Tuesday, 24 May 2022
Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
2. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if the proceeds of crime fund to support community projects will be a permanent initiative; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26062/22]
This centres around the community safety innovation fund the Department announced on 11 April. I want to find out about the longevity of the fund. Will it be directed towards communities affected by crime?
I thank the Deputy for raising the question. As he will be aware, the Department opened applications for the new community safety innovation fund on 11 April. Reflecting the success of An Garda Síochána and the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, in identifying and seizing proceeds from criminal activity, the new fund will use money seized from the proceeds of crime to support investment in innovative community safety projects. The fund, which is expected to grow in the coming years, will have an initial outlay of €2 million for this year and will be subject to a robust evaluation at the end of the first year to inform future decisions. The intention is that bids for further allocations will be part of the normal budgetary process.
It is anticipated that the type of projects which may be supported will include new additional activities not already covered by existing funding streams. These will be intended to tackle crime or reduce the fear of crime, improve community safety, support the creation of safe and resilient communities, and reduce re-offending or divert vulnerable individuals away from engagement in criminal behaviour. The fund will ensure that the success of An Garda Síochána and CAB is reflected back into new investments in our communities and on projects that will build strong and safe communities.
Community safety is about people being safe and, just as importantly, feeling safe within their communities. This, of course, goes beyond policing alone. The fund will ensure the best proposals get the funding they need and will encourage the development of innovative ways in which to improve community safety from those people who understand local needs best. The development of innovative ideas will also allow best practice on community safety and youth justice to be shared with other partnerships and communities nationally as new proposals are developed.
The fund is open to bodies involved in community safety and will support them in addressing local needs and opportunities for innovation not provided for through other funds managed by Departments and agencies. The call for applications for the fund runs from 11 April until 8 June 2022 and grants will range from €20,000 to €150,000. An information webinar will be held at 4 p.m. on 30 May to provide information for potential applicants to the scheme. If the Deputy is aware of any suitable projects, I would urge him to encourage them to apply for funding. Completed application forms are to be returned by 5 p.m. on 8 June 2022 to a dedicated email address, which is CommunitySafetyInnovationFund@justice.ie. Further information is available on the Department's website.
I welcome this funding from the proceeds of crime and the Criminal Assets Bureau. I can think of many initiatives and projects that could benefit from this funding, particularly in the area I represent which has been greatly affected by organised crime. The profits largely go unseen by CAB but the community will benefit from an element of them through this fund. From my understanding, there is no correlation between the funding and areas affected by crime. The initiative is welcome. Its precursor was the Dormant Accounts Fund from which many projects benefited.
I thank Deputy Kenny for raising this very important matter. A good chunk of the Dormant Accounts Fund will go into youth justice this year to help alleviate similar issues. The criteria for this fund are fairly broad and I encourage organisations to apply. The main reason that a project would not qualify for funding is if funding could be obtained from another Department or an organisation is already receiving funding for a similar project. Otherwise the scheme is fairly broad. The amount of funding is expected to increase over the years. The first year of the fund will really be about evaluating the projects. What will be important in this evaluation will be to see and assess whether the communities that most need the funding are getting it. This evaluation will happen at the end of the year once the funding goes out. It will be an important part of the evaluation. The Deputy is correct that the funding is not directed at particular areas but it will be a very important element. We will be very conscious when the funding goes out that it goes to areas that most need the support.
We agree that the best way to tackle the causes of crime is to invest in communities.
I would argue that social deprivation and marginalisation draw people into criminality. It can be very complex. Criminality involving drugs is extremely profitable. With the trappings come major amounts of money. There is an echelon who extremely well out of that and who generally do not live in the communities that are affected. Communities then feel the effects of that criminality. I do not have time to tease out the reasons. We must adopt a different approach to how we treat people who are drawn into crime. They are not bad people. They are just drawn in by the alternative economy. That economy can be a massive draw, especially in working-class areas. It draws in so many people who should not be there. In an ideal world, the funding of communities should not come from CAB sources. In a better world, where people are not drawn into crime, Government and State agencies would fund projects on their own initiative.
The point the Deputy touches on is correct. Nobody is born a criminal or with criminal inclinations. Young people are often groomed and drawn into crime. The key purpose of the Greentown Project, using evidence-based research, is to tackle the grooming of young people into crime. Money is often used to lure them into criminal activity. That is an important part of our youth justice strategy. The cause of young people getting into crime is also trauma informed, with them perhaps coming from very difficult backgrounds. It takes a lot of intensive work to help support those young people and redirect them away from criminal activity.
We see this funding as a starting point. It amounts to €2 million and is expected to grow. There will be an evaluation at the end of it to determine how the funding has been used.