Thursday, 5 December 2019

Ceisteanna (4)

Richard Boyd Barrett


4. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if the necessary funds and support will be provided to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to ensure the community supervised playground on Library Road, Dún Laoghaire, is maintained as a supervised playground; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50939/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

This is a local issue to Dún Laoghaire but it is very important. The playground on Library Road, formerly Johnny Carr's Park, has been a supervised playground since the Dominican nuns supervised it. Generations of local people from Dún Laoghaire have effectively been brought up in this playground. For the past ten years, Crosscare has employed two part-time supervisors of that playground, Pauline and Jill, but that supervision is being removed. Will the Minister's Department entertain discussions with stakeholders, including the council, Crosscare and Barnardos, to try to maintain the supervision of this playground?

I thank the Deputy for raising the question. My Department provides funding for facilities such as playgrounds through capital grants for the provision of playground infrastructure, including multi-use games areas, MUGAs, through schemes such as the community enhancement programme and the CLÁR programme.

I understand also that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs administers a capital grant funding scheme to provide new play and recreational facilities for children and young people, or to refurbish existing ones, or a combination of both, and has regular engagement with the local authority play and recreation network.

While my Department provides funding towards the capital cost of providing playground infrastructure and equipment, it does not provide funding towards the ongoing running cost of managing such facilities, including the cost of supervision. The cost of providing supervision would not meet the criteria for any funding scheme currently operated by my Department.

Responsibility for the provision of amenities such as playgrounds is under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, whose Department supports local government in its role of promoting the well-being and quality of life of citizens and communities through the efficient and effective performance of its functions and the delivery of good value services at local level.

I understand that the playground referred to by the Deputy is a facility that is being supported by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown local authority.

The funding has been provided by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. Disgracefully, the executive has made a decision to pull the funding because Crosscare has pulled out, which I believe is a retrograde decision. The cost of it is buttons, at approximately €40,000 a year for two part-time staff who are members of the local community, but the value they give to the community is extraordinary. Children from the youngest up to the ages of 13 and 14 are supervised in the playground. Many of them are children with special needs. The playground is in an area where there is a DEIS school, so it is a pocket of disadvantage in Dún Laoghaire. If it is lost, many of these children will not go to other playgrounds. In areas of disadvantage, this is a very cheap example, in terms of the cost to the public, of providing early intervention and monitoring of vulnerable young people in many cases.

I am appealing to the Minister to play some role in maintaining what is a vital community facility.

I thank Deputy Boyd Barrett for asking the question. I will offer the only solution available to me. The community services programme in my Department supports 400 organisations nationally and provides funding for a manager and staff. We pay €32,000 for a manager and €19,000 for staff members. The Deputy could also contact the social inclusion and community activation programme to check if it could provide support or assistance or if there is anything that can be done. That programme is also administered by my Department.

The scheme in my Department provides capital funding. It does not provide for staffing or supervision. That is not the role of the Department. We simply do not have the resources to do that. The Deputy could try to have a scheme provided under the community services programme, which operates throughout the country. Some 400 organisations and thousands of people are benefitting. We do not pay them a full salary but we make a major contribution to salaries - €32,000 for a manager and €19,000 for staff members. Perhaps the Deputy would look at that.

I appreciate that and I will look into it. It is maybe an area of hope. I wish the council executive in Dún Laoghaire showed as much energy and interest in maintaining this playground as the Minister has demonstrated in the past five minutes. I appreciate the thought.

I thank Deputy Calleary for passing me a note. I appeal to Fianna Fáil on this matter as well. Fianna Fáil is now in control of the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. Disappointingly, both of the party's prospective general election candidates, having initially said they supported the supervision at the playground, have now done a U-turn. I believe this was done under pressure from the executive of the council, which does not want to keep the supervision. I call on Deputy Calleary to appeal to his party members who will suffer a political price in Dún Laoghaire if they do not secure supervision of this playground.

I appreciate the Minister's response and I will look into the matter. I accept that it is a matter for local government as well but there should be joined-up thinking on these issues. When something is good and working, serves a community and helps to glue a community together for generations, why on earth would we let it go?

We also have the community enhancement programme under which we provided, on average, €120,000 to each local authority. That is discretionary and is done by the local community development committees and elected representatives. Perhaps funding from that could be used to fund the measure the Deputy seeks.

Councils and councillors have to make decisions as well. We provide the budget for capital and the funding for the community services and the community enhancement programmes. The matter is now in their hands. They can make a decision and I hope it will be the correct one.