Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Ceisteanna (28)

John Curran


28. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if the level of funding being made available under the social inclusion and community activation plan, SICAP, will be reviewed in view of the fact it has been at the same level since 2016 and is anticipated to remain at this level until 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23011/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Rural)

SICAP is funded by the Department. In 2016, the amount of funding allocated was in the region of €37.5 million. For 2018 and 2019, the figure is €39 million. The projected figures from the Department for the years to 2022 suggest that it will remain at €38 million. In light of the programmes underpinned by this funding, will the Minister review the amount of money involved? Given the need in the communities, the programmes underpinned by the funding would effectively see cuts if funding were to remain at the same level when everything else is growing.

Data on funding allocated to SICAP since it began in April 2015 was provided to the Deputy in Parliamentary Question No. 279 tabled on 18 April. The allocation shows an increase to €38.03 million in 2018, up from €37.44 million in 2017. The 2019 allocation remains the same as in 2018.

Funding for SICAP from 2020 onwards is subject to the budgetary process. I assure the Deputy that I will review the level of funding of all programmes each year as part of the budgetary process. It remains my intention to continue to prioritise funding for SICAP.

I recognise the vital work of the programme in helping so many individuals by improving the life chances of those who are marginalised in society, living in poverty or unemployed.

SICAP also supports collective community engagement and the development of more sustainable and stronger communities. This is done through providing direct supports to local communities and developing the capacity of local community groups to ensure they can better engage with other groups, actively improve the lives of people in their communities and start to address the social exclusion issues that affect them.

SICAP funding underpins a range of programmes dealing with disadvantaged children, families, young people and communities as well as low-income workers and so forth. We know at whom the programme is targeted.

The Minister indicated loosely that he will see what is available during the budgetary process. That was not exactly what I asked. I asked him to do it the other way around. What is the level of need? What level of funding would be required to deal with the level of deprivation we have across the programmes underpinned by SICAP? I say this seriously because several programmes dealing with our disadvantaged communities are not seeing annual increases in line with other Departments. Our disadvantaged communities are not seeing the level of funding increase.

Let us consider the Minister's funding. What was known as the revitalising areas by planning, investment and development or RAPID programme has become the community enhancement programme. We need to target funding where there is deprivation, drug abuse and issues relating to our most disadvantaged communities, but funding for these areas is not increasing. Rather than simply engage in the budgetary process, I am asking the Minister to review the adequacy of funding of the programmes.

Funding of €119 million has been provided over three years, including €38 million this year. That is a substantial amount. I would not like the Deputy to think that it is not. My capital budget is €80 million. A total of €38 million is going into SICAP. I agree with Deputy Curran because he is talking my language. I would like to see the figure doubled if I had the money. I will be looking at it. I will be talking to the Minister for Finance and his Department in the coming months about the budgets for the years ahead. I will see if I can find extra funding.

I like this scheme. SICAP deals with disadvantaged areas. In the last round, a total of 110,000 people were dealt with and supported on a one-to-one basis. Some 29% lived in disadvantaged areas while 47% were long-term unemployed. I will outline some more figures. People gained a great deal of employment from the one-to-one assistance and they created employment. We dealt with young people and Travellers. We dealt with people who needed more education. Deputy Curran is correct in stating that SICAP is a great programme. I would like to see more funding for it. My plan is to ensure that the people in disadvantaged areas are looked after. We have seen €119 million over three years. The figure of €38 million per year is a substantial amount of money to be putting into these programmes. Of course I would like to have more.

I agree with the Minister that it is a substantial amount of money but it reflects the scale of the problem. It is not long since the Government recognised that places such as the north-east inner city required additional funding such was the level of deprivation and intergenerational neglect over a long period. This is not about casting blame at one Government or another; it persisted for generations. The Minister states that €119 million over three years is substantial but the problem is that SICAP has to be matched with the other funding programmes. It needs to grow and to be measured by the element of need in those communities. In parallel, as I have informed the Minister previously, there must be targeted funding that should and could have come through RAPID, but that is no longer available in the sense that it has now become a community enhancement programme and has a far broader remit. Our drugs task forces have seen no increase in core funding. These are not all in the Minister's Department and I am not blaming him for this but we need a joined-up Government approach across all Departments to deal with the issue of significant and sustained disadvantage in particular areas. The Minister needs to ensure that SICAP grows significantly because the issues the programme deals with are as great today as they ever were.

Deputy Curran speaks about this every time he is in the House and he is right about inner city Dublin. We have put €5.5 million this year on top of other funding as part of SICAP. That is joined-up thinking because there was a specific problem there that we dealt with. I hope we can run other pilot schemes. There is no doubt that the funding we put in place for inner city Dublin has really worked.

Let us consider some of the figures again. Some 15,923 people set up new businesses. Some 1,695 people from SICAP got into full-time employment. We dealt with 12,473 young people who were not employed. We are bringing together and working with local community groups. Deputy Curran is quite correct in that many of the schemes are tied in with SICAP, but SICAP is different because it deals with individuals and specific problems. It deals with different areas, including those relevant to Travellers, Roma and people who need further education. It is about giving people a chance in society. If we create the jobs we are creating and give people a chance and opportunity, then the programme works well. It does not matter to me whether we do it for one, 100 or 1,000 once we save one, help one or help numbers of people. The programme will certainly get people back into the workplace and society.

Sometimes I listen to people in rural Ireland talking about the difficulties we have. Sometimes I wish some of these people would go into the inner city in Dublin and other inner city areas to see what is going on.