I propose to take Questions Nos. 329 and 336 together.
My Department has recently advised the Not for Profit Business Association of an additional allocation of €5.85 million to relieve the under funding of its member organisations, including the National Council for the Blind of Ireland.
Further claims amounting to more than €5 million have been made by the association and these claims are being considered by my Department, in consultation with the Eastern Regional Health Authority, the health boards and the association itself, having regard to the availability of funds. Additional claims for extra staff numbers will also be considered in the light of available resources.
The overall economic position in 2003 has had implications for all aspects of public investment, and this is reflected in the Estimates and budget adopted by the Government for 2003. Within this overall framework, however, some two-thirds of the additional funding available for non-capital investment in services has been allocated to the health services.
This funding is being applied largely to maintaining existing levels of service across all service programmes including services for people with disabilities. While it is regrettable that the level of investment in these services achieved in recent years could not be maintained in 2003, my Department will work closely with the health boards and other service providers in service provision this year.