Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Ceisteanna (51)

Mattie McGrath


51. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the funding applied for and allocated to the local authority in County Tipperary under the capital grant scheme for play and recreation in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30424/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

I wish to ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs what was the funding applied for and allocated to the local authority in County Tipperary under the capital grant scheme for play and recreation in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019, and if she will make a statement on the matter.

The capital grant funding scheme in my Department for play and recreation was introduced in 2013 to support the development or refurbishment of play and recreation facilities. A total of €250,000 was provided each year between 2013 and 2018 for new and innovative play and recreation spaces and facilities, with a maximum grant allocation of €20,000 per local authority. Each local authority was required to match funding of the amount requested from my Department.

In 2017, 21 local authorities received funding under the scheme. Tipperary local authority applied for €20,000 and was awarded €8,000 for the refurbishment and replacement of the safety surface at Templemore Park playground. In 2018, 26 local authorities received funding. Tipperary applied for €12,500 and was awarded €7,500. This funding was for the refurbishment of Fair Green playground, Carrick-on-Suir, and the refurbishment of Duneske playground, Cahir, County Tipperary. In 2019, I increased the amount of capital funding available under this scheme from €250,000 to €450,000. In consultation with the local authority play and recreation network, we agreed to allocate a maximum of €30,000 per local authority for the upgrade and refurbishment of existing play and recreation facilities. This includes the provision of new equipment, the development of natural play local authority play and recreation network areas, and the refurbishment of existing play facilities. The local authority is required to provide 25% of the funding requested from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs for the application to be considered.

In 2019, Tipperary local authority applied for €28,350 and was awarded €21,262 for the refurbishment and rehabilitation of the multi-use games area in Three Drives, Carronreddy, Tipperary town. A total of 23 local authorities also received funding.

There is continual engagement between my Department and the local authority play and recreation network to ensure that the play and recreation scheme is highlighted at a local and national level.

I know the Minister accepts the fundamental importance of play and activity in a child’s development. It is also important for families to have a dedicated public play and recreation area that can be utilised when needed.

From the most recent information on this, in response to a parliamentary question, I note that from 2016 to 2018, only three playgrounds were developed or refurbished in County Tipperary. While the communities who had these playgrounds all benefited, I am sure the Minister will accept that it is a fairly insignificant number of refurbished playgrounds.

I salute all of the communities that put playgrounds in place. The Minister referred to one at Duneske in Cahir. I salute Ms Nellie Williams and the community development association in Cahir for having the brainchild there. The same goes for Carronreddy in Tipperary town. These areas have a lot of deprivation and a demographic profile conducted by the Tipperary Education and Training Board shows that south Tipperary continues to show an above-average proportion of young people, which is great. The ETB also found that the youth population in south Tipperary is likely to grow to approximately 19,000 by 2026. It is in this context that a greater expansion of public play amenities will be necessary. The community groups cannot do it all. It is fine to put in the infrastructure and the community groups were the enabling bodies that drew down the funding and put the facilities there, but we need to have the spaces maintained and upgraded. We cannot have them closed. I salute the community development association and others who at this time are trying to reopen their playground in Cahir.

I completely agree with the Deputy on the importance of this funding for play areas and that more are developed to offer the opportunity consistently for refurbishment and development. This is the purpose of the funding.

The Deputy referred to only three playgrounds with regard to Tipperary. In 2019, our investment went from €250,000 in 2018 to €450,000, which is a significant increase. It is important to note again that the current criterion is that we offer €30,000 per local authority. It is within this that decisions are made. It is also critical that rather than asking for 50% matching funding, it is now 25% matching funding from the local authorities. All of that is moving in the right direction in supporting local authorities, including in County Tipperary, for more investment in this kind of work.

Communities have not been found wanting and will not be, but the Minister's Department is.

I accept that most local authorities have applied and I acknowledge the work the Department does with local authorities through the local authority play and recreation network, LAPRN. In 2018 the Minister's Department began holding annual meetings with LAPRN members and established a subgroup. All of this is fine. Through this process the Minister and the Department have been able to identify particular issues with respect to insurance costs for local authorities. There is a huge issue in this regard right across the community spectrum. We have invested a great amount over the years, in good times and bad, through the enabling bodies of the communities. Ní neart go cur le chéile. It was they who put us on the road. They are the people with the vision and the passion. We need funding to keep such facilities maintained and to upgrade them. There is no point in investing for years only for a facility to be closed due to a lack of funds. People do not have the energy, the funds, or the capacity to repair these facilities. We must invest more in our community facilities. It is fine to allocate grants to get them up and running and to have a ribbon-cutting and a big hoo-ha and hurrah, but we must ensure there is sufficient funding to keep them active. We should carry out a small amount of maintenance every year to prevent big issues developing. We must support the communities that support themselves.

I certainly agree that it is important to maintain and service facilities. Some funding goes towards upgrading them. As the Deputy indicates, there has been ongoing and really good engagement between the local authority play and recreation network, my Department, and other local authorities. We need to take account of his suggestion that some of the investment go towards ongoing servicing, as well as upgrading in the future. I hear that. It needs to be part of the consultation and conversation, which will ultimately impact the way in which decisions are made and in which the criteria for funding for 2020 are developed. I thank the Deputy for his points.