I fully recognise the importance of arts, culture, sport and physical activity for our society and well-being, as well as the need to ensure opportunities are in place to allow all members of society to participate in such activities, particularly young people, who may have become disengaged during the pandemic.
Sport Ireland is the statutory body responsible for the development of sport, including promotion of sports participation for all age groups, including young people. Increased funding has been provided to Sport Ireland this year to assist with its participation programmes. Sport Ireland plans to implement a return to sport campaign in 2021 which will target all demographics, including children. This highly visible campaign will encourage people to engage in sport and physical activity and clearly signpost how they can access opportunities to participate.
I am arranging for Sport Ireland to provide the Deputy with a comprehensive outline of its participation and promotion activities, including those for young people. A sport action plan to cover the next three years will be published shortly and will contain a number of important measures and initiatives to steer increased participation in sport over the coming years.
At my request, my Department recently organised two important consultation sessions in sport for young people. In March, I listened to boys from the FAI Fingal transition year programme and girls from the Galway Swimming Club and Shark Swimming Club, also from Galway. In April, with the great assistance of Foróige, I had a similar video consultation with young people from Blanchardstown Youth Service and Comhairle na nÓg from Cork, Meath, Tipperary and Waterford.
There were many insightful and considered views on the current situation, as well as suggestions on improvements. Areas such as access to facilities, transport issues, peer pressure, exam pressure and coaching standards were among the most prominent issues raised. Subject to public health guidance, I intend to hold an in-person event in respect of this topic later this year that I hope those involved in providing sport for young people can attend and listen to their needs with a view to improving the situation in the long term.
The sports capital and equipment programme, SCEP, supports the development of sports and physical recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country. The programme has transformed the sporting landscape with improvements in the quality and quantity of sporting facilities in virtually every village, town and city, for people of all ages and from all walks of life.