Wednesday, 25 February 2004

Ceisteanna (9)

Jack Wall


96 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if, when assessing applications made to the sports capital programme, his attention has been drawn to the need to support, in particular, the disadvantaged areas targeted under the RAPID programme to foster local development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6168/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (3 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, is run on an annual basis and allocates funding towards the provision of sporting and recreational facilities to sporting and voluntary and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country.

Applications received under the programme are evaluated in accordance with detailed criteria which are laid out in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme and which, when combined, are designed to meet as far as possible the four main objectives of the programme.

These objectives are as follows: to develop an integrated and planned approach to the development of sport and recreational facilities; to assist voluntary and community organisations with the development of appropriate facilities in appropriate locations that will maximise use in terms of participation in sport and recreation; to encourage the multi-purpose use of facilities at national, regional and community level by clubs, community organisations and national governing bodies of sport; and to prioritise the needs of disadvantaged areas in the provision of facilities.

In the past three years alone, €97 million has been allocated under the sports capital programme to more than 1,000 projects in respect of the provision of facilities in areas categorised as disadvantaged. Nevertheless, my Department continues to evaluate how best to provide for the needs of disadvantaged areas in terms of providing sporting and recreational facilities and increasing participation under the programme.

For the 2003 programme, at the initiative of my Department and in consultation with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Area Development Management, ADM, which is the agency with responsibility for the administration of RAPID, it was decided that only those areas that have been designated by Government for special support through the schemes administered by Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, namely, RAPID 1, RAPID 2, local drugs task force areas and CLÁR, should be treated as disadvantaged areas. As part of the designation, it was also agreed to give a higher assessment rating to those projects from RAPID areas that had been endorsed by their local RAPID area implementation team.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

This designation of disadvantaged areas has been continued for the 2004 sports capital programme.

The positive approach taken by my Department in supporting applications received from disadvantaged areas has been favourably commented upon by ADM. In addition, ADM organised a special information presentation by my officials for the RAPID area implementation teams in December last, prior to the application deadline for the 2004 sports capital programme. On 28 January last, I met my colleague, the Minister for Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, to discuss in detail how our Departments might best work together to continue to identify and prioritise projects from disadvantaged areas. I reassure the Deputy that projects which meet the basic qualifying conditions and which are located in RAPID areas will again be prioritised under this year's programme as they were in 2003.

I welcome the Minister's reply. I would be one of the first to state that the sports capital grant system has been of major benefit to sports club across the country. However, because of the shortfall in the RAPID programme, there is a necessity to ensure that, in the next round of grants which comes on stream in the next month or two, RAPID or disadvantaged areas are treated as special cases. In many of these cases the voluntary sector is not in a position to orchestrate applications properly and, in such instances, if it is feasible, the Department should pay special attention to them.

The forthcoming audit of sports facilities, which the Minister has sought, will demonstrate that sporting facilities in many disadvantaged areas are not on a par with those in other towns and villages. The RAPID programme has not been funded to the extent it should. Therefore, it is important that these areas are treated with special attention in the forthcoming round of grants.

I assure the Deputy that the areas concerned will continue to receive close attention from officials in the Department when assessing applications. As the Deputy is aware, the applications are assessed against certain criteria, one of which is the designated status of the area concerned. Any objective observer would agree that the RAPID areas have been treated with a great deal of sympathy over the period of life of the sports capital programme. Furthermore, it is necessary to continue to build such facilities in disadvantaged areas because of the tremendous benefits in terms of social behaviour. In those circumstances, I assure Deputy Wall that RAPID areas will continue to receive the most sympathetic consideration of the Department. In addition, if a place is within one of the areas concerned, the local funding required is reduced from 30% of the total cost to 20%.