Speaking in a special Dail debate yesterday afternoon, Dublin North East Deputy Tommy Broughan asked the Ministers for Education and Children to ensure that critical funding is maintained under Budget 2012 for the RASP and Sphere 17 organisations in Dublin 17.

Deputy Broughan said, “RASP provides an outstanding community-based approach to anti-alcohol and anti-drugs support, education and outreach programmes and is the only community rehabilitation centre in the Dublin 17 region.

“RASP’s approach to citizens who have been addicted to alcohol or drugs is multi-disciplinary, providing vocational and therapeutic elements to get their clients lives back on track and play a key role in their families and their communities. One of their unique programmes is a horticultural training course with the support of the horticultural industry in north Dublin. Since its inception in 1998 more than 200 people have been RASP clients and there are usually about 18-20 clients at any one time being supported by RASP.

“There are three people employed at the project, including participants who are supported by the community employment programme. The organisation is led, outstandingly, by the Coolock community activist, Mr. Kevin Behan, as chair, and by the general manager, Mr. Pat Hanna. From 2000 when RASP was mainstreamed it was funded with approximately €200,000 per annum but in 2009 this budget was cut by one third, to €138,848 per year.

“Sphere 17 provides vitally important youth services for local children and young people aged from 10 to 21 located in the Darndale-Belcamp village centre, Dublin 17 and has three different youth work teams covering the Bonnybrook, Darndale and Priorswood parishes.

“The project works with more than 1,500 local young people each year, through more than 170 different programmes. It provides services up to 10 p.m. each night and at weekends, including educational, health, art, drug outreach and counselling programmes, as well as support for the local Traveller community. Importantly, Sphere 17 also facilitates the Woodale youth justice project which is part of the national Garda youth diversion projects.

“The programme had more than 17,000 registered contacts between local young people and the service in the past year and its detached youth work team made more than 2,000 contacts with young people through its evening street work programme. Twenty full-time professionals are currently employed by Sphere 17 alongside part-time and CE staff and more than 20 volunteers. In 2010, Sphere 17 received €1,198,195 in funding from a range of sources led by the City of Dublin VEC but in 2011 it received only €918,000 and, since 2008, its budget has lost €230,000.”

Deputy Broughan then outlined the potential impact of any further cuts to RASP and Sphere 17. For example if Sphere 17’s funding is further cut its plan to open a new youth centre in the third major parish of north Coolock, namely, Priorswood will have to be postponed indefinitely.

The Minister replied that a very compelling case for the retention of both services had been made and he will undertake to take on board these concerns in the final stages of the comprehensive spending review which is under way.