Live-saving, innovative 24/7 text service launches in Kerry – Griffin If you can’t talk about it, text about it A free, anonymous and inclusive text service has been launched to provide support for people going through a mental health or emotional crisis, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD has said. Minister Griffin said: “‘50808’ is a first of its kind for Ireland, a free 24/7 text service, providing everything from a calming chat to immediate support for people who need it. “Many people – particularly young people – don’t feel comfortable making that call or reaching out for help. “This is a service that will offer a lifeline to people of all ages across Kerry and indeed across the country. “It’s been an exceptionally difficult time for our country, and this service is needed more than ever. There is no doubt the launch of 50808 by Crisis Text Line will save lives.” Minister Griffin continued: “50808 has been in development for some time, and it couldn’t launch at a more important moment. “The service’s trained Crisis Volunteers will help people through this current crisis and will continue to provide free, 24/7 support in the long term. “This life-saving service is part of the government’s strategy to protect the mental health of all members of the public. “I’d like to commend my Fine Gael colleagues, the Minister for Health Simon Harris and the Minister for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly for prioritising this essential service. “Since the initiative began its pilot in September last year, it has provided support to 3,801 people through 6,694 conversations. It is expected that ‘50808’ will support over 50,000 people each year once fully operational. “Of the almost four thousand people supported; ● 832 people were thinking about suicide ● 360 people were self-harming ● The top issues discussed were: Anxiety/stress (40%), Depression/sadness (32%), Relationships (29%), Isolation/loneliness (23%) and Suicide (18%) ● 80% of texters have been between the ages of 16 and 34 ● 65% of texters were female, 24% male, 2% transgender and 2% non-binary ● 30% of texters identified as LGBTI+ ● 35% of texters are living with a disability, an existing mental health condition, or other medical condition ● Reasons for texting: Didn’t have anyone else to talk to (50%), Wanted to talk to someone who didn’t know me (48%), More comfortable texting than talking (40%), To embarrassed to talk on the phone or in person (31%), Didn’t have access to a therapist (31%) Minister Griffin continued: “The service uses an artificial intelligence (AI) system to analyse a texter’s initial message, scanning keywords, phrases, and even emojis to determine the level of severity. The texter’s at most imminent risk are placed at the top of the queue. “50808 has performed over 100 “Active Rescues” since beginning in pilot phase in September 2019 in which the National Ambulance Service is contacted for a texter in need of emergency support. “The service allows trained Crisis Volunteers to volunteer from home. Crisis Volunteers complete a 30-hour training and have 24/7 supervision by full-time mental health professionals.” Minister Griffin concluded: “The COVID-19 crisis has been a challenging time for us all. If you need to talk, please pick up the phone and text 50808 where you will be connected to a trained and compassionate volunteer. The service is available 24/7.” ENDS Notes to Editors: About ‘50808’: ● 50808 is a first of its kind for Ireland: a free 24/7 text service, providing everything from a calming chat to immediate support for people going through a mental health or emotional crisis – big or small. From breakups or bullying, to anxiety, depression and suicidal feelings, our Crisis Volunteers are available 24/7 for anonymous text conversations. Our aim is to provide immediate support in the short term and connect people to resources that will help them in the future.

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17th June 2020 Free and subsidised higher education places announced for people looking to upskill or reskill – Griffin Free and subsidised higher education places will be made available to Kerry people who are looking to upskill or reskill, according to Minister of State for Tourism Brendan Griffin TD. Minister Griffin said, “I welcome the announcement from the Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh TD, and Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Minister of State for Training Skills, Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan that almost 17,000 new places will be made available to people seeking to upskill or reskill. “In total, 13,000 places will be made available in 2020, with the additional 4,000 places coming on stream over the remaining 2 years under the Springboard+ 2020 and Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1 programmes. “As part of Springboard+ 2020, a total of 418 places are available across 15 courses at Institute of Technology Tralee . Places are available on courses in a wide range of skills areas, including artificial intelligence, smart factory technology, sustainable energy, medical device technology and cybersecurity. “Approval has also been given for courses under HCI Pillar 1 to run for three academic years from 2020/21 to 2022/23. Here in Kerry, a total of 48 places are available across 1 course at the Institute of Technology Tralee . “2,129 places on both programmes are also being made available as a result of investment by the Government of an additional €10 million in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Fine Gael is committed to building a world-class education system from early years to Higher and Further Education, offering ladders of opportunity to people throughout their life. “Higher and Further Education have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 crisis and we will support the sector through these challenges, to ensure that educational opportunities remain and are made more accessible to the people of Kerry. “The National Training Fund Advisory Group has considered the principles and priorities of the National Training Fund (NTF) in light of the transformed economic and labour market landscape arising from COVID-19. These priorities were confirmed by the National Skills Council. Among these principles were: • the need for an immediate focus on providing relevant skills for those affected by the crisis underpinning their employability and access into sustainable and quality employment; • the need for focused and agile programmes consistent with the current priorities for skills provision. “To enable a skills-focused response to employment issues arising from the Covid-19 crisis, €10 million has been repurposed from HCI Pillar 3 to provide extra funding for upskilling and reskilling courses under Springboard+ and HCI Pillar 1. “Courses are in areas that have been deemed by Government as being of critical importance: digital skills, soft skills, management and leadership, and the workplace of the future. “Candidates who wish to participate in Springboard+ 2020 or HCI pillar 1 courses will find full details on the approved courses on the dedicated information and applications website www.springboardcourses.ie” Commenting on the announcement, Minister McHugh said: “Springboard+ training programmes provide people who are unemployed, those looking to return to the workforce and those in employment with a great opportunity to upskill or reskill in areas in which employers need skilled workers. I am particularly pleased that we are able to provide additional places this year to enable an enhanced response to skills needs arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.” Minister Mitchell O’Connor added: “The higher education sector has responded swiftly and effectively to the challenges that have arisen over recent months. The courses we are launching today will form a further response to the impacts of the global pandemic, providing upskilling and reskilling places for those who have been most affected. HCI Pillar 1 will provide specialisation and conversion courses for graduates to ensure that they have the skills most needed by employers today.” ENDS Note for Editors Background to Springboard+ Springboard+, which is managed by the Higher Education Authority on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills, began in 2011 as part of the Government’s Jobs Initiative. It complements the core State-funded education and training system and provides free and heavily subsidised upskilling and reskilling higher education opportunities in areas of identified skills need. The initiative’s primary target group when it was established was unemployed people with a previous history of employment. Over recent years with the decline in numbers on the live register the focus was changed to include more people in employment and those returning to the workforce. ICT skills Conversion Courses were introduced in 2012 as a means to address concerns by industry and the enterprise development agencies about continuing difficulties in sourcing ICT graduates with requisite skills. Springboard+ courses are at Level 6 (Certificate) to Level 9 (Masters) on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) and are delivered by public and private higher education providers around the country. Courses are not all a full award at each level – they may also be minor awards or special purposes awards. All courses provide job-readiness training and most offer the opportunity for work placement, project-based learning or industry site visits where appropriate. All courses approved for funding under Springboard+ are selected by an independent panel with experts from industry and education following a competitive tendering process. In particular, courses with a proven track record in getting people back into employment are recommended for funding. The majority of courses approved under Springboard+ 2020 commence in autumn 2020, however there are a number of courses that start later in 2020 and in early 2021. Full details on Springboard+ courses, the eligibility criteria and how to apply can be found on the website: www.springboardcourses.ie 91% of Springboard+ courses will be delivered in a more flexible format (blended learning, online/distance learning). As well as aiding participation for those in employment, increased provision will provide opportunities for people across the country to access programmes in regions other than where they reside and enable upskilling and reskilling even in circumstances where social distancing measures continue to be in place. Recent research undertaken by the HEA has shown that 90% of participants who were on the Live Register at the start of their courses are now in employment. Background to HCI The Human Capital Initiative (HCI) was announced as part of Budget 2019. This initiative will provide additional capacity across the Higher Education Sector to meet priority skill needs for enterprise, representing an additional investment of €300m (€60m per annum from 2020 to 2024) from the surplus in the NTF in line with recommendations contained in the independent review of the NTF on the use of the surplus and the development of labour market skills. Skills needs are identified through the detailed and comprehensive framework now in place under the National Skills Council, including publications from the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU), the work of the Regional Skills Fora, the NTF Advisory Group, and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, and direct involvement of employers. The HCI consists of 3 main pillars – graduate conversion and specialisation courses, additional places on undergraduate provision, and an innovation and agility fund. Pillar 1, Graduate Conversion Programmes extends the approach currently in place for ICT under Springboard+; these programmes will offer incentivised places for graduates to reskill in areas of skills shortage and emerging technologies. These are being run alongside, and complementary to, the Springboard+ offerings. €65.6 million has been allocated to HCI Pillar 1 for the duration of the Human Capital Initiative, with €13.12 million allocated for the courses recommended to commence in 2020. HCI Pillar 1 courses are open to all, regardless of employment status. Eligibility criteria have been aligned with the eligibility for ICT Conversion Courses under Springboard+. Those who are eligible for the DEASP Back to Education Allowance may undertake the courses free of charge, with all others paying just 10% of the course fee. Additional funding Additional funding of €10m has been approved as a response to upskilling and reskilling needs arising from the global pandemic. This provides for a total of 2,129 additional places across both programme, a 19% increase on planned funding. Courses and Places by Academic Category – Springboard+ Academic category Total Places ICT Skills Conversion (Level 8) 1 year Full-time 532 2 Years Part-time 769 SPRINGBOARD (part-time) Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Veterinary 50 Arts and Humanities 225 Business, Administration and Law 2,747 Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction 3,388 Generic programmes and qualifications 258 Health and Welfare 201 Information and Communication Technologies 2,103 Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics 347 Services 379 Social Sciences, Journalism and Information 75 Total 11,074 Courses and Places by Academic Category – HCI Pillar 1 over 3 years Academic category Total Places Recommended Arts and Humanities 70 Business, Administration and Law 690 Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction 1,292 Health and Welfare 212 Information and Communication Technologies 2,561 Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics 1,066 Total 5,891

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€1,535,192 for businesses in Kerry from the Government’s Restart Grant – Griffin A total of €1,535,192 has been approved and paid out to Kerry businesses under the Government’s Restart Grant to aid reopening after COVID-19, Deputy Brendan Griffin has said. Deputy Griffin said, “The Government’s Restart Grant involves direct grant aid to micro and small businesses of between €2,000 and €10,000, to help with the costs associated with reopening and re-employing workers following COVID-19 closures. “Business owners and their staff have been through incredibly difficult times recently and it is so welcome that the Government is doing everything possible to support them to open up again. “This work was begun by Fine Gael in the last government and it is welcome that the new Government is prioritising the recovery from the economic shock of Covid-19. They are working to repair the damage that has been done, and restore confidence and prosperity. Small businesses will play a huge role in that as they are the lifeblood of the local economy. “The latest figures from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, now headed up by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, show that €1,535,192 has been approved and paid to businesses in Kerry since the Restart Grant was formed. “These targeted supports that have been developed by the Department in collaboration with Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices, will be available to companies of including micro enterprises, SMEs, and sectors most exposed with a focus on food, manufacturing and internationally traded services including exporters and importers. “This is in addition to a range of other supports for businesses to help them through the pandemic. The July Jobs Initiative, which will be announced in the coming weeks, will help to bolster our economy and get people back to work as quickly as possible. It will enhance and add to the existing measures totalling €12 billion in supports for Covid-19 impacted businesses already announced. For example this week Tánaiste Leo Varadkar announced that 183 retailers have been approved for €6.5 million in funding as part of the Online Retail Scheme, which is targeted at online retailers to strengthen their online offering and enable them to reach a wider customer base. “Other measures include the Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS), liquidity supports such as 0% finance for 6 months from MicroFinance Ireland, rates waivers from local authorities and the warehousing of tax liabilities of SMEs by Revenue. “The Restart Grant is being rolled out through the Local Authorities across the country so Kerry County Council has a crucial role here. “Impacted firms that are in rateable premises can apply to Kerry County Council for grant support of between €2,000 and a maximum of €10,000 equivalent to their rates bill of 2019. “The application form for the Restart Grant is available on the Council’s website. I encourage all micro and small business owners in Kerry to take a look at the website and apply for the grant to help them get back on their feet after COVID-19.” ENDS For further information please contact Brendan on 087-2549116