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Community Development Projects

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 900 No. 1

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Community Development Projects

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello I apologise for being late, which was the result of a misunderstanding. I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the important and exciting innovation that is the men's sheds movement, which provides a way of engaging with men within their communities. It is an idea that came from Australia and has spread like wildfire through many parts of this country, with well in excess of 200 such groups in operation at this time. We all know how notoriously difficult it can be to get men to engage in any type of activity after retirement. Irish men were never great at taking up courses or going to the bingo. Many find themselves at a loose end after retiring but it is difficult to get men who have reached a certain age to bond together in any sort of community activity. However, large numbers of men have taken very quickly and enthusiastically to the men's sheds movement. In my constituency, several groups are up and running and doing great work, from East Wall to the city centre to Cabra.

An issue that comes up in every discussion of the men's sheds movement is the question of resources. Participants do all types of activities, from having a cup of tea together to working on a community garden, doing carpentry or electrical work, doing maintenance at senior citizens' complexes and so on. It is about participating on a communal basis in activities in which they would not otherwise have engaged. This phenomenon is now embedded in the community and is proving a great success. It is a good thing in all sorts of ways, particularly in respect of men's health. Serious consideration should now be given to the provision of specific supports to ensure the movement can thrive and expand throughout the rest of the country.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Ann Phelan): Information on Ann Phelan Zoom on Ann Phelan I am pleased to have an opportunity to address the Dáil regarding funding for men's sheds. I agree with the Deputy's comments about the great work being done by these groups. I have visited many of them and the benefits for participants are clear to see. My Department provides support to the Irish Men's Sheds Association, IMSA, under the funding scheme to support national organisations in the community and voluntary sector. During 2013, in advance of the commencement of the 2014 scheme, my Department carried out a review which found the scheme had fulfilled its main objective of providing multi-annual funding to national organisations towards core costs associated with the provision of services. The review recommended that organisations be required to demonstrate clearly the added value of the work proposed. The effective use of core funding by recipient organisations also requires that robust governance and cost control procedures be in place within those organisations.

The new scheme was advertised for applications early last year. Some 157 applications were received by Pobal and 55 were approved for funding for the two-year period from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2016. The award process included considerations such as social and economic benefits, consistency with current policies and long-term vision. The approach brought together the relevant information within each application, including experience, evidential analysis, consideration of impacts and comparative analysis, with the final decision based on a fair and transparent assessment of the applications.

IMSA applied successfully for funding and was allocated €175,950 over the 24-month period of the scheme. The aim of the funding is to enable IMSA, together with community partners, to increase the network of men's sheds in Ireland to more than 400, involving the participation of more than 20,000 disadvantaged men. The funding is contributing to the employment of a CEO and a resource worker as well as associated overheads. My Department is providing funding under the scheme of in excess of €8 million over the two-year period. This represents an increase in funding of more than 10% per annum compared with the previous scheme.

My Department has also funded men's shed projects under the rural development fund and the Leader element of the rural development programme. Funding has been provided to renovate buildings to house those types of initiatives and for tools and equipment. Since the downturn in the construction industry, large numbers of men have found themselves at a loose end while looking for new employment. In some rural areas, this has led to a feeling of isolation. Men's shed projects have turned this negative into a positive by supporting the development of initiatives where new friendships have been fostered and communities have benefited from the products and services provided by the clubs.

I understand there are almost 220 men's sheds in Ireland at this time, comprising more than 7,000 members. Several wonderful projects have grown from these initiatives such as the restoration of old farm machinery and the production of fantastic wooden pieces. They have helped men in a number of communities to come together to work on initiatives in which they would not have participated if not for the men's shed.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello I thank the Minister of State for her informative reply. I am pleased to hear there is a national co-ordinating body for men's sheds projects which is funded under the scheme to support national organisations in the community and voluntary sector. However, I wonder how effective it has been in responding to new organisations that are seeking to establish themselves. It certainly seems to me there is no great awareness that such an organisation exists and is in a position to distribute funds. There may be a difficulty in making contact with men who would be interested in participating unless there is a degree of awareness abroad that funding is available and how to access it.

It is not just disadvantaged men who are participating in men's sheds but also men who are not disadvantaged in any sense but have retired from all types of employment. It is a phenomenon that appeals to all categories of income and background. Will consideration be given to setting up a specific fund earmarked for the resourcing of the 220 existing men's shed groups and the development of new groups? This is the only activity I am aware of that has been successful in engaging men to this sort of level.

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