I am delighted that the Deputy is so happy that I am doing so well with my Department. The Action Plan for Rural Development was published in January 2017 as the first whole-of-Government initiative to support the economic and social progress of rural Ireland. The cross-departmental approach of the action plan to support rural communities and rural businesses is benefiting rural areas in many ways. It is driving job creation, improving access to services and enhancing the quality of life in rural Ireland.
The action plan contains measures for delivery across a number of Departments and agencies aimed at enhancing local services, including in the areas of healthcare, schools and initiatives addressing mental health and isolation. For example, the delivery of 18 primary care centres in rural areas was a commitment under the plan and these are all now open and fully operational. My Department has provided funding to Irish Men's Sheds to support the great work the organisation does to address mental health and isolation in communities. There are now over 450 men's sheds across the country. My Department also invested €6.9 million in the seniors alert scheme in 2018 and over 53,000 participants are being supported by the scheme.
These are just some examples of the measures being progressed and are in addition to the very substantial investment that my Department has made in rural communities through programmes such as the town and village renewal scheme, LEADER, the outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme, CLÁR and, more recently, the rural regeneration and development fund.
A monitoring committee comprising senior representatives of relevant Departments and key rural stakeholder interests oversees progress on the implementation of the action plan. In addition, my officials are in regular contact with their colleagues in other Departments regarding the progress of relevant measures. Progress reports on the implementation of the action plan are published twice yearly on the Gov.ie website.
The action plan reaches the end of its three-year cycle this year. My Department is developing a new rural policy for Ireland that will be launched in the new year. As is the case with the current action plan, the new policy will reflect a whole-of-Government approach to supporting rural Ireland.