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Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth | Activity of projects under the National Development Plan

To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth the extent to which projects that fall within the aegis of his Department and are within the revised national development plan are at an advanced stage at present or are in course thereof; the extent to which preliminary work has taken place or on-site works are in hand or proposed; the expected delivery date of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY


My Department successfully secured €70 million under the revised National Development Plan (NDP) allocation for the Building Blocks Capital Programme, designed to meet current and long-term Early Learning and Childcare infrastructure needs. The Building Blocks Capital Programme includes three Pillars:

  • An Improvement Grant to improve energy efficiency standards, while also supporting the continuous improvement of the physical environment of services.
  • A Capacity Grant to address capacity gaps, to fund an expansion in existing services and investing in the development of new services where most needed
  • An Innovation Grant to pilot a range of innovative initiatives such as outdoor early learning and childcare services.


My Department has allocated €9m for The Building Blocks – Improvement Grant for Early Learning and School-age childcare facilities.  Grants will range from €35,000 to €75,000 across two separate strands: Green Energy and Retrofit. The Green Energy Strand will support the Climate Action Agenda and the Programme for Government, which aim to transition to a carbon neutral economy by the end of 2050 and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2030. Applications for this grant is now closed. It is my intention that applicants will be advised of the outcome of the appraisal process shortly and works are due to be completed by year-end. Work is underway in the design and delivery of the Capacity and Innovation Grant schemes and I hope to announce details of these schemes later this year.

Since publishing A White Paper to End Direct Provision and to establish a New International Protection Support Service, my Department has placed a significant focus and drive on delivering these reforms including delivery of a significant capital programme that includes six new Reception and Integration Centres and accommodation in the community. Significant progress has been made and priority was placed on progressing elements of Phase Two including the acquisition of 37 properties. Work is currently underway to operationalise the houses in partnership with an Approved Housing Body.

However, the war in Ukraine has had an unavoidable impact on the timelines and deliverables for the White Paper. Alongside this, there has been a substantial increase in the number of people seeking International Protection with over 15,000 new people seeking accommodation in 2022. It is not clear if the increase in International Protection arrivals is a once-off impact due to the pent up demand after Covid and the impact of the war in Ukraine or is a trend that will continue into the future. This increase in numbers has huge implications for the implementation of the White Paper as the assumptions underpinning it are based on 3500 new arrivals each year, which is based on 20 years of data.  

In this vastly changed context an overall review of White paper is underway. The review is reassessing the projections underpinning the White Paper with respect to numbers of arrivals and how this impacts on key deliverables and timelines. I anticipate the review to be completed early in quarter two with a new set of proposals and timelines to be then brought to government. Notwithstanding the impact of the Ukraine crisis, the implementation of the new model is and will continue to be a key priority for my Department.

Tusla, the Child and Family agency, have an appropriated capital investment programme which is funded under the NDP.  Their key aim is to provide fit-for-purpose accommodation for the provision of safe and quality services. Tusla’s investments cover construction and purchase of facilities, upgrading and renovation works to existing facilities as well as maintenance costs. Tusla are also investing in key ICT infrastructure and are engaged in a fleet replacement programme to ensure a more sustainable transport fleet is available to Tusla team members whose roles involve accessing vulnerable children and families wherever they may be. Tusla provide updates on the delivery of their plans in annual business plans and annual reports. Tusla are accomplished at maximising their investments in each year and prioritise investments to ensure they make use of all capital funding available to them. Tusla’s Business Plan for 2022 and their Financial Statement for 2021 refer.

I trust that this information outlining my Department’s progress on our NDP commitments is helpful.

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