that the project will aim to explore a variety of options in relation to how best the ELC and SAC operating system can be overseen by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) in the coming years. The establishment of a single ELC and SAC agency is likely to be one of several options for reform to be considered by the Review.

The ultimate objective of the Review is to ensure the operating system is equipped to implement DCYA policy to the standards required. The final system will support high quality, accessible and affordable early learning and care and school age childcare services to children and families through the efficient and effective administration of a number of programmes, schemes, quality initiatives, and other functions such a compliance and communications. The operating model will support service providers, operate transparently and accountably, provide value for money to the Exchequer and demonstrate good governance. The model will enable appropriate linkages and effective working relationships with all other agencies and Departments charged with delivering better outcomes for children and families.

Child and Family Agency

Questions (351)

Joan Collins

Question:

351. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the fact that the Springboard project is being removed from a centre (details supplied) to two different HSE facilities will be addressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50876/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I have received correspondence from public representatives in relation to this matter in recent days. I am engaging with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency with regard this correspondence.

It appears from the information provided by the Deputy that the decisions involved are operational matters for Tusla. I understand that the service in question is in correspondence with the CEO of Tusla and that meetings with relevant Tusla officials are being arranged.

I have asked Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Early Years Sector

Questions (352)

John Brady

Question:

352. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position in relation to the processing of the approximately 2,500 applications already received for the re-registration of early years services; when service providers will receive feedback on their application in view of the fact they have been unable to get in contact with her Department to obtain feedback; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50941/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The operation and maintenance of the Register of Early Years Services is a matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, which is the independent statutory regulator. As my Department does not have a role in relation to the processing of registration applications or maintenance of the register, it does not provide feedback to individual service providers on the status of their application.

However, in relation to the processing of applications more generally, I am informed by Tusla that the total number of early years services that are due to re-register by 31 December 2019 is 4,117. As of 3 December, 2,232 applications had been submitted to Tusla's Early Years Inspectorate and a further 994 services had started the application process but had not yet submitted via the online portal for assessment. Submitted applications are currently being processed in batches through a series of specially convened registration panels.

All registered providers receive an automated acknowledgement from the Inspectorate on submission of their application via the online portal, and are advised directly by the Early Years Registration Office, following initial review, if they need to submit any outstanding documents. All registered providers are then advised when their applications are complete and receive a formal letter or registration from Tusla once their application has been approved by a registration panel.

In relation to applications not yet received, Tusla continues to highlight to registered providers the need to ensure that their applications are submitted in a timely manner in order to meet the statutory deadline for re-registration. Tusla has engaged with its Early Years Consultative and Regulatory Support Forum, which is composed of sectoral stakeholders and support organisations, to support services in the process for re-registration, where they have yet to submit an application.

In recognition of the difficulties many providers were experiencing in completing re-registration, Tusla decided to revise the time-line for submission of supporting documentation for re-registration. Under the revised arrangements, while providers must apply to Tusla by 12th December, they have until 30th June 2020 to provide some of the supporting documentation required, including on fire safety and planning requirements.

On 27th November, my Department issued a letter informing providers that Tusla has revised the time-line for submission of supporting documentation for re-registration. That letter provided clear guidanceon what documentation is required by the 12th December deadline and what can be submitted up until 30th June.

My Department has been working closely with Tusla to ensure adequate staffing is in place to process applications on time, and to ensure effective communications with providers. In addition, my Department has supported City and County Childcare Committees to give advice and assistance to providers that need help with re-registration.

Early Childhood Care and Education Data

Questions (353)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

353. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children that have benefited from the ECCE scheme since its inception; the number of children that have benefited from two years of ECCE; the number of children that have benefited from the universal subsidy scheme since its inception; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51066/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Approximately 740,000 children have benefited from the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme since its launch in January 2010. The following table shows the number of children who were registered on the ECCE scheme for each programme year.

ECCE programme year:

Child Registrations:

2009/10

52,573

2010/11

63,855

2011/12

65,837

2012/13

67,736

2013/14

69,410

2014/15

66,762

2015/16

74,126

2016/17

120,846

2017/18

118,902

2018/19

108,208

2019/20 (to date)

103,966

The number of children registered on the ECCE scheme has increased since 2016, when the ECCE scheme was extended into a second year. The total number of children who have benefited from ECCE support is less than the sum of the ECCE registrations for the period, as, from 2016, most children will have attended for two programme years.

The number of children who have benefited from two years of ECCE to date is 161, 371.

With regard to the universal childcare support, the Community Childcare Subvention Universal (CCSU) scheme was launched in September 2017. 63,765 children have benefited from this scheme to date. The following table shows the number of children who have been registered on the CCSU programme for each programme year.

CCSU programme year:

Child Registrations:

2017/18

39,356

2018/19

33,806

2019/20

24,453

The National Childcare Scheme (NCS) opened on the 20th November, and provides both universal and targeted support for childcare.

There has been a very high volume of applications since the Scheme opened for online applications. Over 10,400 applications, relating to over 14,800 children, have already been successfully submitted and over 5,600 awards have already been made to parents. I am delighted with the volume of applications so far, and I would ask parents to bear with us should we experience any technical issues or slight delays in these initial days.

Childcare Services Data

Questions (354)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

354. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of applications made since the opening of the national childcare scheme on 20 November 2019; the number of subsidies provided since that date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51067/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The National Childcare Scheme opened on the 20th November. It is being opened on a phased basis, with the online application system now available and a postal application system available from early 2020.

There has been a very high volume of applications since the Scheme opened for online applications. Over 10,400 applications, relating to over 14,800 children, have already been successfully submitted and over 5,600 awards have already been made to parents. Parents must bring this award to their childcare provider and once their provider has registered the details, payments will begin to flow.

I am delighted with the volume of applications so far, and I would ask parents to bear with us should we experience any technical issues or slight delays in these initial days. There are supports available to parents at this time, including the Parent Support Centre which is available from 8am to 6pm Monday to Saturday- 01 9068530.

Through the National Childcare Scheme and a range of other measures, I am committed to changing Ireland’s childcare system from one of the most expensive in the world to one of the very best. In designing the National Childcare Scheme, extensive research and consultations have been carried out to ensure that this goal is achieved and that the Scheme can help as many families as possible.

Area Based Childhood Programme

Questions (355)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

355. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when the national evaluation of the ABC programme will be completed; if an interim report or update has been provided to her; if she will publish same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51068/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

A national evaluation of the ABC Programme was undertaken by the Centre for Effective Services (CES). Data was collected locally, at the area-level in order to assess the effectiveness of the totality of the investment with regard to the main outcomes the programme aimed to address: Improved child health and development; Improved children’s learning and Improved parenting. The evaluation also looked at the impact of the ABC Programme on local service delivery, and at the costs associated with the delivery of the programme.

Overall, the national evaluation found evidence that the ABC Programme made

a positive contribution to:

1. Improved outcomes for children and families

2. Changes for practitioners and service managers participating in the Programme

3. Changes to service planning and delivery.

A range of qualitative and quantitative data were collected and analysed for the purposes of evaluation. These included outcomes data collected from the ABC areas, as well as data from surveys and interviews with practitioners, programme managers and other stakeholders. Given the local nature of data collected, there are currently no plans to publish the data sets.

The national evaluation was completed in October 2018 and a full report and summary report has been produced and is available on the What Works website and the CES website.

LEADER Programmes Funding

Questions (356)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

356. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if additional funding will be allocated to the LEADER programme in County Donegal; if so, the level of funding that will be made available; when it will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50687/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The allocation under the LEADER 2014-2020 Programme to the Local Action Group (LAG) in Donegal is €12.9 million. This allocation covers both project expenditure and the administration costs of the LAG.

Significant progress has been made to date in Donegal, which I welcome. The LAG has so far allocated over 64%, or €6.18 million, of its project budget to 140 applicants, leaving a further €3.44 million available to be allocated over the remainder of the programme.

I recently allocated an additional €5 million to the top 10 LAGs who were most advanced in their delivery of the LEADER programme. Each of these 10 LAGs was allocated €500,000.

The increased allocations were based on an analysis of the level of funding the LAGs had committed to projects, and the amount drawn down by these projects, as of 20 September 2019.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the Donegal LAG was successful in this process and has received a top-up amount of €500,000, which must be allocated to projects that are approved by the LAG after 1st October 2019.

As I have previously stated, I routinely keep the performance of all LAGs under review and, in particular, the progress they are making in allocating their project funding. Based on the current indications, I am confident that all LEADER funds will be allocated by the LAGs in their respective areas by the end of the programming period.

However, if any additional funding becomes available, I will reallocate it to LAGs who have the capacity to manage the additional funding and who can demonstrate that there is a need for such funding in their areas.

LEADER Programmes

Questions (357)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

357. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to ensure that there are no gaps between the LEADER programme 2014-2020 when it finishes at the end of 2020 and the next LEADER programme commencing; if his attention has been drawn to potential gaps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50688/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The LEADER programme, which my Department administers, is also through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is the Department with lead responsibility for negotiations on the CAP reform process.

Proposals for new regulations for the CAP 2021-27 were launched in June 2018 by the European Commission. However, given the nature of the discussions on the CAP and the wider EU Budget post-2020, there has been a delay in adopting these proposals.

As a result, the European Commission has recently published proposals for transitional measures to allow for continuity between programming periods of 2014-2020 and 2021-2027 for CAP payments. The draft proposals provide for an additional, transitional year before starting the new CAP, which would require Member States to submit their draft CAP Strategic Plans to the Commission for approval by 1 January 2021. The proposals will be discussed by Member States over the coming months.

My officials have engaged extensively with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on the European Commission’s proposals for CAP 2021-2027, and are now working with that Department on the proposals for the transitional arrangements insofar as they impact on the LEADER Programme. This engagement will continue for the duration of the CAP reform process.

Local Improvement Scheme Funding

Questions (358)

Pat Deering

Question:

358. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of future allocations under the local improvement scheme; the impact which the scheme has in counties such as County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50691/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Local Improvement Scheme, or LIS, is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas which are not under the normal maintenance of the Local Authorities. The scheme is funded by my Department and is administered through the Local Authorities.

Since I reintroduced the Scheme in 2017, I have granted over €48 million to the Local Authorities to deliver the scheme. This resulted in over 2,000 road projects being approved for works.

Carlow County Council was allocated over €1.2 million of the total funding and I understand this has supported the completion of works on 62 roads in the county. This year alone, my Department awarded €250,000 to County Carlow under the LIS.

The LIS is clearly a very popular scheme and is greatly appreciated by the people who use these roads on a daily basis. The works which are carried out not only improve access for the people who live or work on those roads, but they also improve access for service providers, including the emergency services.

Projects prioritised by the Local Authority can include roads leading to important community amenities such as graveyards, beaches, piers or heritage sites.

I intend to fund the LIS scheme again in 2020 and a budget of €10 million has been secured for this purpose. This matches the funding provided in 2019.

The exact level of funding to be provided to each Council in 2020, including Carlow County Council, will be confirmed when the scheme is announced next year.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

Questions (359)

Pat Deering

Question:

359. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when he plans to make a further call for applications for funding under the town and village renewal scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50692/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The 2019 Town and Village Renewal Scheme was launched in April of this year. There was a strong level of interest in the scheme and on 31st of October I announced details of 156 projects that have been approved for funding of €15 million.

I intend to launch a further call for proposals under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme in the new year. Details of the application process and the closing dates for receipt of applications will be announced when the scheme is launched.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

Questions (360)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

360. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of town and village pilot residential occupancy scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50693/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

A pilot scheme to encourage increased residential occupancy in rural towns and villages was launched in October 2018. The six towns participating in the pilot are:

- Boyle, Co Roscommon; Callan, Co Kilkenny; Ballinrobe, Co Mayo; Banagher, Co Offaly; Castleblayney, Co Monaghan; and Cappoquin, Co Waterford.

Funding of up to €100,000 is being made available to each of these towns to assist in developing innovative proposals to encourage town centre living.

It is intended that the lessons learned through this pilot can help to inform the approach to supporting and investing in rural towns and villages in the future. It is also envisaged that the pilot could lead to the development of more substantive proposals for funding from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

Representatives from each of the participating towns have met collectively on a regular basis to discuss the issues that are emerging from their work on the scheme. This included a workshop hosted by my Department in September of this year which also involved other relevant experts in this area.

Officials from my Department and the relevant Local Authorities also discussed progress under the scheme with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Rural and Community Development at its meeting on 13th November last.

A comprehensive report on the issues identified through the pilot, and suggested courses of action, is currently being produced for my Department. I expect to receive a draft of that report later this month.

CLÁR Programme

Questions (361)

Tom Neville

Question:

361. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when he plans to make a further call for applications for funding under the CLÁR scheme; the impact which the scheme has in counties such as County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50694/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

CLÁR is a targeted capital investment programme for rural areas which have experienced significant levels of depopulation. I re-opened the programme in 2016 and, since then, over 1,400 projects have been approved for CLÁR funding of almost €33 million. This includes more than €855,000 for 55 projects in County Limerick.

This year, I approved 179 projects to the value of €5.9 million under the CLÁR programme. This includes funding for two projects in County Limerick, to the value of €95,000.

The CLÁR programme makes a significant contribution to the rural communities it serves. A modest investment under the CLÁR programme, such as for the provision of a play area or specialist sensory garden, can have a significant impact on a community, by providing a safe location for children, including those with special needs, to play and for their parents to meet.

The programme is helping to make rural schools safer for our children and their parents by funding footpaths and traffic calming measures in the vicinity of those schools.

The CLÁR programme has also supported voluntary first-response organisations who provide an excellent and vital service in many rural areas, often under very difficult circumstances.

It has funded vehicles for organisations who provide transport for service users in rural areas under the Mobility and Cancer Care Measure. This is a vital resource for all those who avail of it.

Overall, I am very pleased with the impact which CLÁR funding is having in rural areas. I regularly see this impact when I engage with communities around the country and see the projects for which the funding has been used.

I intend to launch a further call for proposals under CLÁR next year and details of the programme will be made available when the scheme is announced.

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

Questions (362)

Tom Neville

Question:

362. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the rural regeneration development fund; the impact the fund can have in counties such as County Limerick; and his plans to make further calls for funding in the near future. [50695/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund seeks to support ambitious and strategic projects which have the potential to transform rural economies and communities. The Government has committed €1 billion over 10 years to the Fund and €315 million is allocated to the Fund for the period 2019-2022.

The Fund provides an unprecedented opportunity to make a significant impact which will transform rural areas for the better and shows that the Government understands the need for proper investment in rural Ireland. Rural communities across the country are beginning to realise the benefits of theProject Ireland 2040 investment and the additional economic and social progressbeing achieved on foot of the funding.

Following the conclusion of the first call under the Fund in February 2019, I allocated €7,757,392 in funding to projects located in County Limerick. Some of the successful projects included:

- The expansion of the Great Southern Greenway which received €2.7 million in funding;

- The construction of a multi-purpose community building in Murrow which received €3.8 million in funding; and

- The development of the West Limerick Tourism Gateway which received €330,000 in funding.

I will be announcing the second call for Category 2 applications before the end of 2019 and I expect to announce the third call for Category 1 applications early in 2020.