I propose to take Questions Nos. 27, 30 and 43 together.
In accordance with the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998, local authorities have statutory responsibility for the assessment of the accommodation needs of Travellers and the preparation, adoption and implementation of multi-annual Traveller accommodation programmes, TAPs, in their areas. My Department’s role is to ensure there are adequate structures and supports in place to assist the local authorities in providing such accommodation, including a national framework of policy, legislation and funding. It is a matter for each local authority to set targets for the provision of Traveller accommodation, which they outline in their TAPs. The allocation and recoupment profiles for Traveller accommodation projects can vary across local authorities, given local priorities, circumstances and project timelines as set out in their programmes. The programmes provide a roadmap for local authority investment priorities over the period and form the basis for the allocation of funding from my Department for Traveller accommodation.
In 2018 local authorities delivered a total of 107 units of Traveller accommodation. They included 57 refurbishments or extensions, 48 emergency caravans, one group house and one first-time buyer's grant for the purchase of a caravan. Local authorities are preparing their fifth multi-annual TAPs which will run from 2019 to 2024. I believe the new councils will continue this process in June this year. The plans will outline details of the programmes to be undertaken to meet the existing and projected accommodation needs of Travellers in their areas. The TAPs will be prepared by the local authorities in consultation with local Traveller organisations, the local Traveller consultative committees, LTACCs, other relevant community groups and the public in general. They will come into effect from September this year.
In line with the commitment in Rebuilding Ireland, reflecting the disappointing level of overall funding drawn down in recent years, which I agree is unacceptable, and having regard to relevant findings in relation to the European social charter referred to, the Housing Agency commissioned a review of funding for Traveller-specific accommodation in 2017. The review had regard to the targets contained in local authority TAPs and the actual delivery, the status of accommodation funded and funding provided for accommodation maintenance and other supports.
Following its consideration of the review, the national Traveller accommodation consultative committee recommended that an independent expert group be established to examine and make recommendations on issues regarding Traveller accommodation policy, strategy and implementation. The expert group was established in September 2018. It has been asked to review the effectiveness, implementation and operation of the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998, with a view to examining whether it provides a robust legislative basis for meeting current and future accommodation needs of the Traveller community. It has also been asked to review other legislation that may impact on the provision and delivery of Traveller-specific accommodation, including transient accommodation, which will address a number of the issues raised by the European committee on social rights. I expect the group to provide my Department with a report in April this year. When we set it up in September or October, I met the group and asked its members to do this work as quickly as they possibly could. We wanted them to do it within three or four months, but they expressed a preference for a period of six months. We hope to have the report no later than April in order that we can act on it at that time. My Department will consider any recommendation made by the expert group that will have the potential to improve the delivery of Traveller accommodation nationally and help to ensure full use is made of the increasing level of funding available for investment in Traveller accommodation.
The Deputy asked about targets for next year. At housing summits and individual meetings with the housing delivery team as we travel around the country, we sit down with local authorities to go through the question of delivery. I will continue to do so in the next month or two, with the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. We will try to see if projects are on track and that there are proposals in the pipeline as we want the money to be spent.