The Ability Programme was introduced in June 2018 for a three-year period and was a pre-activation programme for young people with disabilities. The funding for the programme amounted to approximately €16 million over the three-year period and was co-funded by the EU and the Irish Exchequer under the EU's ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (PEIL) Operational Programme 2014-2020.
The aim of the Ability Programme was 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, to be followed by an incremental exposure to work. The programme was delivered by 27 community and voluntary organisations from around the country, selected on foot of a competitive process.
The projects funded were designed to assist young people in their transition from school to further education and employment. Pobal was contracted by my Department to manage the programme. At the end of the programme, some 2,173 young people with disabilities aged between 15 and 29 years were supported over the 3 year period, which represented 82% of the overall programme target.
The Ability Programme was due to conclude at the end of June. However, funding for the programme was extended by two months to the end of August 2021. This additional period was to allow organisations extra time to transition and support participants appropriately.
On 30 July, I announced over €7.5 million in funding under the Dormant Accounts Action Plan 2021 to support initiatives under the heading of "Measures to Support Employment, Education and Training Outcomes for People with a Disability”. Projects were selected following a competitive process organised by Pobal that evaluated applications against a number of predefined criteria. A funding package for 45 projects nationwide is now in place and designed to support people with disabilities to improve their employment skills, advance their education or start their own business. The 45 projects being funded are expected to benefit almost 2,300 participants and include the 27 former Ability Programme organisations. The delivery period for these projects is from 1 September 2021 to 31 December 2022.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.