CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Funding for Traveller specific issues highlighted in the Traveller Community National Survey 2017
– Eamon O Cuiv T.D.
I would like to thank Deputy Ó Cuiv for raising this important matter. At the outset, we both acknowledge the fact that the Traveller Community National Survey is a timely and valuable resource, covering a range of important issues affecting the Traveller community.
As the Deputy will be aware, in June of this year, I launched the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy for the period 2017 – 2021.
The Steering Group, which I Chair, was established to oversee the development and implementation of the Strategy. This Group is made up of officials representing relevant Departments and Agencies, as well as representatives from the national Traveller NGOs. The Strategy contains ten strategic themes.
Grouped under these ten strategic themes, 149 actions were identified as necessary to help to advance the betterment of the lives of Travellers and Roma in Ireland. To date, work has begun on approximately 100 of the actions.
Accommodation is highlighted as a priority for Travellers in both the Strategy and the Survey. The 2018 capital provision for Traveller-specific Accommodation is €12m, an increase of €3m on 2017. Further funding may be considered throughout the year, also on a case by case basis, in light of progress across the programme generally.
In relation to education, the National Strategy contains 14 key education-related Actions. While improvements on education outcomes for Travellers verves 5 years ago are reflected in the National Survey 2017, I am well aware that more needs to be done, and is being done in this regard. In fact, a sub-committee to the National Strategy Steering Group has been established to deal with the issue of retention of Traveller and Roma children in education. At its last meeting, a proposal was jointly agreed by my Department, the Department of Educational and Skills, and TUSLA to implement a pilot project on this issue in 4 different locations with high Traveller and/or Roma populations.
TUSLA’s education welfare service, comprising the statutory Education Welfare Service, the School Completion Programme and the Home School Community Liaison scheme are key supports for Traveller children.
Earlier this year the Department of Education and Skills published the DEIS Plan 2017. The DEIS Plan includes specific actions in relation to Traveller and Roma education to promote improvements in school attendance and completion.
It should be noted that the Department of Education and Skills continues to provide a number of specific additional resources to support Traveller and Roma children in the school system, including:
- 141 alleviation resource teacher posts for schools with significant numbers of Travellers and Roma at a cost of €8.46 million
- Additional pupil capitation for Travellers and Roma at a rate of €70 per pupil for Primary, and €201 per pupil for Post Primary at a cost of €1.11m
The outcome of the first strand of Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) funding was announced by the Minister for Education and Skills in April 2017 and €2.7m will be allocated through PATH 1 over the next three years to support initiatives by Centres of Teaching Excellence to increase diversity in the teaching profession.
Through the PATH 2 ‘1916 Bursaries Fund’ €6m will be invested over the next three years in bursaries for students from target groups, including Travellers. Each bursary will be worth €5,000 per year and may be held in addition to a SUSI grant.
The PATH 3 Higher Education Access Fund is intended to support regional clusters of higher education institutions to attract 2,000 additional students (full or part-time) from groups currently under-represented in higher education, including Travellers. €7.5m will be allocated over the next three years through the PATH 3 fund.
Turning now to access to employment, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection operates a wide range of employment supports. While in general the DEASP measures are available to Travellers on the same basis as the rest of the population, Community Employment (CE) has special provision for members of the Travelling Community.
Traveller health is also a priority area in the National Strategy. Examples of targeted support programmes include funding of a range of Traveller agencies and groups to implement priority programmes/ actions via service level agreements, such as Primary Healthcare projects, counselling services, family support programmes, mens’ health projects and so on.
In addition to funding to agencies for the delivery of Traveller Health programmes the HSE employs a number of Public Health Nurses and related staff towards addressing priority health needs of members of the Traveller community.
Additionally, the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention funds Exchange House Ireland towards addressing the mental health promotion and suicide prevention needs of the Traveller community. 9 Mental Health Service Coordinators are currently being recruited by the Mental Health Division of the HSE with the aim of driving, managing and supporting implementation of agreed Traveller programmes/ actions in respect of Traveller Mental Health.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has allocated approximately €500k to support several projects specific to Travellers nationwide, based on proposals received from Local Authorities in developing facilities for the urban/traveller horse population.