I am delighted to launch the new Dormant Accounts Action Plan 2018 which provides funding of almost €40 million for 45 programmes and measures which will support disadvantaged people and communities across the country.
The objective of Dormant Accounts Funding is to assist the most vulnerable groups in our society. I have been anxious to ensure that the measures we support focus on the areas of greatest need and make a significant and tangible difference to people at a local level. I believe that the 2018 Action Plan delivers on that goal and provides funding to support measures right across Government.
In my own department, the 2018 Action Plan contains a diverse range of measures which will support at-risk individuals and groups in communities across the country. Some of the measures include: the use of IT to enable older people to live independently and securely in their own homes for longer; funding to ensure every county in Ireland has a volunteer centre; funding to encourage education at the community level; funding to support employment and entrepreneurship along the Atlantic Economic Corridor; and a fund to support social enterprises which enrich and enhance our communities, among other measures.
Other departments will leverage Dormant Accounts Funding for a diverse range of programmes and measures that will support older people, migrants, new parents, persons living with disability, persons will an illness, carers, travellers, children and young people.
These projects and programmes will deliver significant social and economic benefits to vulnerable people, will improve lives and strengthen communities over the coming years.
Speech at launch of the Dormant Accounts Action Plan 2018
Good morning ladies and gentlemen and sincere thanks to you all for attending today.
I am delighted to launch the Dormant Accounts Fund Action Plan for 2018.
Life, at times, can be very tough. And while almost all of us will, at some point or other, experience stressful and challenging times in life, including illness, loss of a job, or bereavement, for some people these situations can be immense.
Challenges and difficulties can be compounded for a person who, for whatever reason, did not get the same chances or the same opportunities in life.
While we have challenges and problems in Ireland we are also fortunate to have significant assets including a robust welfare support system, a developed and advanced education system, a progressive income taxation system, and a vibrant and buoyant community and voluntary sector.
Perhaps most importantly of all we, in Ireland, have a strong sense of community and civic duty. Think of the old Irish custom of ‘meitheal’ – when an entire community would help one another, in turn, to carry out essential and vital tasks. That sense of community, of helping one another, goes to the heart of the Dormant Account Fund.
As many of you will know, the Dormant Accounts Fund is resourced by dormant accounts and unclaimed life assurance policies from financial institutions and insurance undertakings around the country.
This is money which has been earned by people across the country and saved and invested for rainy days, retirements or other life events. These events have probably since come and gone and, for whatever reason, the accounts and policies which our families, friends and neighbours carefully arranged over the years have been forgotten or overlooked.
When accounts have become dormant or life assurance policies have gone unclaimed, the moneys which resourced them have, since 2001, been diverted to the Dormant Accounts Fund. This money will always remain the property of its original owner and they, or their beneficiaries or heirs, can reclaim their funds at any time into the future.
However, provision needed to be made for the many instances when the owners of those dormant accounts or unclaimed policies never reclaimed their property. The moneys in the Dormant Accounts Fund needed to be put to productive use in the meantime.
A scheme was therefore developed within Dormant Accounts legislation which allowed the Dormant Accounts Fund to be used to assist economically, socially or educationally disadvantaged people and people with a disability. In my view, this was a wonderfully appropriate use of the Fund, using the funds which people had originally put aside to help with life’s events – both expected and unexpected – to assist the most vulnerable sections of society. There is a certain cyclical quality to it all – ensuring that money originally put aside to help with difficulties fulfils that intended role by financing measures to help others who are experiencing difficulties such as illness, disability, older age and employment.
This Action Plan is the latest in a series of annual plans which set out the measures which Government Departments and their agencies will undertake, using Dormant Accounts funding, to assist disadvantaged or disabled people.
This is the first Action Plan which I have overseen as Minister with responsibility for the Dormant Accounts Fund and I am proud of the ambition and scale of the Plan and its potential to change people’s lives.
The Action Plan sets out 45 measures which traverse every almost every area of Government activity, seeking to assist the most vulnerable groups in our society – the homeless, the elderly, disadvantaged communities, migrants, Travellers, children with disabilities, people suffering from dementia and carers and their families.
These 45 measures have been developed and nominated from across ten different Government Departments. My Department and I are grateful to the Ministers involved and their officials, all of whom have delivered of their time and expertise to developing the measures included in the Plan and ensuring that they will have the greatest possible impact for target groups.
In that regard, since I assumed responsibility for the Fund late last year, it has been my singular focus to ensure that the measures we support focus on the areas of greatest need and make a significant and tangible difference to people at a local level. I believe that the 2018 Action Plan delivers on that goal.
Through the work on this Plan I have often been struck by the impact this funding has had, and continues to have, on communities around the country, on grassroots organisations delivering services, and through extending the reach of many of our more established agencies and NGOs who are working in the areas of disadvantage and assisting persons with disabilities.
I think it is useful and informative to hear from some of them first hand, to allow them to tell us the difference that Dormant Accounts funding makes to their activities and its importance to the people that they support. You will see some examples of how this funding has made a difference in the case studies outlined in your booklet. These are programmes and projects which have been implemented by the people and organisations who will address you today.
Social Innovation Fund Ireland leverages philanthropic donations and corporate social responsibility programmes, with matched funding provided by my Department from the Dormant Accounts Fund, to provide support for innovative solutions to critical social issues in Ireland. This involves the provision of grants and business supports to non-profit organisations so they can scale up, reach as many people as possible and have a widespread impact on critical social problems such as unemployment, poverty and health.
Care Alliance Ireland is a network of Voluntary Organisations supporting Family Carers in Ireland. The Alliance assists organisations in their work with Family Carers through the provision of information, through informing research and policy in this area and through the sharing of resources and other collaborative efforts. The work of the Alliance has been supported by the Department of Social Protection and Employment Affairs with the assistance of the Dormant Accounts Fund.
Ruhama works with women affected by prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation, providing a range of supports from outreach and crisis intervention to person-centred case work, development programmes and resettlement assistance. Ruhama works closely with our colleagues in the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Department of Justice and Equality to deliver on elements of this work programme with the aid of Dormant Accounts funding.
Sport Ireland oversees the promotion and development of sport across the country, building excellence through high performance development, participation through local sports partnerships and supporting national governing bodies across a range of sports. Significant assistance has been provided from the Dormant Accounts Fund, via the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, to support the work of Sport Ireland in developing Community Sport and Physical Activity Hubs, the National Sport Education and Training Hub and for sports measures for disadvantaged communities under the National Physical Activity Plan.
In a world that has, in the last couple of years, come to seem less caring, less compassionate, less considerate I think the Dormant Accounts Fund Action Plan is a manifestation of our desire to ensure that Ireland remains a shining example of inclusion, of equality, of empowerment, of fairness and of decency. And I think the measures in the Action Plan, the work of Government departments and, in particular, the work of community, voluntary and civil society organisations, will continue to strengthen communities, to improve and ultimately transform lives.
I am very much looking forward to hearing more about the work of these organisations and I am very grateful to the speakers who have agreed to contribute today. There are also representatives amongst you today from other organisations and bodies carrying out work with disadvantaged groups and disabled people who have benefitted from Dormant Accounts funding. My sincere thanks to you all for the work that you do. I look forward to working with you and your sponsoring Departments to help support your activities in the future.
Finally, I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to officials in my department and staff in my office for their work on and commitment to the 2018 Dormant Account Action Plan.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh.