Minister Roche announces Díon Grants, Grants for Irish Emigrant Welfare Services in Britain
At a reception in the Embassy of Ireland in London today (Tuesday 1st July 2003), Mr Dick Roche, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, announced the Díon grants for 2003.
Announcing this year's grants, the Minister said "The Díon fund of Euro 2.573 million this year represents a continuing and high level of support for the Irish voluntary sector in Britain. The significant growth in the Díon fund in recent years recognises the continuing need and disadvantage among some sectors of the Irish community in Britain. The fund has almost trebled over the past four years - from Euro 952,300 in 1999 to Euro 2,573,000 this year. The total Díon grant allocation since 1984 is now almost Euro 18 million.
The Task Force on Policy regarding Emigrants was set up by the Government in 2001 to develop a coherent long-term approach to Irish emigrants and their needs. Its Report
"Ireland and the Irish Abroad" was published in August 2002.
The new Partnership Agreement "Sustaining Progress" , under the heading "Migration and Interculturalism", states that "Arising from the conclusions and recommendations of the Task Force on Emigrants Abroad, a coherent set of initiatives will be developed in consultation with relevant interests". The institutional arrangements to carry forward this commitment are being put in place at present and the Minister hopes that they will be operational in the near future. The Minister said that he was “confident that the initiatives which will be developed under the new Partnership Agreement will enable the Government to assist even more effectively the Irish community in Britain, and in other countries to which the Irish emigrated.”
The Minister said he was "very pleased that the Irish Government was able to provide a significant level of Díon funding this year, to continue to improve the level of support to voluntary organisations who provide advisory and welfare services for Irish emigrants in Britain". Advice sought from these organisations is mainly about welfare benefits, health, housing, accommodation and employment.
The demand for Díon funding was significant again this year. The total value of the applications was over Euro 4.4 million or 1.7 times the value of the allocation. Fifty three welfare agencies working with vulnerable members of the Irish community received grants totaling almost Euro 2.3 million. Representatives of the grant-aided organisations were present at the reception, along with Lord Mayors of the relevant boroughs, representatives of local authorities, health bodies, housing organisations, charitable and other voluntary organisations and members of the Díon Committee.
Long established Irish welfare organisations which serve a large number of Irish people received substantial grants - as high as Euro 128,000 to the London Irish Centre in Camden, Euro 97,000 to Irish Community Care Manchester, Euro 93,000 to Irish Welfare and Information Centre, Birmingham, Euro 78,000 to Brent Irish Advisory Service and to the Federation of Irish Societies, and Euro 69,000 to the London Irish Elders= Forum.
Two repatriation projects which provide advice and assistance to elderly Irish people who wish to return to live in Ireland - one in Ireland and one in Britain - were assisted by Díon again this year. These are: Return to Ireland "Aisling" project, Arlington House, Camden and the “Safe Home" Programme in Mulranny, Co Mayo. Both projects have been supported by Díon for the past two years and through their efforts about 150 elderly people have returned to live in Ireland permanently.
The welfare of older Irish people and Irish travellers in Britain is one of the main priority areas of Díon, and the specific needs of these two groups have been acknowledged by the increased level of Díon funding since 1999. Over half the fund (Euro 1.3 million approx.) went to these vulnerable groups this year - Euro 873,000 for elders projects, Euro 119,000 for the repatriation projects and Euro 332,000 for traveller projects - a 3% increase on last year.
Four new organisations received grants totaling Euro 70,000, including "The Passage", a Day Centre and Night Shelter near Victoria Station, which provides accommodation and assistance to a large number of street homeless Irish people of all ages in Central London.
Another new organisation funded this year is "Sheffield Gypsy and Traveller Support Group" which promotes the interests and welfare of the Irish travelling community in the Sheffield area. The Minister thanked them for their very valuable work and also the Irish Travellers= Movement in Britain which lobbies at local and central government level on policy and legislation which affects Irish travellers, and the other organisations who assist Irish travellers.
The Minister said that the value and importance of the Díon fund to the Irish community in Britain is now very clear:
- Eighteen organisations now receive funding on a three year basis and this accounts for 47% of the fund (Euro 1,211,000). "Multi-annual funding is generally accepted to have a positive impact on staff retention in voluntary organisations", the Minister said. He welcomed three year funding for these organisations and expressed confidence that this would increase the prospect of securing a greater level of funding from the statutory sector.
- The level of need addressed by the Díon funded organisations is considerable. Information supplied by grant recipients to the Díon Committee indicates that, last year, the number of Irish people assisted by Irish welfare organisations was in the region of 23,000, with a further 7,500 or so in non-Irish managed organisations - about 30,500 Irish people in all.
- The employment impact of the Díon grants is now significant. Díon will support 100 voluntary sector jobs in 2003 - double the level of jobs supported three years ago. The total staff in the organisations approved for funding is 703, which means that Díon will support almost 15% of their staffing. It is worth noting that, since the doubling of the fund in 2001, almost 30% of jobs in specifically Irish organisations have been supported by Díon; and this year, Díon will support 35% of the Irish voluntary sector jobs. "This indicates the strong commitment of the Irish Government to supporting the Irish voluntary sector, and I hope that this will encourage statutory and other funders to increase their support for the Irish voluntary sector", the Minister said.