Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019

Vol. 988 No. 3

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

CLÁR Programme

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this matter. The last allocation of CLÁR funding has been a serious disappointment in County Cork. I will go through the figures. Over €3.8 million was allocated nationwide. In Cork county, €115,000 was allocated. This represented only 3% of the total. In north Cork, which I represent, there was no funding at all. It went to a number of projects in west Cork. The Department, which had been in communication with the local authorities over recent years, set out that Cork county was entitled to have 15 priority projects under the CLÁR programme. The Department informed the local authority that if these were prioritised by it, they would be funded. Only three of them were funded. The funding applications made by Cork County Council, which examines each of the communities' priorities, prioritised traffic-calming in Knocknagree, alongside the school, for example. The Minister of State, Deputy Canney, would have to agree that the traffic-calming measures around schools have a positive effect. The local authority also prioritised projects in Kanturk, Lyre and Millstreet. The representatives on the ground were making great play about what they had done for those communities but none of the funding came through.

CLÁR funding is a vital component of projects. The locals put in so much money, and CLÁR and the local authorities provide other moneys. The CLÁR programme is vital in funding projects in rural communities, such as Knocknagree, Kanturk, Lyre and Millstreet. CLÁR funding has been of great benefit. Why was Cork county getting only 3% of the funding? As I stated, it received only €115,000 out of €3.8 million, which was the allocation nationwide. Why were the projects prioritised by the local authority in Cork not funded?

Cork county is at a great disadvantage in that its landmass is greater than six counties put together. Any of the six counties that would make up the landmass of County Cork would have far more projects funded. Cork county needs to be examined according to its three divisions, namely, the northern, southern and western divisions. There should be a number of projects funded per division under the CLÁR programme. Has the Department, in its wisdom, taken the populations into account? The northern division, which is predominantly the area I represent, has over 90,000 people. Some 150,000 live in the southern division. Smaller counties have similar populations. Cork County Council has three local community development companies, LCDCs. Funding should be allocated per LCDC.

Let me return to the fundamental point. Projects were prioritised by our local authority and it was led to believe they would be funded under the CLÁR programme. Why were they not funded under the CLÁR announcement made earlier in the year, which was worth €3.8 million nationwide? I will leave those questions with the Minister of State and come back to him with more points.

I thank the Deputy for the question. The CLÁR programme provides funding for small infrastructural projects in rural areas that have suffered from significant population decline, based on CSO data. The programme was closed for new applications in 2010. However, the Minister, Deputy Ring, relaunched CLÁR in the second half of 2016 because he recognised the programme can make a great difference to people living in the relevant areas.

Since CLÁR was relaunched in 2016, almost €33 million has been allocated to over 1,400 projects under different CLÁR measures. The 2019 CLÁR programme invited applications under three separate measures: support for schools and community safety; play areas; and community well-being support.

There was great interest in the CLÁR programme this year, with almost 500 applications received. The funding sought in those applications far exceeded the available budget. Unfortunately, it was not possible to fund all the projects for which applications were submitted. Nonetheless, €6 million has been allocated for 179 projects under the 2019 CLÁR programme. This includes funding for eight projects in County Cork, to the value of almost €300,000.

A total of €1.89 million has been allocated to 74 projects in Cork since 2016 under CLÁR. The funding approved for any particular local authority under measures 1 and 2 of the 2019 programme, which are for schools and play areas, reflected the extent of the designated CLÁR areas in each county. It is not based on the overall geographical footprint or the population of the county. From a Galway perspective, I can understand some of the Deputy's frustration. In other words, counties that have a larger percentage of their geographic area in CLÁR received more funding than counties that had a small percentage in CLÁR. For example, Leitrim is a relatively small county but all of it is designated as a CLÁR area. The approach taken is only fair, given the specific targeted nature of the programme. Other counties perform well in regard to other programmes delivered by the Department.

I thank the Minister of State for the reply. The entire Duhallow region of County Cork is within the CLÁR region. I refer to the classification of CLÁR. Not one project was funded in my region although there were four put forward by the local authority. West Cork is not in my constituency but it should be noted that large tracts of it are in the CLÁR region. A huge part of the landmass of County Cork is in the CLÁR region. Three projects were funded.

The Minister of State said that it is not possible, unfortunately, to fund all measures. Is there any more CLÁR funding to be announced in 2019? There is talk locally that more money is to become available under the programme. From the Minister of State's initial statement, it looks like there will be no further funding. Does the Minister of State accept my point that the Department, in its communication with the local authority, clearly indicated that if it applied in respect of 15 projects, it would be successful. The local authority worked very hard on these projects. It worked with the communities and a lot of time and effort was put in to make sure the projects would be right. Some projects were burnt in the 2018 application round. Did the Department give a commitment that if there were 15 projects submitted by the county council, they would be funded? Is further funding to be made available under the CLÁR programme in 2019? Does the Minister of State accept that Cork county should be treated differently because of its landmass? The Minister of State referred to the size of his county, County Galway. Much of the landmass of County Cork is in the CLÁR region. I am referring in particular to the Duhallow region, where not one of the four projects in respect of which an application was made received funding in the last round.

I thank the Deputy for his contribution. I appreciate his interest in ensuring Cork county is supported by the Department of Rural and Community Development. Let me give the Deputy a breakdown of the CLÁR funding for Cork in 2019.

There were three measures: support for schools and community safety; play areas, including multi-use games areas; and community well-being supports comprising first response support, mobility and cancer care transport, and sensory gardens. A number of projects were funded this year to the value of €294,809. That amount was awarded to Galway County Council - mea culpa, but it was Cork County Council - for eight projects-----

I think the Minister of State has just said that it is all going up the west with nothing coming down to County Cork.

No, it is not all up the west. Galway suffered the same way due to the nature of the divisions. Cork received funding of €780,000 in 2018 and, in 2017, €260,000 in respect of nine projects. It received €562,000 in respect of 35 projects in 2016. The amounts have fluctuated.

The Deputy asked whether there was a further round to come. I have no knowledge of further announcements. Expenditure within the Department across our important and targeted measures in respect of rural Ireland is being taken up. The CLÁR programme is making a significant impact throughout rural Ireland and a high level of demand is a measure of its success. I will continue to prioritise projects under CLÁR, but we need to do so within the existing budgetary constraints. Since CLÁR's reintroduction, Cork has not done too badly.

Except in the hurling.

Sometimes, people feel like they are getting less than they are entitled to, but that happens with every item of funding. We are committed to reviewing the CLÁR programme by reference to the most recent census of population, which was in 2016. The review will consider whether other factors should be taken into account in designating areas of eligibility under CLÁR, for example, levels of deprivation.

A community school safety application was turned down. I cannot understand why, given that the Minister of State mentioned that public safety was a priority.

Perhaps the Deputy will engage with the Minister of State on the matter.

If there is a specific situation, we can look at it.

National Drugs Strategy Budget

I wish to highlight the community sector's experience of the past two years of the new national drugs strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery - A health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025. Key policy decisions are not being brought for discussion and agreement to the national oversight committee or the standing sub-committee, as was supposed to happen, and are instead being largely made within the confines of the Department of Health and the HSE. This centralised decision-making has the knock-on effect of the drugs and alcohol task forces not being enabled or supported to carry out the role assigned to them in implementing the strategy at local and regional levels. The fact of the matter is that communities are being excluded from a role in key decision-making, breaking a key commitment given by the Government in the new strategy.

I acknowledge the work and commitment of CityWide, the community sector voice in this field across the greater Dublin region, and will tell the Minister of State the actions that CityWide believes, based on its experience, need to be taken. First, the Department of the Taoiseach needs to take responsibility for oversight of the new strategy. Second, the Taoiseach should convene a national forum of all national drugs strategy stakeholders to set out clearly what is expected of them in their roles in implementing the strategy in line with the principles therein. Third, a community development plan should be put in place at the core of the national drugs strategy. My read of this situation is that the bottom line is that the drug and alcohol task forces must be allowed to do as the national drugs strategy promised, that is, co-ordinate an inter-agency approach to the implementation of the strategy in the context of the needs of their respective regions and areas.

The second part of my Topical Issue matter moves from the wider experience of Dublin and the rest of the country to my constituency. I recently received correspondence from the Cavan Drug and Alcohol Service, which provides a service to the Cavan-Monaghan constituency. I will read from the first paragraph to give a sense of the seriousness of the matter. It comes from a letter to the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, for whom the Minister of State is standing in today, issued on 11 October. It reads:

After almost two decades of delivering community based support services across Cavan and Monaghan CDA Trust CLG (AKA Cavan Drug Awareness) is now making plans to wind down operations and dissolve the company by the end of 2020. Our organisation has received no increase in funding for several years in spite of rising rent, insurance and other costs. We will be unable to retain staff due to being unable to pay increments in line with cost of living increases or invest in new training opportunities for them. At present CDA Trust CLG is the only dedicated addiction support service for two counties [Cavan and Monaghan] apart from local methadone prescribing GPs and [a] valued colleague in the HSE.

The service is treating in the order of 50 individuals every week. This service is hugely important in a constituency such as Cavan-Monaghan. What will the Minister of State do to address the deficiency in resourcing?

I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue. I will take the debate on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne.

Government policy on drug and alcohol addiction services is set out in the national drugs strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery - A health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025. The strategy commits to expanding the availability and geographical spread of relevant quality drug and alcohol services and to improving the range of services available.

Drug and alcohol task forces play a key role in assessing the extent and nature of the drug problem in local communities. They also ensure that a co-ordinated approach is taken across all sectors to address substance misuse based on the identified needs and priorities in their areas. The Department of Health provides in the region of €28 million per annum to supporting task forces through various channels of funding, including the HSE. In 2019, the Department, through the HSE, provided €927,813 to the North Eastern Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force. From this allocation, the task force provided €212,000 to CDA Trust. CDA Trust provides a range of valuable services to individual families and the wider community affected by drug and alcohol use and misuse in Cavan and Monaghan. CDA Trust also gets funding from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to provide a drug rehabilitation community employment scheme.

The Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, recently received correspondence from CDA Trust indicating its intention to wind down operations by the end of 2020. It identified two key issues: delays in the transfer of funding from the HSE and communication difficulties between the HSE and the North Eastern Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force. The Minister of State asked officials in the Department of Health to seek a report from the HSE and the task force on these issues.

In 2019, the Department secured additional funding of €1 million to implement key actions in the national drugs strategy. From this funding, the Department provided the task force with an additional €20,000 to support its work, 50% of which is recurring on annual basis.

This funding can be used to enhance services and meet operating costs. The Department of Health is also providing an additional €190,000 over a three-year period for the young people's substance use support services in Cavan and Monaghan. This strategic health initiative will improve access to health services for young people whose lives are affected by problematic alcohol and substance use in the two counties. The initiative will develop and strengthen collaborative working across the counties to support the delivery of integrated holistic services through a continuum of care model, that is, education and prevention, and treatment and rehabilitation. This initiative was developed by the task force and the HSE following consultation with local stakeholders. The Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, would encourage the CDA Trust to engage with the task force and the HSE to see how it can participate in the new young people's substance use support services.

It is important first of all to deal with the bigger picture. In July 2017, CityWide wrote to the Taoiseach indicating its welcome for the Government's commitment to maintaining and building on the key principles of inter-agency partnership and community participation, but the experience in the intervening two years, as I have already put on the record in my opening contribution, is simply not ticking the box. It is a very serious matter. We need to ensure that the structures in place are working to ensure that communities have a real voice in the decision-making process. Any examination of the facts would demonstrate that that is not the situation that has applied over the past couple of years.

In relation to the CDA Trust in Cavan and Monaghan, it is very important to recognise that as we enter the fourth quarter of 2019, the situation is that the quarterly allocation of funding to the CDA Trust has not yet presented, with the result that it has to try to exist on an overdraft arrangement until such time as the fourth quarter moneys are released. I could go into it in greater depth with the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, but I am telling him what the factual position is, and it is intolerable. It is also intolerable that the trust's returns in relation to quarterly activity and expenditure reports that have been presented to the North Eastern Regional Drugs and Alcohol Task Force, NERDATF, in good time are not compatible with the HSE's own assessment of these matters, with the result that there is duplication in the work to be undertaken in terms of administration and oversight, rather than in front-line provision of real care and supports for those who need it most.

Despite the reply that has been read into the record by the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, and whatever hand the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, has had in its construction, it is not reflective of the reality of the current crisis situation that we face in Cavan and Monaghan.

The Deputy's point is made.

This is not an idle threat by the CDA Trust. I ask the Minister of State to use his influence and good offices to bring pressure to bear for a resourcing adequate to the needs of this valued service.

I agree with Deputy Ó Caoláin's point on the valuable work done by CityWide. I am aware of many great people who have worked in that organisation for many years.

Measuring the overall effectiveness of the response to the drug problem in Ireland is an important objective of drug policy. Resources should be directed towards interventions and strategies that are most likely to lead to a reduction in problem substance use and improvement of public health, safety and well-being. The level of progress achieved in delivering the national drugs strategy will be determined using performance indicators. The Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, is committed to implementing an integrated public health response to substance misuse with the twin aims of reducing harm and supporting recovery. Working in partnership with the task force and the regional health organisation, she is confident that the allocation of an additional €1 million in 2019, which will be paid in 2020 and beyond that on a recurring basis, will make a significant contribution to achieving this objective.

I agree with Deputy Ó Caoláin that nobody should be excluded and that there should be strong consultation with local communities. I also agree that there should be strong community development plans. I feel very strongly that these issues should be tackled because we have a significant problem with drugs in this country. I will use any influence I have to push this issue.

Public Services Card

In very many cases, persons who do not currently possess or cannot obtain a driver's licence or a passport offer their public services card, PSC, by way of identification. Credit unions have been told by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and by the Department of Finance for well over three years that the cards should not be accepted as ID, much to the frustration and significant inconvenience of persons who are willingly offering the card as ID as they try to obtain financial services.

The number of gardaí in the country willing to sign an ML10 form has dramatically declined. That is understandable. Members of the Garda are being asked to verify the identification of persons they do not know, and so many decline. The credit unions and banks are not being overly prescriptive; they are merely enforcing the law for fear of prosecution and fines. Credit union personnel are terrified to accept the PSC as proof of ID, as they are aware that at least two Departments warn them against accepting this proof of identification where the individual has no other proof. In essence, we have a cohort of people wanting to use the public services card to obtain and sustain access to financial services on the one hand and, on the other hand we have two Departments refusing to allow financial institutions to facilitate their clients in the fight against criminality and white and blue-collar crime.

I thank Deputy Sherlock for raising this very important issue. The PSC was provided for in legislation in 1998, when it was introduced alongside the personal public service, PPS, number to replace the previous Revenue and social insurance number, RSI, and the social services card, SSC. It acts as an identifier for access to a broad range of public services.

The public services card can only be requested or accepted as proof of identity by a body specified in Schedule 5 to the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended, and only where that specified body has a transaction with a person concerned. In other words, the PSC can only be used to verify a person's identity where that person is availing of a public service and the relevant public body is authorised to, and prepared to, accept the PSC as proof of identity. The provision of financial or banking services is not a public service. Banks or other financial institutions or private sector bodies are therefore not specified bodies for the purposes of the PSC. This means it is not possible for a person to offer his or her PSC as proof of identity to a bank, or any other institution such as a credit union, which is offering banking services, nor is it permitted under social welfare legislation for a bank or a credit union to accept a PSC as proof of identity, even if a person volunteers to present his or her PSC for this purpose.

When the Department is made aware of any requests being made by a non-specified body for a person to produce or provide details of their PSC, officials from the Department contact the organisation concerned and advise it of the legislative provisions in place in respect of this matter. Specified bodies are in all cases required to process and store data in accordance with the general data protection regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018, as amended. A provision is included in the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill that was published and proceeded through pre-legislative scrutiny in 2017 to allow people to voluntarily present their PSC as proof of identity but only if they choose to do so. It would, under this provision, remain illegal for a body other than a public body specified in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act to ask for or require production of a PSC. This provision, if passed, will increase the utility of the PSC for people who hold one without imposing any obligation on them to make it available other than for use of public services.

The PSC delivers valuable customer service benefits. For example, more than 600,000 free travel journeys are undertaken every week by holders of the PSC. More than 600,000 payments are verified each week using the PSC and approximately 400,000 PSC holders use the MyGovID service to access online public services. Satisfaction levels among users are very high, which one does not often hear about figures in the public domain. Earlier this year, a customer survey on the PSC was published. The survey, which looked at customer satisfaction around the processes and procedures involved in applying for a PSC, was undertaken independently on behalf of the Department by specialists in customer experience consultancy. More than 1,000 PSC holders, of varying age and gender, were interviewed. The results showed that 96% of PSC holders surveyed were either very satisfied or fairly satisfied with the process. Almost nine out of ten, 87%, agree that it is very useful that other Government service providers may be able to use the identity information already provided in obtaining the PSC to avoid the need to provide the same information. Nine out of ten of those surveyed felt that they either had access to the right level of information in respect of the SAFE-PSC process or had access to more than they needed.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. To some degree, the Minister of State is supporting the point that I am making about the success of the card and the satisfaction that people have when they use it. The Minister of State mentioned that there are customer service benefits, that more than 600,000 free travel journeys are undertaken every week with the public services card and more than 600,000 payments are verified. I am seeking to speak for people throughout Irish society who, as may surprise the Acting Chairman, would not have a passport or driver's licence, which are the two other obvious forms of identification. They are in possession of the public services card. We are merely asking that the services could be expanded, especially for anti-money laundering purposes, such that where a person is carrying out a financial transaction where proof of identity is required, especially in a credit union with many older people who use it, the public services card would be deemed to be fit for purpose for proof of identification and to adhere to the money laundering legislation. The Minister of State tells us that there is a high degree of satisfaction with the card and that people are comfortable using it.

It really brings us back to the point of whether the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017, which has been sitting there for two years, could be expedited in a way that would ensure that a provision could be made that it could be used for anti-money laundering legislation, so that if somebody opens an account in a credit union, the public services card could be deemed to be a valuable or appropriate form of identification. That would probably have the effect of ensuring greater confidence in the card and probably ensuring that it could meet the anti-money laundering requirements.

I totally accept the point about the confidence and popularity issue. As I was saying before I ran out of time, 96% of PSC holders surveyed were either very satisfied or fairly satisfied with the process. Almost 88% of those surveyed felt that they had access to the right level of information in respect of the SAFE-PSC process or had access to more than they needed. Some 77% understand the requirement to retain personal information and do not mind that their documents are retained.

On the other issues, only bodies specified in legislation have access to the data. The full list of specified bodies is contained in Schedule 5 to the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended. It lists all Ministers, city and county councils, education and training boards, the HSE, voluntary hospitals, schools, institutes of technology, universities and a range of civil and public services bodies. The only data that are collected and verified in a SAFE 2 registration process are in the limited set of data contained in the public services identity data set, which is defined in sections 262(1) and 262(3) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005. This is a person's PPS number, surname, forename, date of birth, place of birth, all former surnames, all former surnames of his or her mother, an address, nationality, photo, and signature. Only these data and elements of it are shared with specified bodies. The legislative basis for sharing these data is set out clearly in section 262(6) of the Act, which states that where "a specified body has a transaction with a person, the Minister may share the person’s public service identity with the specified body to the extent necessary" for that transaction.

Charitable and Voluntary Organisations

I am pleased to have the opportunity to raise this important matter. I thank the Minister for taking it herself. Knowing the type of pragmatic Minister she is, I believe she will have no entrenched views until she familiarises herself fully with the workings of ParentStop, which I believe is only available in Donegal. It provides free and confidential one-to-one telephone and group support to parents who need some help with parenting challenges, whether it is bedtime routine, managing behaviour, parenting skills, putting in place a parenting plan, setting boundaries, school concerns, communication breakdowns, worries about teens' substance misuse, or anything else of immediate concern to a person. It is there to offer support. It also helps with the challenges of separation and the strains that that causes for families. ParentStop can listen while people talk it out, provide information on their specific parenting concerns, and advise on the next steps. It was established in 2005 as a charitable organisation and registered as such in 2007. It offers a valuable service to parents and co-parents on matters of separation, legal matters and about children in a state of anxiety due to legal matters in their lives.

It is vital that this service is provided. ParentStop offers niche services that I can safely state can be obtained nowhere else in the country but in Donegal. Donegal should not be penalised for establishing it and ensuring that it has been extremely successful over the last 14 years. I raise it tonight because it has been told that the funding will be withdrawn. Not all of the funding comes from Tusla.

Some of it comes from the Departments of Justice and Equality and Health, while some of it comes through the bodies that deal with drugs. I have also mentioned this to the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Catherine Byrne. We must look at all of it in the round in the context of the services Tusla provides at times when families and individuals are dealing with legal matters, teenagers are struggling and there are challenges in second level schooling. They are times of great stress, anxiety and difficulty for the individuals concerned.

The Minister should deal with ParentStop in an atmosphere that is conducive to resolving this issue, not in the atmosphere of a court. I know that the legal profession in County Donegal is extremely supportive and it does not see this as taking business from it. If we had more organisations such as ParentStop throughout the country, it would result in massive savings. Therefore, I cannot understand why the funding was withdrawn. I quote directly a practising solicitor: "The courts are unable to deal with the volume of cases in the family law court and at the moment if someone has issued family law proceedings in the Letterkenny district area, (seeking access or maintenance for example), they will have to wait until at least February 2020 to be given a hearing." ParentStop was able to bridge that gap. In the vast majority of cases a final order was made by a court without any necessity for a hearing date following the party's attendance. All legal people concur with this. I hope the Minister has some good news for me.

I thank the Deputy for providing me with the opportunity to discuss the funding provided by Tusla for ParentStop in County Donegal and the recent decision by ParentStop to cease its services at the end of the year, as I understand it. ParentStop is one of many organisations funded by Tusla which provides valuable supports for parents and children. Since the publication of its parenting support strategy in 2013, Tusla has developed and expanded the range of parenting supports available to families across the country.

ParentStop has performed a non-stigmatising, expert and unique function in supporting families in County Donegal in a complex range of situations and across the continuum of care, as the Deputy eloquently outlined. In 2018 ParentStop supported 602 families. Supports include one-to-one sessions for families with complex needs, intensive supports for children and brief intervention supports for children and families. ParentStop also provides supports for families dealing with a range of issues, including separation, addictions, financial worries, online safety, obesity, mental health concerns, bullying, stress and peer pressure.

As one of ParentStop's core funders, Tusla has been aware of the organisation's recent financial difficulties and supported measures to prevent its closure. The HSE is ParentStop's other main funder. Between 2016 and 2019, annual funding provided by Tusla for ParentStop increased by €31,000 to €68,625. In 2018 Tusla provided an additional €7,000 for ParentStop to address its recurring annual deficit. Tusla provided a further exceptional annual increase of €24,000 for ParentStop in 2018 following the withdrawal of funding by the north-west regional drugs and alcohol task force. In 2019 Tusla provided further once-off funding of €18,640 to assist the organisation to invest time and resources in developing a sustainable funding model. Tusla has informed me that all funding options available to support ParentStop have been exhausted and that, unfortunately, ParentStop has decided that it cannot continue to operate within the funding allocations available from its core funders.

It is important that Tusla assign its resources to the areas which it perceives to be in greatest need, ensuring the best possible outcomes for children and families. Funding of services is informed by Tusla's commissioning approach. Tusla seeks to fund services in the most beneficial, effective, efficient, proportionate and sustainable manner in order to improve the outcomes for vulnerable children and families. Under Part 8 of the Child and Family Agency Act 2013, Tusla funds a range of organisations which provide services for vulnerable children and families, including those providing parenting supports. Tusla remains committed to commissioning and developing supports for parents and deeply regrets the decision of ParentStop to cease operations at the end of 2019.

I am extremely disappointed to say the least. The Minister and her officials have taken an entrenched position and are not even prepared to think about this issue. We must look from 2005 at the return the State gained from its investment, whether in Tusla, the health promotion grant available from the Department of Health or the north-west regional drugs and alcohol task force. I suggest to the Minister that she consider meeting a representative group from ParentStop. She is the lead Minister who could communicate with the other Departments involved and pull everything together. She says Tusla is committed to commissioning and developing supports for parents and deeply regrets this decision. It is not being taken by ParentStop; rather, it is being made for it because the various State agencies have withdrawn funding. Tusla states it must ensure its resources are assigned where they will have the most benefit and that the funding of services is informed by its commissioning approach. It also states it seeks to fund services in the most beneficial, effective, efficient, proportionate and sustainable manner. That statement is an insult to ParentStop which is stating the converse, namely, that it is not able to ensure it can operate in an efficient, proportionate and sustainable manner. It is totally insulting. As the Minister is fair, I ask her to make a start and meet as soon as possible, after the break next week, if there is to be one, with about three people from the organisation. Perhaps she might invite somebody from the Department of Health, Tusla and the other agencies to attend to try to pull all of this together. I ask her to take the initiative. She cannot do any more than that tonight. A sum of €100,000 to €120,000 is needed, not all of which would come from Tusla. Other agencies could make contributions. It could be a pilot project that could be rolled out throughout the rest of the country. It has proved so successful and it is disheartening if we are not able to proceed with it.

I do not accept the Deputy's judgment that we have taken an entrenched position. As I indicated, Tusla increased its contributions to ParentStop three times, in addition to the original core funding, to enable it to carry out the excellent work it was doing, as well as to support it in designing a sustainable funding model. I understand a little about the setting up of a voluntary organisation, providing excellent services and looking for ways to grow them, receiving support from different agencies and Departments and perhaps philanthropic sponsors and putting it all together in a sustainable funding model to continue to support the group, organisation, company limited by guarantee or charity, as the Deputy indicated. Tusla has tried to offer financial support in time to ParentStop to assist it in looking for a sustainable funding model. The Deputy asked who was responsible for that model. He also asked whether it was the Government or the organisation which was responsible. They are good questions. I am not saying I would not necessarily meet it, but I know a little about establishing an organisation to meet a need. ParentStop has done a brilliant job in that regard. As I understand it, there are other organisations in County Donegal that also offer parenting supports. Tusla's job is to look at all of the voluntary groups, as well as its own services, and identify that they are meeting the needs of parents and families in County Donegal.

My understanding is that this is an excellent voluntary organisation with an excellent provision of services that has had a challenge in developing a sustainable funding model, with which Tusla has tried to support it.

I cannot allow any more-----

Will the Minister agree to meet-----

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle knows better than anybody that I cannot allow it. The rules are the rules with four minutes each.

Will the Minister meet them? I presume the Minister will meet them.

I will, if Deputy Gallagher comes with me.

I am sure both of you will go and meet them. It will be a great gathering.