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Ceisteanna – Questions. Priority Questions. - Disadvantaged Areas.

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 559 No. 6

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 26. Mr. Gregory Information on Tony Gregory Zoom on Tony Gregory  asked the Minister for Education and Science Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey  his views on the many requests to his Department from ICON, the Inner City Organisations Network, that a task force on education be established in view of the extreme education disadvantage in Dublin north inner city. [26866/02]

[1462]Mr. N. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey The Inner City Organisations Network is one of four networks operating within the Dublin Inner City Partnership. At present, the work of the Dublin Inner City Partnership is supported by a representative of my Department's inspectorate assigned to its education and training sub-committee. This group supports the planning and development of measures to tackle educational disadvantage in the partnership area.

My Department also funds the services of an education co-ordinator. The role of this co-ordinator includes assisting with the identification of gaps in current education provision at local level, facilitating the development of new and innovative responses to address these gaps and supporting the networking and cohesion of education and training provision within the partnership area.

In addition, my Department directly supports the educational needs of the community served by ICON through targeted funding for schools under the Giving Children an Even Break programme, the home-school-community-liaison service, the school completion programme and a number of other school-based programmes and schemes. Funding is also channelled through the City of Dublin VEC for a range of programmes in the further education and informal sectors, including Youthreach, the vocational training opportunities scheme, the back to education initiative, adult literacy programmes, adult and community education, the young persons facilities and services fund and other youth programmes and services. Under the millennium fund, financial resources are provided to promote third level access among young persons from the partnership area.

As regards the Deputy's specific question on the establishment of an education task force in Dublin north inner city, I understand that such a proposal has been the subject of ongoing discussions for some time with Department officials in relation to the terms of reference, resources and representation by my Department on such a task force. As the Deputy will be aware, the centralised structure of the Department of Education and Science has meant that, to date, it has not been possible for the Department to be represented to any great extent on local development groups.The exception to this has been the 14 local drug task forces, one of which is located in the Dublin north east inner city area. These task forces were prioritised for representation because of the urgency attached to drug misuse prevention and education. However, the establishment of a framework of regional offices, on foot of the Government decision regarding the reform of the operations of the Department, will greatly improve my Department's capacity to engage in [1463]various regional and, where required, more local groups such as that proposed by ICON.

Additional informationArrangements are currently in train for the roll-out of the regional offices from spring 2003.

I have said publicly, on many occasions, that my priority is to assist the most disadvantaged people in the education system. The Deputy will be aware that, notwithstanding the challenging budgetary situation for 2003, I have ensured that funding for tackling educational disadvantage has been protected and that it will be possible to make further progress in a number of specific areas. I intend to ensure going forward that resources will be targeted, in the most effective way, to support those most in need of our support, including the Dublin north inner city community.

Mr. Gregory: Information on Tony Gregory Zoom on Tony Gregory Despite the myriad schemes to which the Minister referred, educational disadvantage in the Dublin 1 area is appalling. Only 4% of children in that area go on to third level education compared to 54% or more of children in Dublin 4. That is a stark example of the level of inequality in our society. It is also evidence that despite all these schemes, they have failed in this regard. The Minister has also been critical of the range of these schemes, which all supposedly tackle disadvantage. The numbers dropping out at second level in this area continues to be disastrously high.

I note from the Minister's reply to a parliamentary question I tabled today that the Department does not appear to be geared to dealing with this problem. It does not even have literacy statistics for the Dublin 1 area, as apparently it does not compile statistics on that basis. It is in that context that the Inner City Organisation Network identified the link between the drugs scourge in this area and educational disadvantage and called on the Department to act in this regard. This is an area in which the Minister's office in the headquarters of the Department of Education and Science is located. For decades the area has had the worst record of educational disadvantage in the State, and is one which the Taoiseach has represented for many years.

The Inner City Organisation Network believes that the response to the problem of educational disadvantage must be built on the success of the response of the drugs task forces to tackling the drugs crisis. The only way to co-ordinate all these resources is to examine the issue fully and to come up with an effective response to establish a local task force to specifically examine why, despite many different responses to disadvantage, education in this area remains abysmal, notwithstanding the best efforts of the teaching staff in the many schools in this area.

[1464]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon The Deputy's time is exhausted.

Mr. Gregory: Information on Tony Gregory Zoom on Tony Gregory Does the Minister consider he has a special responsibility to try to tackle disadvantage? He highlighted tackling disadvantage as one of his priorities. In this area in which his office is located there has been an appalling record of neglect for decades. There is still no effective response to this problem.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon The Deputy is making a statement. The Minister has only 30 seconds to reply.

Mr. N. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey I accept what the Deputy said, that there is a great deal of inequality and disadvantage in certain areas of Dublin city. Tackling disadvantage is a priority of mine. I read the various schemes that are in operation, which I will not repeat as that would be instructional. I am not sure that a local task force would not add to all of that. However, I have said to representatives of local partnerships that if they put forward innovative approaches, which would bring everybody concerned on board and not only one or two groups, I will examine any possible solutions to tackling this problem.

I agree with the Deputy that one of the biggest problems is that we have all these schemes but little measurement of outcomes. Once such schemes are in place, it seems they must stay in place forever because little empires are built up. I spent a few hours with representatives of the inner city primary schools partnership to ascertain what is happening in that area. I challenged them to devise a scheme which I could follow up.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon We must move on to Question No. 27 as the time allocated for dealing with this question is exhausted.

Mr. Gregory: Information on Tony Gregory Zoom on Tony Gregory May I ask a brief supplementary question?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon No, we have spent too much time on this question. I have given the Deputy an extra two minutes latitude. We must move on to Question No. 27.

Mr. Gregory: Information on Tony Gregory Zoom on Tony Gregory The request to establish such a task force represents an effort to bring everybody concerned on board. Perhaps the Minister would consider establishing such a task force.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon I have asked the Minister to deal with Question No. 27.

Mr. N. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey I do not accept that everything else has failed, although what is in place has not been so effective. I would prefer if the people concerned worked through the city development boards and set up under the aegis of those.

[1465]Mr. Gregory: Information on Tony Gregory Zoom on Tony Gregory If the fact that only 4% of children in that area go on to third level education does not represent failure, I do not know what does.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon Some six minutes were allocated for this question, but almost nine minutes have been spent on it.

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