I cannot overstate the significance and value of the contributions made by volunteers to the community life of our country and to supporting our most vulnerable. In the youth sector, the work of some 40,000 volunteers was key to maintaining the ability of youth work organisations to function effectively prior to the pandemic.
I provided an increase of €5 million in funding for youth services in 2021, bringing the total from my Department to €66.8 million this year. In 2020, I provided once-off funding of more than €1.3 million to assist youth services with Covid and ICT-related costs.
Each year, my Department funds universally focused volunteer-led youth work through the youth service grant scheme. A number of national youth organisations will benefit from over €12 million in funding under this scheme in 2021. This represents a 6% increase on the funding provided in 2020. I really believe the youth work carried out by these volunteer groups is transformative for young people.
In addition, the local youth club grant scheme supports volunteer-led youth work activities at a local level. The funding for this scheme increased by 7% to €2.3 million in 2021. This scheme supports 1,400 clubs or groups nationwide.
I have consistently recognised the significant role the youth sector plays in the lives of young people today and the highly valuable role that volunteers play. Given the strong commitment of our volunteers, I am hopeful that as public health matters improve, more people are vaccinated and youth organisations are better positioned to support volunteers again, we will see volunteers returning.
The Deputy will be aware that youth funding was maintained through the Covid-19 restrictions and many supports were provided. As Ireland's phased reopening progresses, it is of the utmost importance that youth work organisations are supported to restore their volunteer positions. My officials are considering proposals to redistribute some time-related savings in the youth budget to assist services on a once-off basis in this financial year.