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Written Answers. - Departmental Expenditure.

Tuesday, 3 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 4

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 113. Mr. Hogan Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the way in which the community affairs sections of his Department will function in 2003 in view of the overall cutback of 7% in the community affairs section of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24526/02]

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Éamon Ó Cuív): Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Provision has been made of over €100 million for community affairs in 2003, a decrease of just under 9% as compared with 2002. These cutbacks reflect the tight Estimate provision across Government Departments in response to the overall Government financial position. The Estimates this year meant that hard decisions had to be taken in some areas and clear priorities set by my Department.

There will be a cut of approximately 6% in the subhead for the local development social inclusion programme in 2003. This programme is administered on behalf of the Department by ADM Limited and is delivered at local level by 38 area partnerships and 33 community groups located throughout the country. The programme encompasses three main measures i.e., services for the unemployed, community development, and community based youth initiatives.

The reduction in funding available will result in some slowing down of the work of the partnerships during 2003. However, the Deputy should note that ADM are actively working with the partnerships with a view to minimising the impact of the cuts on the provision of services next year.

On the drugs side, I am very happy there is an increase of 16% in the monies available for 2003. Problem drug use remains a major public policy issue and the Government is firmly committed to addressing this most serious and complex issue.

The increase in expenditure for next year clearly reflects the Governments ongoing commitment to addressing the problem, particularly in areas where heroin misuse is most prevalent. The moneys available will primarily be used to implement proposals contained in the second round of plans prepared by the local drugs task forces. These plans, which were approved by the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion which is chaired by the Taoiseach, contain a range of proposals in the areas of treatment, prevention, awareness and rehabilitation.

Given the financial pressures on the Department and in order to focus on resources available in the best possible way, it has been decided to discontinue the student summer jobs scheme in its present format. A number of partnership companies already have third level education initiatives targeted at the most disadvantaged and I will examine options in this regard.

Also, this Department operates a range of grant schemes and community development support programmes which concentrate, inter alia, on a wide range of support for local self-help groups, community development, a scheme of community [1001] support for older people, and on the provision of seed money to enable community groups to pilot initiatives identified as meeting new and emerging community needs. In addition, the White Paper on Supporting Voluntary Activity 2000 provided for new schemes of support for federations, networks and umbrella bodies and training projects in the community and voluntary sector.

Some €29.538 million was allocated in the Estimates to community and voluntary services in 2003. Although this represents a decrease of 16% on the 2002 provision, the allocation will enable my Department to meet its current core commitments to existing community development projects in 2003. In relation to the renewal of existing contracts, the position is that all groups whose contracts are due to expire at the end of 2002 are being offered interim funding for January and February and a one year contract thereafter subject to satisfactory progress over the previous period and receipt of a one year workplan. Given the tighter economic situation, it is necessary to refocus resources and identify priorities for the continued funding of programmes which benefit local communities. In that context, the intervening period will be used to review optimal coherence across the range of my Departments schemes.

Overall, it is not envisaged that the reduction in funding will negatively impact on the work carried out by community development projects, including those groups which focus on the aged or the disabled. However, the decreased allocation may mean that we are not in a position to progress the expansion of the community development programme at the same pace as we have done in previous years. Any further expansion in this regard, will have to take account of our existing commitments and the available resources. The Deputy may be aware that it is intended to undertake a review of the programmes and activities which come within the remit of my Department, with a view to achieving optimal coherence across the various schemes. While there are no immediate plans to change the criteria of the scheme, the scope of the review may extend to the operation of the scheme and its criteria.

In relation to the two schemes arising from the White Paper, funding will be available for these schemes, but at a reduced level. Funding for research projects arising from the White Paper is suspended for 2003. Also, provision for the scheme of community support for older people will continue, but at a reduced level, reflecting decreasing demand.

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