Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government
Traveller Accommodation: Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage
The Senator can look at the trajectory of increasing funds in budgets in recent years. In budget 2022, we have a capital budget of approximately €18 million, whereas in 2020 we had €14.5 million. That is borne out by the commitment from me and from the Government as a whole to responding to the challenges in this area, and we are committed to doing that.
The Office of the Planning Regulator is doing a review of all the country development plans. The first case study was published. It is about trying to ensure all local authorities are meeting the objectives of the Government, as contained in this.
The caravan loan scheme will be a key tool for people who wish to avail of a good quality caravan or trailer at a preferential rate. They will be able to draw down up to €30,000. Four local authorities are piloting this project which I hope to roll out nationally next year. Again, that is a commitment by the Government to providing the type of accommodation Travellers want as part of their ask through the expert group and their requests therein. This shows that we are following through on our commitment. I want to roll that scheme out nationally.
I have always operated an open-door policy for any of the Traveller representative groups, from the local authorities to the Ombudsman for Children's Office and the rights commissioner. If people have pressure points they want me to resolve or something they feel is not being given an adequate amount of time, I am happy to push as hard as I can and drive reform in this area.
I fully appreciate the frustration people have. I have two young children and the last thing I want to see is young children having to contend with challenges like walking through muck and dirt and living in substandard accommodation. I am certain no member of this committee wants that either, so we are all trying to achieve a common objective here. That is reflected in the increase in the budget and the way I am trying to respond to the challenges in this area.
On the report to which the Senator referred, I have leaned on the local authority in question. I went down there and pushed as hard as I could to get these matters resolved.