Affordable Childcare Scheme Expenditure

Ceisteanna (214)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

214. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount it would cost in 2019 if the affordable childcare scheme universal subsidy increased from 50c per hour to €2 per hour having regard to the 2018 figures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3118/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The universal subsidy which will be available through the Affordable Childcare Scheme (ACS) when it is introduced later this year, is currently available through the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme –Universal Programme (CCSU). This was introduced in September 2017 as an interim measure in advance of the ACS. The rate stands at €0.50 per hour up to a maximum of 40 hours per week.

With the introduction of the ACS in November 2019, if the current subsidy level were to increase from 50c to €2 per hour at that point in time, the 2 month  cost of the ACS (2019 ACS delivery cycle) would be expected to rise to €44.5m, an increase of €12m over the budget available. It should be noted that based on the construction of the ACS subsidies, there would also be an increase in the lowest available subsidy for 0-3 years under the income assessed component of the scheme which has been factored into the €44.5m. There may also be further behavioural impacts with regard to the parental choice of childcare, which are estimated within the costs, but are challenging to accurately predict at this stage.

In regard to the CCSU programme; the costs for the 2017/18 programme year was €18.6m.  An increase to €2 from 50c would therefore be expected to cost an additional €55.8m on a full year basis for the CCSU scheme having regard to 2017/18 cycle figures.  However, as noted above, the ACS scheme is to be introduced in November 2019 and therefore only a nine / ten month CCSU cost rather than a full year effect would be expected on the CCSU.

In the 2017/2018 academic year 39,319 children in total benefited from the CCSU programme; with the average monthly take-up equating to some 27,015 children.

Child Protection Services Provision

Ceisteanna (215)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

215. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which adequate accommodation exists for the placement of children that may be at risk; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3223/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has a statutory duty under the Child Care Act 1991 to promote the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care and protection, and if necessary, to receive a child into the care of the State.  

The placement of children in care is governed by Regulations and National Standards. These provide for the welfare of the child, including their health, education, assessment of need, care planning, supervision of placement, contact with family, general care practices, care records, and safety precautions.

A range of accommodation is available to meet the needs of children at risk. Children and young people, depending on their identified needs, may be placed  in foster care, either with relatives or general foster carers, in residential care, high support or special care or other placement types. The majority of children are placed in long term stable placements and currently over 92% of children are placed in foster care.

A key part of the social worker role is to ensure the quality and safety of the child's placement, and to meet with the child on a one to one basis on all visits. There are safeguards surrounding each child's care placement, whether foster or residential care and all placements are supervised by a professionally qualified social worker.

All foster care services and statutory residential centres are subject to inspection by the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA). Private and voluntary residential centres are inspected by Tusla against National Standards. Inspection reports of children's residential centres, fostering services and child protection services are also reviewed and analysed by Department officials. The overview of these reports provides the Department with a level of assurance on the overall capacity of Tusla to identify and provide services to families and children who are at risk.

Foster care is the main form of alternative care for children in need of care and protection, and is the preferred option for children who cannot live with their parents or guardians.  As of the 30 September 2018, of the children in care, 92% were in foster care nationally; there were 4,005 children in general foster care, 1,595 in relative care and 374 children were in a residential care placement, with the remaining children in other care placements appropriate to their assessed needs.

There are regular area recruitment campaigns to meet foster care demands. Fostering teams are responsible for the recruitment and assessment of foster carers. When an assessment is complete, a report is presented to the Foster Care Committee who decide whether or not to approve the applicant.

The recruitment and retention of an appropriate range of foster carers is part of Tusla's business plan. Tusla are particularly interested in recruiting foster carers with the skills required to look after children with complex needs, or from a range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

For children who cannot live either at home or in an alternative family environment such as foster care, there are a number of types of residential care settings that may be appropriate, of which secure care is one type.

A very small number of children (1.6%) are in other care placements.  Such placements can include supported lodgings, at home under a care order, detention centre/prison, youth homeless facilities, other residential centres e.g. therapeutic, disability, residential assessment, designated mother and baby units.

It is a fact that sometimes children are detained for their safety in order to provide the care they need.  It is used only where a young person's behaviour poses a real and substantial risk of harm to their life, health, safety, development or welfare. 

New regulations were put in place earlier this year.  These place special care on a full statutory footing for the first time.  The legislation sets a clear time limited and short term period for the use of special care.

Brexit Staff

Ceisteanna (216)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

216. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of regular grade civil servants her Department has hired in advance of a no-deal Brexit; the number of specialist grade civil servants hired in advance of same; the budget made available in advance of Brexit for hiring of staff in advance of the UK withdrawal from the EU; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3315/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

In July 2018, and again in September 2018, a number of decisions were made at Cabinet relating to Brexit preparedness and contingency planning, including the phased recruitment of staff, as required. 

The Government has already sanctioned €4m for the commencement of a phased process for the recruitment of additional staff to carry out the greatly increased volumes of import controls and export certification arising from Brexit.

However, given the limited impact of Brexit on my Department, no requirement for additional staffing resources within my Department has been identified to date to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

No specific budget allocation has been made in my Department for the hiring of staff in advance of a UK withdrawal from the EU.

My Department continues to monitor the situation and to engage with all relevant structures and communication channels – coordinated by the Department of An Taoiseach.

LEADER Programmes Data

Ceisteanna (217)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

217. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the approvals and expenditure under the Leader Programme 2014 to 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2992/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

LEADER is a multi-annual programme for the period 2014-2020 and has a total budget of €250 million over that period, including both national and EU funding. The programme is administered by Local Action Groups (LAGs) which deliver funding in accordance with Local Development Strategies that have been agreed for each LAG area.

To date 1,644 projects with a grant value of over €55.8 million have been approved for LEADER funding by the LAGs. A further 355 projects, requesting funding in excess of €22 million, are at various stages in the approvals process.  

Funding under LEADER is drawn down as projects incur expenditure and submit payment claims to my Department.  Project payments exceeding €13.6 million had been made up to 14th January 2019.

The level of project activity under the LEADER programme has increased significantly in 2018 and I am confident that the progress now being made by the LAGs in approving projects, along with the administrative improvements introduced by my Department over the last year, will result in a continued increase in project approvals and payments under the LEADER programme during 2019.

Western Development Commission Funding

Ceisteanna (218)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

218. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the funding he plans to allocate to the Western Development Commission in 2019; the purpose of the funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2986/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Western Development Commission has achieved much since was it established in 1999.  It now has an important role to play in supporting the Government's objectives for more effective regional development through initiatives such as the National Planning Framework, the Regional Action PLans for Jobs and the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) project.

The Commission has been allocated just over €2 million for operational purposes for 2019.  This represents an increase of €500,000 on their 2018 allocation. The additional funding which I secured for 2019 will allow the Commission to support the work of the AEC initiative and to maximise the use of the Western Investment Fund which provides financing for micro-enterprises and SMEs in the Western region.

The AEC project is a collaborative initiative, involving public and private stakeholders working together to maximise the strengths and assets of the cities and towns along our Western seaboard, from Donegal to Kerry, to attract investment, support jobs and improve the quality of life of those who live and work in the region.  The project is overseen by the Atlantic Economic Corridor Taskforce, which I chair.

As the AEC initiative develops and grows, the importance of strengthening the collaboration between stakeholders and in communicating the AEC's potential to investors is paramount.  In this context, the Western Development Commission has agreed to take on a co-ordinating role to support the work of the AEC Taskforce and its subgroups.

The WDC also operates the Western investment Fund, which was established on a revolving basis, meaning that all investments are repayable and reinvested back into Western-based enterprises.   At the start of 2018, the WDC Investment Fund had €21.4 million available for reinvestment in Small and Medium Enterprises, micro-enterprises, and Community and Social Enterprises in the Western region. 

In addition, through the Fund, the Commission implements initiatives to support the development of SMEs and emerging sectors in the western region, including a €2 million fund to encourage the film, television, animation and games industry in the West of the country.

The extra funding provided to the Commission for 2019 will enable them to reach out to a greater number of enterprises with the Western Investment Fund. 

Tidy Towns Committees Funding

Ceisteanna (219)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

219. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to allocate funding in 2019 to committees (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2805/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The TidyTowns competition was originally launched by Fáilte Ireland over 60 years ago.  Since its inception, the competition has grown from 52 entrants in 1958, to 883 entrants in 2018.  The continued success of the competition is due to the countless hours of effort from TidyTowns Committees the length and breadth of the country.

As Minister for Rural and Community Development, I was delighted to be in a position to announce grant funding to TidyTowns Committees of €1.4 million for each of the years 2017 and 2018, to mark the 60th anniversary of the competition.  This funding has allowed the Committees to prepare better for the annual competition through the purchase or upgrade of small equipment and other materials.  

Under the 2017 allocation, 906 TidyTowns Committees received grant funding of between €1,000 and €4,000 each, depending on the size of their town or village.

Under the 2018 allocation, 722 TidyTowns Committees have received similar levels of funding to date, with a number of applications still to be processed.

I will consider later this year whether I will be in a position to allocate funding to the TidyTowns Committees through this particular funding stream in 2019.  However, it should be noted that TidyTowns Committees can apply, as community groups, for funding from other schemes within my Department, such as the Community Enhancement Programme. This programme is administered through the Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs). 

In 2018, 158 applications were approved for funding of €536,816 for TidyTowns Committees under the Community Enhancement Programme.

Ministerial Meetings

Ceisteanna (220)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

220. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when he last met the chairperson of the Charities Regulatory Authority; and when he will next meet the chairperson. [3243/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Oversight and Assurance Agreement between my Department and the Charities Regulator specifies that the Minister may meet annually with the Chair and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Charities Regulator. The last such meeting took place on 21 June 2018.

There is currently a vacancy at CEO level in the Regulator which is in the process of being filled by way of a competitive recruitment process.  The next meeting with the Minister will be formally arranged following the appointment of the new CEO.

Meetings take place at official level between my Department and the Charities Regulator on an ongoing basis. 

LEADER Programmes Data

Ceisteanna (221)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

221. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the expenditure by project and administration expenditure incurred under the 2007-2013 LEADER programme as at 31 December in each year over this period; the value of projects approved under this programme at this date annually; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3288/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

Table 1 below provides a breakdown of the expenditure by project and administration costs under the 2007-2013 LEADER programme for each of the years 2007-2013, as of 31st December each year. 

Table 2 below provides the number and value of project approvals under the 2007-2013 LEADER programme for each of the years 2007-2013, as of 31st December each year.

It will be noted that no projects were approved, or expenditure incurred, in the first two years of the programming period.   LEADER is an EU-wide programme and, as can often be the case with such programmes, activity increases progressively over the course of the programme period.  

Table 1:  LEADER Project & Administration Expenditure for the period 2007-2013

Year

Projects

Administration

Total Expenditure

2007

€0.00

€0.00

€0.00

2008

€0.00

€0.00

€0.00

2009

€8,201,445.25

€11,464,519.05

€19,665,964.30

2010

€30,596,158.16

€13,659,684.89

€44,255,843.05

2011

€35,452,081.68

€12,009,677.00

€47,461,758.68

2012

€39,681,861.45

€13,335,298.42

€53,017,159.87

2013

€69,146,989.39

€13,451,003.70

€82,597,993.09

Total

€183,078,535.93

€63,920,183.06

€246,998,718.99

 

Table 2: LEADER Project Approvals for the period 2007-2013

Year

No. Approved Projects

Total LEADER Grant approvals

2007

0

€0.00

2008

0

€0.00

2009

1,271

€20,004,753

2010

1,724

€33,670,670

2011

2,061

€38,371,891

2012

3,047

€76,788,710

2013

1,683

€48,532,958

Total Approvals

9,786

€217,368,983

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

Ceisteanna (222)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

222. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the grant expenditure incurred by each local authority as at 31 December 2018 for the town and village renewal scheme with respect to moneys allocated in 2017 to each local authority under this scheme in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3289/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Town and Village Renewal Scheme is a key component in the revitalisation of rural towns and villages. Since the launch of the scheme in 2016, a total of €53 million has been allocated to over 670 projects throughout Ireland.  These projects cover a range of activities, from improving the public realm to make towns and villages more attractive for locals and visitors alike, to job-creation initiatives such as the development of enterprise hubs and digital hubs. 

Under the 2017 Town and Village Renewal Scheme, €21.6 million in funding was approved for 281 projects in October 2017.  Expenditure drawn down by Local Authorities to the end of December 2018, in respect of that funding, is set out on the table below. 

It should be noted that projects under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme can take 12-18 months to complete.  Interim payments are made when projects progress to a certain point, but final payments are not made until all projects are complete.

Local Authority/County

2017 Funding approved

Total funding   drawndown to 31/12/2018

Carlow

€884,487.84

€842,668

Cavan 

€929,688.00

€555,062

Clare 

€944,000.00

€540,000

Cork 

€1,347,826.77

€960,466

Donegal 

€1,159,000.00

€399,796

Dunlaoghaire/Rathdown 

€80,000.00

€80,000

Fingal 

€252,000.00

€212,212

Galway 

€1,004,231.00

€948,231

Kerry 

€868,471.60

€351,826

Kildare 

€416,403.20

€287,205

Kilkenny 

€873,364.00

€387,307

Laois 

€983,407.24

€451,501

Leitrim 

€1,098,538.00

€641,944

Limerick 

€1,087,943.00

€850,873

Longford 

€637,400.00

€386,200

Louth 

€775,726.16

€465,016

Mayo 

€1,348,178.00

€724,089

Meath 

€901,724.00

€664,874

Monaghan 

€580,000.00

€415,887

Offaly 

€300,000.00

€100,000

Roscommon 

€575,508.00

€420,300

Sligo 

€1,063,968.00

€830,000

South Dublin 

€20,000.00

€0

Tipperary 

€857,384.00

€599,622

Waterford 

€625,800.00

€372,300

Westmeath 

€596,000.00

€356,214

Wexford 

€1,157,525.00

€624,078

Wicklow 

€262,828.00

€118,828

Total Funding Approved

€21,631,401.81

€13,586,497

CLÁR Programme

Ceisteanna (223)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

223. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the estimated first year cost and annual cost of a proposal (details supplied). [3290/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

I am aware that, in the past, the CLÁR programme supported measures such as the schemes referred to by the Deputy.  However, these measures are not part of the CLÁR programme at present, and the estimated cost associated with the possible reintroduction of similar schemes has not been assessed.

I propose to launch a further call for proposals under the  CLÁR programme in 2019.  Decisions regarding specific measures which might be supported under this year's programme will be made in the first quarter of the year.  The scope of measures which can be funded will, as is always the case, be subject to budgetary availability. 

Brexit Staff

Ceisteanna (224)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

224. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of regular grade civil servants his Department has hired in advance of a no-deal Brexit; the number of specialist grade civil servants hired in advance of same; the budget made available in advance of Brexit for hiring of staff in advance of the UK withdrawal from the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3327/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

My Department was established to bring a greater level of coordination and cohesion to policies that impact rural Ireland and communities in order that economic recovery can be felt right across the country.

Part of that involves ensuring the potential impacts of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union are mitigated in those communities most likely to be affected by Brexit. Regional and rural businesses face enormous potential challenges on this front, particularly in the Border region and this is relevant across a number of policy areas of my Department.

In this context, considerations around the impact of Brexit are shared across different policy areas, rather than being assigned to a single Unit or dedicated staff.

My Department has undertaken a workforce planning process under the guidance of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.  Part of this process was to identify any additional Brexit related roles, and/or Brexit related duties, which will be assigned to existing posts.

Any new posts identified will be filled from our existing 2019 pay allocation and will also form part of our staffing resource needs, which were included in our submission to the Estimates process for 2019.

Community Development Projects Funding

Ceisteanna (225, 226)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

225. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which the various programmes operated by his Department can be accessed by community and rural groups throughout north County Kildare; the extent to which applications have been facilitated in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3381/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

226. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which he expects County Kildare to benefit from the rural and community development schemes available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3382/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 225 and 226 together.

My Department is committed to the successful delivery of the following programmes which provided financial and other supports to organisations in County Kildare, on a county-wide basis,  including to North Kildare, in 2018 and I look forward to further supporting rural and urban communities in the county moving forward.

These supports include:

- The new five-year Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP), which commenced at the start of 2018, is our country’s primary social inclusion intervention. This is a €190m national programme that is delivered locally, to help those in the greatest need. The funding allocation to County Kildare for 2018 was €1,061,036. 

- The Community Enhancement Programme, which I launched in 2018, has provided funding of €468,671 to projects in Kildare, including more than €26,000 to Men's Sheds groups, which provide a safe space where men can gather and participate in their communities, develop social networks and potentially gain new skills and access information.

- The LEADER Local Action Group (LAG) in Kildare has been allocated €5,261,600 to invest in the economic and social development of County Kildare over the period of the programme to 2020. In 2018, €640,556 was approved for 16 LEADER projects in Kildare. The LAG received funding of €314,922 in 2018 for individual projects and the administration costs of the LAG itself.

- The Town and Village Renewal Scheme is another initiative under the Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development and is part of a package of national and local support measures to rejuvenate rural towns and villages  throughout Ireland. I announced details of 224 projects that were approved for €21.3 million of funding under the 2018 Town and Village Renewal Scheme, including eight projects totalling €520,000 for Kildare.

- €35,000 was provided to Kildare County Council towards the funding of a local broadband officer, increasing to €42,000 in 2019.

- The Seniors Alert Scheme, which facilitates valuable community-based support for vulnerable older people. A total of 1,139 installations have been approved for elderly persons in Kildare since September 2015.

- The Local Improvement Scheme, or LIS, is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas. The scheme is funded by my Department and is administered through the Local Authorities. The funding allocated for 2018 to Co. Kildare was €329,590.00.

- €85,684 was announced in January 2019 for the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure scheme.

- The Community Services Programme (CSP) supports community organisations to provide local services through a social enterprise model with funding provided as a contribution to the cost of a manager and an agreed number of full-time equivalent positions (FTEs).  In 2018, the CSP      provided funding of some €430,000 towards the cost of employing approximately 17.5 full-time equivalents and three manager positions in five community based organisations and social enterprises based in County Kildare.

Comhairle na Tuaithe

Ceisteanna (227)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

227. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the role of Comhairle na Tuaithe going forward as envisaged by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3383/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

My Department is aware that, since the establishment of Comhairle na Tuaithe in 2004, and the publication of the National Countryside Recreation Strategy in 2006, there has been significant growth in the number of people engaging in outdoor pursuits across a wider range of activities than ever before. 

In this context, an independent review of Comhairle and the Countryside Recreation Strategy was carried out in 2016 to assess, amongst other issues, the role of the body in an evolving outdoor recreation sector.

I met with the members of Comhairle in early 2018 to hear directly from them their views on the recommendations of the independent review, on the future direction of Comhairle, and on the development of the outdoor recreation sector in Ireland generally.  The meeting was very constructive in helping me to consider and develop detailed plans for the future development of the sector.

My officials presented initial proposals to the Comhairle members at a meeting of 16th May 2018 and, through my officials, I received detailed feedback from the members on those proposals. I have considered that feedback in the context of a wider focus on the development of the rural recreation sector and I will make a final decision regarding the future mandate of Comhairle na Tuaithe shortly.  

Community Enhancement Programme

Ceisteanna (228)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

228. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the success or otherwise of the community enhancement programme; the expenditure on this programme in 2018; the allocation for 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3384/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

I launched the Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) in May 2018.  I am delighted with the success of the CEP and on foot of the high level of applications received following the launch, I provided an additional once-off funding allocation of €8.5 million bring the total allocation to €13 million in 2018.

The programme replaces and builds on two schemes which operated in 2017, the Communities Facilities Scheme (CFS) and the re-cast RAPID programme. It was put in place following a review of those two schemes, and consideration of a Value-for-Money review of the original RAPID programme that closed to new applications in 2011.

Combining these schemes makes for a more flexible, streamlined and targeted approach to providing funding to those communities most in need, while reducing the level of administration involved.  Any community group in any area can apply for funding under the programme. 

There is funding of €4m for the programme for 2019.

Dormant Accounts Fund

Ceisteanna (229)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

229. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his views on the success to date of the operation of the dormant accounts programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3385/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Department of Rural and Community Development was established in July 2017 and took over responsibility for the Dormant Account Fund at that time.

The Comptroller and Auditor General examined the operation of the Fund as part of its 2016 work programme and published its findings in September 2017. The findings focused in particular on the administration of the fund, the low level of disbursements from the fund and whether money in the fund could be better applied. 

Since then my Department has worked to ensure these issues are addressed and the money in the fund is put to good use.

As recommended by the C&AG a review of the operation of the disbursement scheme was completed and published by my Department in July 2018. The review sets out 15 recommendations to improve the administration and operation of the Fund. An interdepartmental group has been established to assist in ensuring the recommendations are progressed. 

The 2018 Dormant Accounts Action Plan was also published in July 2018, and approved funding of up to €39.7 million for 45 different measures across ten different Government Departments. In line with the provisions of the Dormant Accounts Acts, the measures identified in the Action Plan target social, economic and educational disadvantage; and people with a disability. The approved measures will support a wide range of projects and programmes relating to issues such as social inclusion, assisting migrants, support for carers, speech and language therapy, support for dementia sufferers and sports measures. The majority of measures will commence in 2019, subject to voted expenditure being available within each relevant Department.  

Good progress is being made and spend from the fund across all Departments totalled €27.8 million in 2018. This is an increase of 78% on the 2017 spend of €15.6 million. My own Department fully utilised its allocation - with €10.1 million spent from the fund in 2018. 

Departmental Agencies Funding

Question No. 231 answered with Question No. 29.

Ceisteanna (230)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

230. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the role of Pobal in the allocation of funding for his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3386/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

Please see response to parliamentary question No. 44, ref. 3006/19. 

Pobal is an agency of my Department which works on behalf of Government to manage and implement a number of publicly-funded programmes designed to improve outcomes for local communities, particularly those encountering social and economic disadvantage.

Pobal operates on the basis of a framework agreement with my Department and programme-specific service level agreements with individual divisions,  with an agreed programme of work with each division for any work they are requested to undertake. Those programmes include the LEADER Programme; the Social Inclusion and the Community Activation Programme (SICAP), the Scheme to Support National Organisations (SSNO), the Seniors Alert Scheme (SAS), the Community Services Programme (CSP) and the Dormant Accounts Fund (DAF).

Each programme that Pobal manages and supports differs, as does Pobal’s level and type of involvement in each.  Pobal’s role depends on the requirements of the division with responsibility for the programme and does not involve the allocation of funding on behalf of my Department in all cases. For example, in some cases Pobal will work across the programme lifecycle (as with SICAP), whilst in others the role is more limited to specific tasks.  Pobal may assist with providing capital grants in some cases.

Supports to the LEADER 2014-2020 Programme are for ICT and Pobal also undertake certain Article 48 checks under the programme. Pobal has no function in the allocation of funding to individual LEADER project promoters. The responsibility for allocating funding under the LEADER Programme rests with the relevant Local Action Groups.

Pobal manages the Community Services Programme on behalf of my Department. It makes recommendations on the allocation of funding .  My Department has overall responsibility for decision making under this and all other programmes Pobal has a role in.

Question No. 231 answered with Question No. 29.

Dog Breeding Industry

Ceisteanna (232)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

232. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to review and update the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3388/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

My Department has overall policy responsibility for the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010.  The Act provides for guidelines to be put in place for the management and operation of Dog Breeding Establishments. Following a public consultation process, my Department published new Guidelines in July of last year. The revised Guidelines came into effect on 1 January this year.

I want to see high standards achieved by Dog Breeding Establishments in Ireland.  Having published the new Guidelines, my Department is now identifying any necessary legislative amendments that may be required to further improve standards.

This review will involve examining the relevant legislation to ensure that existing laws and international best practice, as well as the views of stakeholders, are taken into account. Any amendments to the Act will be dependent on the outcome of this review.  This work is ongoing and will continue throughout 2019.

Charities Regulation

Ceisteanna (233)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

233. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to amend the Charities Act 2009 and regulations thereunder; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3389/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Charities Regulatory Authority was established on 16 October, 2014 pursuant to the Charities Act 2009. Responsibility for the oversight of the Regulator transferred to my Department on its establishment in July 2017.

The general function of the Regulator is to regulate charitable organisations operating in Ireland, in order to increase public trust and confidence in their management and administration. This includes maintaining a public register of charitable organisations operating in Ireland and ensuring their compliance with the Charities Acts. Under the Charities Act, 2009, the Charities Regulator is fully independent in the performance of its statutory functions.

There is ongoing liaison between officials in my Department and the Charities Regulator to review the operation of the legislation to ensure that it is operating effectively. In 2017, on foot of public consultation, the Regulator proposed amendments to the Charities Act 2009 in order to ensure consistency and fairness in the accounting and reporting obligations of charities. 

My Department is working with the Regulator to consider these amendments and also to consider whether sections of the 2009 Act which have yet to be enacted require further amendment. This work is at an advanced stage and I intend seeking Government approval in the near future to progress the legislation.

Community Development Initiatives

Ceisteanna (234)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

234. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which his Department continues to interact with urban and rural communities with a view to identifying ways by which positive interaction can take place with particular reference to urban and rural isolation and its effect on communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3390/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The issue of isolation, whether in urban or rural areas, is one which requires a response containing a combination of policy initiatives and actions delivered across a number of Government Departments.

For my part, I am committed to continuing my Department's response to the issue, which includes ongoing contact with local and community groups and other stakeholders, where appropriate, to identify potential measures to assist communities affected.

Groups can also input into the policy-making progress through the local structures established by my Department such as Public Participation Networks and Local Community Development Committees.

The publication on 7 December 2018 of the Call for Input Paper on Volunteering is the first step in developing a national volunteering policy. Volunteering plays a critical role in empowering individuals to become more involved in their communities and is proven to assist with the development of mental health wellbeing as well as providing people with a sense of belonging.

The Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development and Framework Policy for Local and Community Development include a range of measures which will contribute significantly to addressing isolation and social exclusion in both rural and urban areas and as Minister for Rural and Community Development I will continue to advocate for a cross-government approach to ensuring the rural and community voice is heard in relation to matters of policy.

Specific examples of actions being delivered by my Department which are helping those who feel isolated or vulnerable in communities include:

- The Seniors Alert Scheme, facilitates community-based support for vulnerable older people living alone. During 2018, spend on the Scheme was €5.5 million, with over 19,200 applications for personal alarms approved.

- The new five-year  Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) 2018, is our country’s national primary social inclusion intervention, delivered locally with funding of €190 million over a five-year period.

- In 2018 I provided funding of €500,000 to support the work of Men’s Sheds throughout Ireland.

- In addition, other actions in the Action Plan for Rural Development being delivered by Departments across government that will help those who feel isolated or vulnerable include:

- Investment of €46 million in Garda fleet to ensure that Gardaí are mobile, visible and responsive to prevent and tackle crime.

- Maintaining the network of senior helplines in  operation throughout the country, which offer a listening service for older people to help address issues such as loneliness and isolation in rural areas.

- Continued support and prioritisation of community crime prevention through schemes such as Neighbourhood Watch and Text Alert.

- Continued improvements in the Rural Transport Programme, including the provision of new routes.

- The Community Services Programme (CSP)  supports over 400 community organisations to provide local services through a social enterprise model. More than €46 million is available to support community organisations under the programme in 2019. 

- The LEADER Theme 2 – Social Inclusion, focuses on improving access to basic services for people living in rural and remote areas and groups who are at risk of social exclusion.