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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 27-50
 Header Item LEADER Programmes
 Header Item Harbours and Piers
 Header Item National Broadband Plan
 Header Item Rural Regeneration and Development Fund
 Header Item Tidy Towns Committees
 Header Item LEADER Programmes
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Animal Breeding Regulations
 Header Item National Broadband Plan
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item LEADER Programmes
 Header Item Voluntary Sector
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Action Plan for Rural Development
 Header Item Town and Village Renewal Scheme
 Header Item Community Enhancement Programme

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1002 No. 7

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 27-50

LEADER Programmes

 27. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of funding for organisations (details supplied); if transitionary funding is coming from her Department as previously outlined to allow applications proceed ahead of their respective EU allocations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43722/20]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys As the Deputy is aware, due to delays at EU level, there will be a delay between the end of the current LEADER programme, which was due to conclude at the end of this year, and the next EU programme which will not now commence until 2023. The Programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce a transitional LEADER programme to bridge that gap.

Yesterday, I announced details of the Transitional LEADER Programme, which will come into effect from 1st April 2021 for new project approvals. Local Action Groups (LAGs), who deliver the LEADER programme at ground level, can work on identifying potential projects from 1st  January next.

  I also announced some flexibilities to the current LEADER programme, including extending the deadline for commitments to the end of March 2021 to facilitate the full allocation of the funds available.   

  There is still a lack of clarity concerning the availability of EU co-funding during the transitional period between the current LEADER programme and the next EU framework for LEADER. I have therefore provided an initial allocation of €20 million from the Exchequer for the Transitional LEADER Programme.

  This allocation will fund both new project applications and the administration and animation costs of the LAGs. I have also undertaken to review the funding situation when the issue of EU co-financing for the transitional period is clarified.

  My Department has written to all of the Local Action Groups, providing a detailed outline of the Transitional Programme, including their respective financial allocations.

  In addition to providing funding for the Transitional LEADER Programme, a further €7 million will be provided to the Local Action Groups in 2021 for the on-going management and delivery of projects still running under the 2014-2020 LEADER programme.

Harbours and Piers

 28. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the development of Caladh Mór pier on Inis Meáin; the status of the preparation of a simulation model of the harbour by the National Maritime College of Ireland which was stalled during Covid-19 restrictions; the engagement her Department has had with the National Maritime College of Ireland with regard to the preparation of the model; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43334/20]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys As the Deputy will be aware, users of the pier on Inis Meáin, including a number of State subsidised ferry operators, have highlighted issues with capacity within the harbour, as well as with currents around the mouth of the harbour. Finding and developing a solution to these difficulties form part of Phase 3 of this project which is listed in the National Development Plan.

In June 2020, my Department provided funding to Galway County Council to commission the preparation of a simulation model of the harbour by the National Maritime College Ireland (NMCI). This modelling will examine a range of designs to address the problems, and to provide guidance for vessels accessing the harbour.

I understand the NMCI have now completed the digital modelling aspect of the project but are not in a position at present to have the users of the pier view and test the model at their site in Cork due to COVID-19 restrictions.

It is the view of Galway Co. Council and my Department that the development of the project should be guided by the outcome of interaction of stakeholders with the simulated/digital model of An Chaladh Mór, as it is important that the users are satisfied with the proposed development.

I understand that Galway County Council are working with NMCI to find a solution that would enable access to the model, having regard to public health guidelines and travel restrictions.

National Broadband Plan

 29. Deputy James Lawless Information on James Lawless Zoom on James Lawless asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the establishment of a network of broadband connection points nationwide; the number that will be provided in each county in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43972/20]

 31. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the establishment of a network of broadband connection points in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43604/20]

 36. Deputy James O'Connor Information on James O'Connor Zoom on James O'Connor asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the establishment of a network of broadband connection points in east County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43974/20]

 40. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the establishment of a network of broadband connection points in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43600/20]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are among the first deliverables of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) and will provide high-speed broadband connectivity to publicly accessible sites in rural and isolated areas of the country, including a number of our off-shore islands. These sites will be provided with a temporary wireless connection by National Broadband Ireland (NBI), the company contracted to deliver the NBP. This connection will remain in situ until the sites have been given a permanent connection under the NBP.

As of last Thursday, 10th December 2020, 162 sites had the initial connection established by NBI. Of these, 133 had been passed to Vodafone to install their equipment to provide broadband services to the site. Vodafone had installed their equipment at 113 of these sites up to last Thursday and are continuing with their installations.

In addition to the substantial investment already made in the BCPs, my Department is planning to develop the facilities and services available at these sites. Included in this programme is the use of eHealth technology at BCPs. If successful, this could reduce the need to travel from remote areas to towns and cities for many medical appointments.

My officials are also exploring the use of BCPs as educational settings, as remote working hubs and as locations for the creative arts.

Under Budget 2021, I secured an additional €5 million to enhance remote working capability and remote access for students at BCPs and digital hubs across rural Ireland next year.

The location of all BCPs which have been installed or which are planned across the country is available on NBI's website, www.nbi.ie.

  Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 10.

  Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 29.

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

 32. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys when it is envisaged that the successful projects under the latest round of the rural regeneration and development fund will be announced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43611/20]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund established under the National Development Plan and managed by my Department supports large-scale investment in projects which can deliver sustainable economic and social development in rural areas.

The third call for Category 1 applications closed on 1st December and 66 applications were received.

The application process for the Fund is competitive in nature. Applications will now be assessed by my Department under the oversight of a Project Advisory Board. This independent Board is comprised of representatives from key Government Departments as well as independent experts.

On completion of this process, my Department will prepare a report setting out recommended projects and my role as Minister will be to consider that report and make final decisions in relation to the allocation of funding. It is hoped that the call could be concluded by the end of Q1 2021.

Tidy Towns Committees

 33. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys her plans regarding the Tidy Towns competition; if the competition will be held in 2021; if so, the supports her Department will provide to the local groups; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43953/20]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Since its inception in 1958 when it had 52 entrants, the TidyTowns competition has grown year-on-year to see a record number of 924 entrants in 2019. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the 2020 SuperValu TidyTowns competition had to be cancelled on public health grounds. At that time, it would not have been possible for the TidyTowns Committees around the country to deliver their projects in the usual way.

However, as we have moved through different stages of living alongside the pandemic, the TidyTowns volunteers have demonstrated that they can continue to do some of their activities while still following all of the necessary public health precautions. My Department has been supporting TidyTowns groups in that work and assisting them in staying connected with the competition and with each other through different communication channels, including a monthly newsletter.

With regard to 2021, I can assure the Deputy that the SuperValu TidyTowns Competition will take place next year. It is important that we recognise and reward the great work that is happening around the country and the pride of place which binds people together during these difficult times.

We may need to alter and adapt our approach to delivering the competition next year given the on-going constraints posed by COVID. My Department is currently considering the appropriate format for the 2021 competition, having regard to restrictions at each of the five Levels of the Government’s Plan for Living with COVID-19, and the paramount need to protect the health and wellbeing of volunteers and adjudicators. The details of any changes in the competition will be shared with the TidyTowns groups well in advance.

Towards the end of last year, €1.4 million was allocated to TidyTowns Committees to support them in their work for the 2020 competition. The Committees have been advised that this funding can now be carried forward to support their work in 2021.

LEADER Programmes

 34. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the initial total allocation made available to Ireland from pillar II of the CAP under the LEADER heading 2014 to 2020; the amount drawn down to date from the EU of this allocation; and if outstanding EU funds which may remain can be used in the transition period to the next programme in 2023. [43981/20]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The LEADER programme, which is co-financed by the European Commission under Pillar 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has a total budget of €250 million over the programming period 2014-2020.

  €225 million of this funding has been allocated as core funding to each of the individual Local Action Groups (LAGs) who deliver LEADER. The remaining €25 million is available for schemes to be delivered at a national level and is allocated as projects are approved.

  As of 13 December 2020, expenditure under the 2014-2020 LEADER programme stood at approximately €125 million. This includes payments in respect of completed projects and the administration costs of the LAGs.

  It is important to recognise that LEADER is a multi-annual programme and that payments in respect of projects which are approved in any given year are generally not drawn down until subsequent years, as they are completed. Project promoters have until the end of 2023 to complete their approved works and submit claims for payment.

Yesterday, I announced details of the Transitional LEADER programme, which will come into effect from 1st April 2021. The LAGs can work on identifying potential projects from 1st  January next.

  I also announced some flexibilities to the current LEADER programme, including extending the deadline for commitments to the end of March 2021 to facilitate the remaining allocation of funds available.

  During the Transitional Programme, Local Action Groups will also be allowed to recommit un-used funding from the 2014-2020 period due, for example, to underspends or projects not proceeding.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 35. Deputy Emer Higgins Information on Emer Higgins Zoom on Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the funding programmes available to urban communities to help communities with the impact of Covid-19 and tackle other societal problems; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43655/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development (Deputy Joe O'Brien): Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien Through my ongoing engagement with the Community and Voluntary sector, I am keenly aware of the challenges faced by the sector and their communities both rural and urban whilst meeting increased demands on many of their services. In order to support the sector, my Department has put in place a number of initiatives including the following.

A €50 million support package for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Charities and Social Enterprises was launched by Government and is administered by my Department. This funding is being made available from the Dormant Accounts Fund and consists of the COVID 19 Stability Fund and the Innovate Together Fund  .

My Department recently launched a €1.7m COVID-19 Emergency Fund  , which community and voluntary groups can now apply for through their local authorities. This follows on from a previous €2.5m round of this fund which was focused on groups participating in the Government’s “Community Call” initiative.

The Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) has provided a total of €7M   for capital grants towards enhancing facilities available to communities. The funding is allocated to local authorities and administered by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs).

On Tuesday 15th December, I announced the launch of the COVID-19 Social Enterprise Regeneration Programme   to help social enterprises recover from the impact of COVID-19.

My Department currently supports over 420 community organisations under the Community Services Programme (CSP)   to provide local services through a social enterprise model. In response to the difficulties being experienced by organisations because of COVID-19, my Department developed a €4.75M Support Fund, which assists all CSP supported organisations to continue to retain their CSP supported employees on their payroll and also provides assistance for the Employers PRSI contribution, during this crisis period and until April 2021.

  In respect of the Department’s other programmes, funding commitments are being maintained, and though delays may be experienced in delivery for a period of time it is expected that all projects and initiatives will continue when it is safe to do so.

  Information on all funding available through my Department can be found on my Department's website.

  Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 31.

  Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 24.

Animal Breeding Regulations

 38. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the restrictions and regulations being imposed on puppy farmers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43590/20]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The Dog Breeding Establishment Act 2010 provides a robust regulatory framework for, inter alia, the licensing, monitoring and inspection of dog breeding establishments by local authorities and, where a serious and immediate threat exists to public health or animal health and welfare, for the closure of such establishments.

  The day to day regulation of dog breeding establishments to ensure compliance with the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010 is a matter for local authorities. It is the responsibility of each local authority to maintain the register of dog breeding establishments in their functional area. Welfare standards regarding dog breeding establishments have been provided for through guidelines.

  In July 2018, following a public consultation, my Department published revised guidelines for Dog Breeding Establishments. These came into effect on 1 January 2019. There is a substantial shift in the new guidelines towards a focus on the welfare of dogs and pups. Each local authority is responsible for the monitoring of these standards with regard to the registration of such establishments.

  Following a review, my Department is currently developing necessary legislative amendments to the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010, which will further enhance the local authority inspection regime, with a view to inclusion in the 2021 Government legislative programme.

  The enforcement of animal welfare standards for all animals, including dogs in dog breeding establishments, is a matter for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) under the Animal Health and Welfare Acts. DAFM introduced Regulations regarding the microchipping of dogs, S.I. No. 63 of 2015, which means that all dogs must be microchipped. Furthermore, in late 2019, DAFM also introduced the Animal Health and Welfare (Sale or Supply of Pet Animals) Regulations 2019 in respect of the advertising of pet animals, including dogs. Further information can be found at the following link: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/animalhealthwelfare/salesupplyandadvertisingofpets/

  Both Departments work closely with each other to ensure a coordinated approach is taken in this area.

  Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 24.

  Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 31.

National Broadband Plan

 41. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the roll out of the broadband connection points; the number of publicly accessible broadband points that are now live by county; the number of these that are on offshore islands; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43333/20]

 55. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the timeframe for the planned remaining broadband connection points in south western areas of County Cork to be completed. [43578/20]

 67. Deputy Joe Flaherty Information on Joe  Flaherty Zoom on Joe  Flaherty asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the establishment of a network of broadband connection points in counties Longford and Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43608/20]

 74. Deputy Cathal Crowe Information on Cathal Crowe Zoom on Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the status of the establishment of a network of broadband connection points in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43596/20]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I propose to take Questions Nos. 41, 55, 67 and 74 together.

Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are among the first deliverables of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) and will provide high-speed broadband connectivity to publicly accessible sites in rural and isolated areas of the country, including a number of our off-shore islands. These sites will be provided with a temporary wireless connection by National Broadband Ireland (NBI), the company contracted to deliver the NBP. This connection will remain in situ until the sites have been given a permanent connection under the NBP.

  As of last Thursday, 10th December 2020, 162 sites had the initial connection established by NBI. Of these, 133 had been passed to Vodafone to install their equipment to provide broadband services to the site. Vodafone had installed their equipment at 113 of these sites up to last Thursday and are continuing with their installations.

  In addition to the substantial investment already made in the BCPs, my Department is planning to develop the facilities and services available at these sites. Included in this programme is the use of eHealth technology at BCPs. If successful, this could reduce the need to travel from remote areas to towns and cities for many medical appointments.

  My officials are also exploring the use of BCPs as educational settings, as remote working hubs and as locations for the creative arts.   

  Under Budget 2021, I secured an additional €5 million to enhance remote working capability and remote access for students at BCPs and digital hubs across rural Ireland next year.

  The location of all BCPs which have been installed or which are planned across the country is available on NBI's website, www.nbi.ie.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 42. Deputy Richard Bruton Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if new policy tools are being considered to address the double impact on the rural economy of difficulties in the food and the tourism sectors, which hang over 2021. [43185/20]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Agri-food and Tourism are two of our strongest indigenous enterprise sectors. They are built on the natural and human capital found in rural areas and support many thousands of jobs nationwide. Ireland’s agri-food sector exports to over 180 countries, and these exports had a value of almost €14.5 billion in 2019. Over the last number of years, the the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Hidden Heartlands campaigns have helped boost tourist numbers to our rural areas.

Both sectors have been amongst those most seriously impacted by COVID-19 and are also likely to face significant challenges following the UK’s exit from the European Union. Strategies to address these impacts are being developed in the relevant Government Departments with oversight of these sectors.

From my own perspective, my Department is currently finalising a new rural development policy for the period 2021–2025. This policy will build resilience in our rural economies and communities, including by dealing with the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the impact of Brexit. The policy will take a whole-of-Government approach to rural development and will reinforce relevant Government strategies and initiatives, including in the Agri-food and Tourism sectors.

Recognising the potential for further growth in tourism and outdoor recreation to support recovery and jobs in rural areas, my Department, through the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme, provides funding in partnership with Fáilte Ireland for the development and/or enhancement of outdoor recreational infrastructure in rural areas. The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund has also supported a number of ambitious projects that support rural tourism.

The assets developed through these schemes will play an important role in helping rural economies recover from the impact of COVID-19.

LEADER Programmes

 43. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if she has explored the role that LEADER companies can play in supporting small rural business to overcome the challenges posed by Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42231/20]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The LEADER programme is delivered through 29 Local Action Groups (LAGs) across rural Ireland. The programme includes a specific funding Theme to support Rural Economic Development, Enterprise Development and Job Creation. A total of 2,339 projects have been approved for €86 million under this Theme since the current LEADER programme became operational, effectively in 2016.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic specifically, the LAGs, in conjunction with Local Development Companies who act as Implementing Partners in most areas, have approved 664 projects under this Theme, to the value of €30 million. The type of monetary supports provided include direct capital for construction and purchase of equipment, analysis and development type projects, and marketing and training projects. These projects will bring much needed assistance to small businesses at this time, as well as supporting job retention and new employment opportunities.

Yesterday, 16th December, I announced details of the Transitional LEADER Programme which will bridge the gap between the end of the current programme and the start of the next EU programme in 2023.

As part of this announcement, and in recognition of the challenges faced by rural businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit, I also approved an increase in the rate of aid from a maximum of 50% to a maximum of 75% for private enterprises and commercial projects. This increase will further support and aid small rural businesses as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, and fulfils a commitment in the Programme for Government.

The announcement is additional to a range of supports that the Government has already announced to help businesses to cope with the impact of COVID-19. Full details of these business supports are available on the Gov.ie website.

Voluntary Sector

 44. Deputy Emer Higgins Information on Emer Higgins Zoom on Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the level and type of support that has been provided in 2020 to community and voluntary organisations on account of the impact of Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43654/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development (Deputy Joe O'Brien): Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien Through my ongoing engagement with the Community and Voluntary sector, I am keenly aware of the challenges faced by the sector and their communities both rural and urban whilst meeting increased demands on many of their services. In order to support the sector, my Department put in place a range of measures over the period of the pandemic, including the following initiatives.

A €50 million support package for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Charities and Social Enterprises was launched by Government and is administered by my Department. This funding was made available from the Dormant Accounts Fund and consists of the COVID 19 Stability Fund and the Innovate Together Fund  .

My Department recently launched a €1.7m COVID-19 Emergency Fund  , which community and voluntary groups can now apply for through their local authorities. This follows on from a previous €2.5m round of this fund which was focussed on groups participating in the Government’s “Community Call” initiative.

The Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) has provided a total of €7M   for capital grants towards enhancing facilities available to communities. The funding is allocated to local authorities and administered by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs).

My Department currently supports over 420 community organisations under the Community Services Programme (CSP) to provide local services through a social enterprise model. In response to the difficulties faced by organisations due to COVID-19, my Department developed a €4.75M Support Fund   which assists all CSP supported organisations to continue to retain their CSP supported employees on their payroll and also provides assistance for the Employers PRSI contribution during this crisis period and until April 2021.

  In respect of the Department’s other programmes, funding commitments are being maintained, and though delays may be experienced in delivery for a period of time it is expected that all projects and initiatives will continue when it is safe to do so.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 45. Deputy Ciarán Cannon Information on Ciarán Cannon Zoom on Ciarán Cannon asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number of organisations supported under the Covid stability fund to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43947/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development (Deputy Joe O'Brien): Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien The Government is aware of the challenges facing community and voluntary organisations and is committed to working closely with the sector in managing through these, recognising that it will require a whole of Government approach.

  The Community and Voluntary Sector Covid-19 Stability Fund was intended to be a targeted once-off cash injection for organisations and groups currently delivering critical front-line services to the most at need in our society and in danger of imminent closure due to lost fund-raised or traded income as a direct result of restrictions to counter the spread of COVID-19. The criteria of the scheme stated that any grants awarded would be dependent on the need identified and organisations approved for funding were prioritised on that basis.

  This fund is providing up to €45million of funding through the Dormant Accounts Fund (DAF) and the criteria align with DAF objectives to support:

  1. The personal and social development of persons who are economically or socially disadvantaged; or

  2. The educational development of persons who are educationally disadvantaged; or

  3. Persons with a disability.

  My Department received 1,060 applications during the application periods. To date, funding of €31,370,238 has been allocated to 598 organisations. On 11 December I was pleased to announce a further €13,436,742 top-up has been allocated to 574 of those organisations as a result of the €10m announcement in Budget 2021. As of 14 December 2020, €29,268,399 has been paid out to qualifying organisations and I expect a significant increase on this amount as organisations drawdown their additional allocations over the coming days.

  Lists of successful applicants are available on my Department’s website at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/3957e-covid-19-stability-fund-successful-applicants/

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 46. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the supports that have been provided to community and voluntary organisations in 2020 in response to the impact of Covid-19; the number of organisations based in County Cork that have received support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43657/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development (Deputy Joe O'Brien): Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien Through my ongoing engagement with the Community and Voluntary sector, I am keenly aware of the challenges faced by the sector and their communities both rural and urban whilst meeting increased demands on many of their services. In order to better support the sector my Department has led on the following initiatives over the period of the pandemic;

Early in the pandemic, my Department launched the COVID-19 Government Action Plan   in partnership with other Departments, State agencies and our extensive network of community and voluntary organisations.

A €50 million support package for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Charities and Social Enterprises was launched by Government and is administered by my Department. This funding was made available from the Dormant Accounts Fund through the COVID 19 Stability Fund and the Innovate Together Fund  . 56 organisations in Cork have benefited from the initiative.

  On 9 April 2020, a €2.5 million COVID-19 Emergency Fund was introduced to provide funding to community groups participating in the Government’s “Community Call” initiative which was led by the Local Authorities. In Cork County a total of 158 organisations received support, under the COVID-19 Emergency Fund .

My Department recently launched a €1.7m COVID-19 Emergency Fund  , which groups can now apply for through their local authorities. This follows on from a previous €2.5m round of this fund which was focused on groups participating in the Government’s “Community Call” initiative.

In 2020, the Community Enhancement Programme has provided a total of €7m for capital grants towards enhancing facilities available to communities. The funding is allocated to local authorities and administered by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs).   In Cork County  180 organisations received support, under the   Community Enhancement Programme.

My Department currently supports over 420 community organisations under the Community Services Programme (CSP) to provide local services through a social enterprise model. Because of COVID-19 my Department also developed a €4.75M Support Fund   to assist all CSP supported organisations to continue to retain their CSP supported employees on their payroll and also provides assistance for the Employers PRSI contribution, during this crisis period and until April 2021. 28 community organisations in County Cork have benefited from the CSP programme.

  The Innovate Together Fund was launched in May 2020, as part of a wider suite of COVID-19 supports for community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises. The Fund is a collaboration between Government, Rethink Ireland (formerly Social Innovation Fund Ireland) and the philanthropic community, and consists of a €5 million commitment from my Department, through the Dormant Accounts Fund, and €.6 million raised from philanthropic donations. The purpose of the Fund is to assist organisations working with vulnerable people and communities by fostering innovative and adaptive solutions to both existing, and emerging, social challenges presented by the current pandemic.

  The Fund is now closed and 71 projects, some with a nationwide reach, are receiving business supports and cash grants from between €20,000 to €200,000. The areas of innovation cover Sustainable Ireland, Economic Recovery, Health, Online Education, Reskilling the Workforce and Community Outreach. 35 of these projects are making an impact in Cork in 2020, specifically in relation to the impacts of Covid. Because many of the projects have a wider geographical scope and online elements to increase participation, projects are not geographically bounded to city or county areas.

  Information on all funding available, through my Department, can be found on my Departments website.

Action Plan for Rural Development

 47. Deputy Claire Kerrane Information on Claire Kerrane Zoom on Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys when the new action plan for rural development will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43916/20]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department is currently finalising a new rural development policy for the period 2021-2025. The policy will be forward-looking and ambitious, and will provide the framework to respond to the issues which will affect rural Ireland over the next five years. It will take a whole-of-Government approach to the economic and social development of rural areas and will include tangible measures for delivery across a range of Departments and agencies.

The new policy will recognise the importance of rural communities and economies to our national wellbeing and development, and to realising a sustainable and inclusive recovery in which no one is left behind.

The process of developing the policy has included a wide range of consultation events with key stakeholders, including Government Departments, State agencies, rural stakeholder groups, young people, and the wider public. Their insights and views have helped to identify the issues that matter to people living and working in rural Ireland.

The inputs from these consultations are being factored into the policy and I am hoping to bring the final policy to Government for approval in January.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

 48. Deputy Alan Dillon Information on Alan  Dillon Zoom on Alan  Dillon asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys when she expects to announce successful applications under the town and village renewal scheme; her views on the scheme; and her plans for the future of the scheme. [44118/20]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The regeneration and revitalisation of our rural towns and villages is a key priority for my Department. Since 2016, my Department has invested €78 million in approximately 1,200 projects under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

The scheme was adapted this year to assist towns and villages to respond to the impact of COVID-19. The scheme, which had a budget of €25 million this year including €10 million as part of the Government’s July Stimulus Package, includes two separate funding Measures - an Accelerated Measure and a Standard Measure.

The Accelerated Measure was designed to support smaller scale projects that could be delivered immediately to assist towns and villages in adapting to the challenges presented by COVID-19, and to allow people to shop and socialise in a safe manner. I approved a total of €10.4 million for 363 project across under this Measure.

The Standard Measure is designed to help rural towns and villages to recover from the impact of COVID-19 in the medium-term. €15 million is available for the Standard Measure, and applications are currently being assessed by my Department officials. I expect to announce the successful projects under this Measure shortly.

Under Budget 2021, €20 million has been allocated to support an expanded Town and Village Renewal Scheme next year. €5 million of this funding will be used to support the development of remote working facilities throughout the country, including by upgrading existing hubs and Broadband Connection Points.

I also secured a further €2 million for 2021 which will be used to support the development of masterplans as a basis for the strategic development of rural towns and villages. Details of this initiative will be announced in early 2021.

  Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 24.

Community Enhancement Programme

 50. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill Information on Jennifer Carroll MacNeill Zoom on Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the organisations in Dublin that have benefited in 2020 from the community enhancement programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43811/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development (Deputy Joe O'Brien): Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien The Community Enhancement Programme provides small capital grants to enhance facilities in disadvantaged areas.

  I launched two rounds of the programme this year, the first in April with funding of €2m and the second in August with funding of €5m from the Government's July Stimulus Package.

  Under the programme, funding is allocated to each Local Authority area taking account of the deprivation level in each area. The Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) then administers the programme to ensure funding is provided locally to the groups and areas that need it most.   

  In 2020, under the Community Enhancement Programme, Dublin received €1,430,245 in total.

  The list of projects or groups that received funding in 2020 is currently being collected from the four Dublin LCDCs and I will provide this to the Deputy separately.


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