Tuesday, 11 April 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
70. Mr. McDowell asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the specific measures planned to establish 100 family and community centres in view of the commitment in the review of An Action Programme for the Millennium; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10521/00]
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): In 1994, to mark the International Year of the Family, an allocation of £250,000 was made available to my Department to fund ten family resource centres on a pilot basis. The decision was motivated by the perception of a possible gap in statutory support for community development activities focused on support for families and tackling child poverty.
An evaluation of the work of these centres was published in 1997, a key recommendation of which was that funding of these centres should be mainstreamed by my Department. The Commission on the Family in its final report recommended that a network of 100 family resource centres be established in the ensuing four to five years. Taking into account the outcome of the review and the recommendations of the Commission on the Family, additional funding of £700,000 was allocated in 1998 to allow the expansion of the programme by some 25 centres. A total sum of £2.13 million was allocated to the programme in 1999 to allow for the expansion of the programme by some 20 centres and a further £2.939 million has been made available in 2000 to allow for the expansion of the programme by some 15 centres.
Under Partnership 2000 my Department was committed to identifying 30 new priority areas for funding under the community development programme. Research was undertaken to identify the most disadvantaged areas and as a result I approved the inclusion of some 40 new areas in the community development programme. In addition the research identified some 24 priority areas for inclusion in the family and community services resource centre programme and I subsequently approved their inclusion in the programme. The regional support agencies which operate under the community development programme are currently undertaking the necessary pre-development work to establish new centres in the selected areas and it is expected that these  centres will come on-stream in the next six to 18 months.
My Department has made significant progress towards achieving the goal of 100 centres with some 64 centres currently in receipt of funding or approved in principle for inclusion in the programme at this stage.
My Department recognises the vital role these centres play in providing support for marginalised families and in combating poverty and social exclusion and the commitment to support such initiatives is shown by the significant increase in funding made available to the programme in recent years.
A sum in excess of £18 million has been made available over the period of the national development plan to support and expand the family and community services resource centre programme and my Department will be working to ensure that this funding is targeted to assist the most disadvantaged communities, with a particular focus on assisting vulnerable and disadvantaged families in those communities.
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