Topical Issue Debate

Mental Health Services Provision

This relates to the provision of a child and adolescent bed unit in Limerick, as recommended in A Vision for Change, the report of the expert group on mental health, in 2006. Recommendation 10.9 of the report states, "Urgent attention should be given to the completion of the planned four 20-bed units in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Dublin, and multidisciplinary teams should be provided for these units". Since then, the HSE, in its wisdom, has decided that no such unit should be built in Limerick. Why is this the situation? A Vision for Change was very meticulous and detailed in its investigation of all the needs of the mental health services and it made this suggestion.

There is an urgent need in the city. Psychiatrists, psychotherapists and general mental health services staff have expressed concern about the unsuitability of minors sharing inpatient psychiatric care with adults. It is seen as potentially detrimental to the recovery of children and adolescents. All mental health professionals regard having children, some under ten years of age, in the same ward as adults as being very unsuitable and detrimental to their recovery. Children are very vulnerable when they go into a hospital unit and this is especially true if they are suffering from a severe mental health difficulty, which is the case for children being admitted to inpatient mental health services. Adult mental health patients of all ages have certain difficulties and may be incapacitated in many ways, and while their behaviour can be upsetting for adults, it can be frightening for children.

Children in Limerick and the mid-west who are in need of inpatient psychiatric treatment must move to Cork, Galway or Dublin. One of the key issues in the recovery of children from any condition, especially mental health conditions, is the presence of their parents. They need their parents to visit them, to feel the support of their parents and to feel comfortable with their parents. If a child from the mid-west is placed in Dublin, Cork or Galway, it is extremely difficult for the families. Some families can afford to visit their children only occasionally, which is very detrimental to the children. Why has the recommended provision of inpatient mental health services been withdrawn? The HSE has failed to meet the code of practice on the admission of children drawn up by the Mental Health Commission under the Mental Health Act 2001.

The code of practice specified that from July 2009, no child under the age of 16 years should be admitted to an adult inpatient unit, that the same should apply from December 2010 to any child under 17 years and from 2011 to any child under the age of 18 years. However, last year, 89 children were admitted to adult psychiatric services, in contravention of the code of practice.

A Vision for Change recommended that the agreed proposal to supply additional 20-bed units in the major hospital centres I have mentioned, including Limerick, should be completed as a matter of urgency. This provision would result in 100 inpatient beds for children and adolescents nationally. The provision should be evaluated after five years to assess how it is meeting the needs of the population. Inpatient facilities should provide large, spacious rooms for activities and possibly even classroom facilities in order that children can continue their school curriculum work during their stays. Only 58 inpatient beds have been provided. There was to be a review after five years, in 2011. Was there a review? If so, what was the outcome? If not, why was there no review?

As I have just stated, unfortunately the HSE is not meeting the targets outlined in A Vision for Change. There are reports of admissions of minors, including children under the age of ten, to adult institutions. These children are in serious need of inpatient care. Of course we do not want children and adolescents to go to inpatient units, but some of them need the treatment offered at such facilities. The current situation is totally unsatisfactory. Why is the mid-west being discriminated against? This is not something we are demanding as a proposal. Experts from many areas of the psychiatric services have deemed it to be an absolute necessity and said that urgent attention should be paid to the completion of the planned four-bed units, including the units in Limerick that we are now informed will not be finished. Why will they not be completed? Can the Minister of State guarantee that the implementation of the carefully thought-out proposal in relation to Limerick and the mid-west will be reconsidered?

I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue for discussion today. Nationally, inpatient child and adolescent bed capacity has increased from 12 beds in 2007 to 58 beds at present, with 26 beds in Dublin, 12 beds in Cork and 20 beds in Galway. This represents an almost fivefold increase over eight years. I am pleased to announce that a new purpose-built 22-bed child and adolescent inpatient unit located on the grounds of Cherry Orchard Hospital has been completed and will be opened next week by my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch. The existing 14 beds in the current temporary facility will transfer across to the new facility. This means that there will be an additional eight child and adolescent mental health beds in the country and that the total number of beds will increase to 66. Those who provide child and adolescent mental health services in the mid-west region, which covers Limerick, Clare and north Tipperary, have access as required to a modern state-of-the-art inpatient child and adolescent mental health facility in Galway. Requests for admissions to this facility are made by the local child and adolescent mental health teams in the mid-west to their counterparts in Galway. All applications are appropriately considered and prioritised.

The HSE is committed to the appropriate provision of child and adolescent mental health service inpatient beds for children. From time to time, a young person may have a very short admission to an adult facility pending the availability of a bed in a child and adolescent unit. These placements are generally for very short periods. Progress in this area is underscored by the fact that such admissions have declined from 247 in 2008 to 89 last year. It is important to stress that the HSE's intention is to aim for appropriate placements and to reduce to the greatest extent possible the need for and dependency on inpatient beds. Modern-day multidisciplinary interventions for children are much more appropriate to non-inpatient admissions and to supporting children in their own family settings.

In the mid-west region, a consultant-led child and adolescent mental health service is provided by multidisciplinary teams across Limerick, Clare and north Tipperary. This service operates an emergency service for critical cases of same-day referral. In addition, an out-of-hours on-call service is provided through the emergency department of the University Hospital Limerick. This is not replicated in all parts of the country. The child and adolescent mental health service based in Limerick is scheduled to move to a new outpatient and clinical premises shortly, subject to the completion of some final details in respect of the property involved. Plans are being advanced to explore the possibility of providing the equivalent of a day hospital-type service. This will further enhance the capacity of the services within the region. The Deputy will appreciate the priority shown by this Government to modernise mental health policy and services in line with A Vision for Change. He will also be aware that significant new resources have been allocated for mental health since 2012.

The case I made for the provision of inpatient psychiatric beds for children and adolescents has not been answered. I clearly asked why the recommendation in A Vision for Change that 20-bed units should be provided by 2011 has not been adopted. It was stated in A Vision for Change that the number of psychiatric beds urgently needed to be increased to 100 by 2011. That has not happened. As the Minister of State said, we now have 58 such beds. That falls far short of the 100 beds that should have been provided by 2011 in line with the recommendation in A Vision for Change. Maybe the Minister of State will inquire for me whether a national review of psychiatric inpatient beds took place in 2011, as firmly recommended in A Vision for Change. If such a review took place, what was the result of it? I remind the House that it was recommended in A Vision for Change that by 2011, no child or adolescent should be admitted to an inpatient bed. The Minister of State is correct when he says there has been a considerable improvement. It is a shame to have to say, four years after the recommendation that no child anywhere in the country should be admitted to an adult inpatient bed should have been implemented, that there were 89 such admissions last year. I appreciate that there have been improvements in outpatient services and in other areas, but they are not the subject of this Topical Issue debate. I am asking about the provision of a 20-bed inpatient psychiatric unit for children and adolescents in Limerick to serve the mid-west region. That is the point I am making in this debate. I have not yet received a reply. Why did the development of such a unit not take place? Why was it scrapped?

The Deputy makes a solid case. He has acknowledged the movements and the improvements that have been made in this area, as borne out by the statistics I provided to him in my initial reply. I do not have an answer at the moment to the very direct question he has asked. I will ensure the Department makes direct contact with him and supplies him in writing with the information he has sought in the question he has asked this evening.

I thank the Minister of State for his commitment.

Waste Management Regulations

I welcome the opportunity to speak about this important issue again. I have raised it previously in recent months. Despite my repeated efforts to clear up this matter by means of written parliamentary questions, some serious questions still remain unanswered. Since I last highlighted this issue on the floor of the Dáil, both of the representative bodies that had been engaged in the negotiations with the Department have pulled out of those negotiations.

At the outset, I want to clear up some of the misinformation that is out there. It has been suggested that this proposal has been made on foot of an EU directive. That is simply not true because it is the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government's own idea. The Minister, Deputy Kelly, and some of his Cabinet colleagues, along with officials from the Department, have said that illegal dumping has reached epidemic proportions, but the Environmental Protection Agency has said that the figures are negligible. In 2013, the CSO said that 96% of tyres sold in this country could be accounted for.

Nobody condones the illegal dumping of tyres, just as nobody condones anything that would go against the environment. The representative bodies will acknowledge that the existing scheme needs improvement. I suggest that this seems to stem from a lack of enforcement of the current legislation. There is no sanction in place for non-compliance.

Under the new self-compliance scheme, tyre wholesalers and retailers are required to dispose of waste tyres. The current cost of that, approximately €1, is not being passed on to the consumer. Under the new full producer responsibility initiative scheme, the Repak and WEEE group will be appointed to act as monopoly collectors and recyclers for the entire tyre industry across the board.

This will cost in the region of €3 per car, a trebling of the cost, and up to €15 per truck or €20 for an agrityre. The proposed scheme will fuel evasion and there will be a surge in black market activity. It will send all buyers of truck and tractor tyres across the Border to Northern Ireland and the UK where they can save themselves in the region of €100 for a single set of new tyres. It will give external sellers a huge unfair advantage over domestic sellers.

I will ask a couple of direct questions. The Minister, Deputy Kelly, claims he is formalising an existing charge with a new tyre levy but would he agree that the existing waste tyre disposal charge is only 80 cent plus VAT, as confirmed by Repak in a presentation to members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party? The Minister continuously refers to tyre stockpiles across the country but, according to the EPA figures, the five largest stockpiles since 2007 were on the sites of licensed waste collectors. Will he acknowledge that fact?

The entire tyre industry has withdrawn from this process. Does this not tell the Minister and his Department that the proposed scheme is seriously flawed? Is it not time to bring the dealers and their representative bodies back for meaningful talks? Will the Minister acknowledge the figures produced by the independent tyre wholesalers and retailers association that as many as 1,000 jobs could be lost across the country if he insists on bulldozing through the flawed scheme?

Would the Minister agree that the process of appointing Repak to administer this scheme was flawed as it did not go out to public tender, as it should have? Is he aware that senior figures have recently been appointed to Repak who had previously been involved in negotiations representing part of the tyre industry?

I thank the Deputy for raising this important matter, which I am taking on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly. We have a serious problem with waste tyres in Ireland and elements within the tyre industry will not face up to that problem. They do not accept producer responsibility and they do not accept the polluter pays principle. Prior to the adoption of the current 2007 tyre regulations, my Department made it very clear that this was the last opportunity for the tyre industry to embrace environmental compliance and take responsibility for the waste it produces. The industry was informed that if the required improvement did not happen, the system introduced under the 2007 regulations would be reviewed and if necessary replaced by a full producer responsibility initiative, PRI, model.

The required improvement did not happen. A report on tyres and waste tyres published by my Department in November 2013 found a non-compliance rate with the tyre regulations of 46%, a lack of consistent and accurate data on tyres, the system was not tracking data flows well and between 25% and 50% of waste tyres were not accounted for, with many illegally dumped. In summary, this system, which has resulted in between 15 million and 30 million tyres being dumped illegally around our country, is failing to provide a proper waste management system for tyres and cannot be allowed to continue.

Following extensive discussions with the tyre industry, through the establishment of a tyres working group, the Minister, Deputy Kelly, announced the decision to establish a full PRI scheme for tyres and waste tyres on 30 January last. The new scheme will be operated by Repak, which has a wealth of experience, systems, knowledge and leadership in the area of environmental compliance, allied to a successful track record in target achievement. It is highly unlikely that any other organisation could offer the same range of benefits that Repak offers and be operational in the space of time that is required. Working alongside Repak will be the WEEE Register Society, which has a similarly successful track record in the area of registration and reporting of producers. Since the decision earlier this year, significant progress has been made in discussions with the tyre industry. However, we have had to overcome an ongoing campaign of misinformation from some quarters, the main purpose of which appears to be to confuse the sector regarding the impact of these new structures.

There is nothing unusual about the designation of a single compliance scheme for a particular waste stream. Indeed, the PRI review examined this aspect and concluded that it was unlikely that licensing more producer responsibility organisations with a national remit would lead to better outcomes in terms of cost. For example, we have only one organisation operating the producer responsibility scheme for farm plastics in Ireland, IFFPG, and Repak is the only compliance scheme for packaging waste. Prior to the establishment of Repak ELT on 1 November, there was only one tyres compliance scheme in Ireland, just as there is only one tyre compliance scheme in the majority of EU member states. The suggestion that some sinister new monopoly is being established does not stand up to scrutiny. What is happening is we are trying to maximise efficiency by utilising expertise that exists in Ireland while learning from successful examples from other member states, an approach which we are confident will deliver, in an economically efficient way, the significant improvement in environmental outcomes required.

There is still a lot of misinformation out there. The Minister of State said the non-compliance rate with tyre regulations was 46% but while 46% of economic operators may not have registered, financially they equate to less than 5% of the total tyre activity in the market. The Minister also said a large proportion of waste tyres were stockpiled. The EPA confirmed that the five largest stockpiles since 2007 were on sites of licensed waste collectors, not dumped in ditches around the place, which no one would condone. The Minister of State did not address the appointment process for Repak to administer this scheme. Why was this scheme never put out to tender? Why will this new scheme ultimately cost us consumers over €3 per tyre when the existing scheme, as acknowledged by Repak in its presentation to the Minister of State's parliamentary party, was doing it for 80 cent plus VAT?

This new scheme came in at the beginning of November. How many people have signed up to it, if it is going so well? The Minister of State said there was a lack of information and statistics on non-compliance but I have received correspondence from the chair of Tracs, who outlines the number of collections and other information from 2009 to 2014. People will acknowledge the need for greater compliance but the reason there was not greater compliance was the failure to sanction. Who will provide the additional funding to already cash-strapped local authorities to police the new regulations, considering Repak has no enforcement responsibilities, just like the previous collectors?

One thing on which we will agree is that there is a lot of misinformation but I have put on the record statistics published by my Department as far back as 2013. One of those is quite startling, which is that between 25% and 50% of tyres are unaccounted for.

They are not being disposed off by licensed waste collectors or in landfills. They are unaccounted for, which means they have been illegally dumped, transported elsewhere or burned. It is as simple as that.

It is important to have environmental compliance, without which we will expose the State and taxpayers to fines and penalties which can be costly in environmental terms and to the Exchequer. We cannot postpone further the introduction of producer responsibility for waste tyres. We must act and we urgently need a robust, comprehensive system of management for waste tyres. The tyre industry is being asked to do nothing more than what all other sectors have done in terms of managing the waste from products they place on the market.

The full producer responsibility initiative, PRI, for tyres and waste tyres will be operated by Repak. Work has commenced on drafting new tyre regulations and we anticipate that the new structures will be in place by the middle of next year. We are confident that the new arrangements will enjoy the full support of all members of the European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers Association, which accounts for approximately 50% of the Irish tyre market. In addition, there has been strong uptake of membership of the Repak end-of-life tyres, ELT, scheme, including from members of the ITIA and ITWRA.

I reiterate that environmental compliance is important and we are asking the tyre sector to step up to the mark in terms of managing waste in the sector and the way in which it is tracked and accounted for because tyres are going missing. Between 25% and 50% of tyres are unaccounted for and being either dumped or burned, which is not good for the environment.

Harbours and Piers Maintenance

Howth is one of the most beloved and visited seaside towns in Dublin and Ireland and one of the country's six national working fishery harbours. It is also the premier fishery port on the east coast with a synchro lift and repair yard. Tourism to Howth port and peninsula has increased greatly, with as many as 2,000 visitors per day and as many as 750,000 visitors per annum. Howth is an historical area, which was recognised as a trading port in the medieval era and was the port of Dublin in the early 19th century. It has many great working fishery and marine leisure traditions and is also famed for delicious white fish, when in quota, and Dublin Bay prawns caught off this picturesque part of Dublin Bay. The peninsula also has had a special amenity area for two decades and is part of the new Dublin Bay UNESCO biosphere reserve, which I proposed.

In recent weeks, I have been contacted by members of the Howth Harbour Users Action Group who are very concerned about the build-up of silt in the harbour and the damaging effect this is having on all aspects of this important harbour. Howth Harbour has not been dredged for decades. I understand it was last dredged in 1981 or 1982 and I do not recall a dredging programme in the harbour in many years representing the area. The action group reports that this neglect has led to almost 6 ft. of silt building up in the harbour and an operational crisis for all the fishing and leisure craft which use it.

In reply to a recent question, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Simon Coveney, referred to the fishery harbour and coastal infrastructure development programme 2011 to 2014 and noted that a sum of €4.2 million that was invested in maintenance, development and upgrading works at the Howth fishery harbour. Funding of €1.79 million was approved for maintaining and developing the harbour centre this year. I understand the funding this year was allocated to continue work on upgrading the electrical system, provision of a small craft pontoon and traffic management works. While this investment is very welcome, it is also critical that the harbour does not become unworkable as a result of the build-up of silt.

The Howth Harbour Users Action Group, led by Mr. Sean Doran and made up of representatives of the yacht club, the boat and sailing clubs, a large trawling company and local businesses, states that the lack of action on dredging is threatening the future of Howth Harbour. The build-up of silt is affecting fishing fleets entering the harbour as they are fearful of being run aground at low tide. As a result, they must lie off the port. The group reports that even medium-sized fishing trawlers cannot enter the harbour at low tide because the draught is so shallow and that groundings of vessels are much more commonplace than previously. The successful Dublin Bay ferry has also been badly affected since the build-up of silt makes it virtually impossible to adhere to published timetables. Marine tourism and leisure use at the harbour is also seriously disrupted by the large build-up of silt. The action group states that this also compromises the safety of harbour users from the boat and yacht clubs. The group is fearful that a serious accident could result if the port is not dredged soon.

It appears from the budget allocation to the Department for 2016 that funding is available to carry out a dredging programme. Budget 2015 provided for the first increase in funding in the marine area since 2009. Almost €18 million was spent on fishery harbours development last year, with €14.9 million specifically allocated to the six fishery centres. Last month, in a reply to a parliamentary question, the Minister informed me that €150,000 had been provided for site investigation works to investigate the material to be dredged in any future dredging project. Has this money been spent and has the study been carried out and completed? Will the information gathered be necessary for a dumping at sea licence? If the report on the investigative works is available, what is the timeframe for proceeding with the dredging project?

It is incomprehensible that a dredging programme has not been carried out in Howth for nearly 40 years. The Minister of State, Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, is not directly responsible for the matter I raise. It is disappointing that the Minister is not present to respond. I understand this problem was raised when the Minister's father was the Minister with responsibility for the marine in the mid-1990s and nothing has been done since.

I thank Deputy Broughan for raising this issue. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is responsible under statute for the six designated fishery harbour centres which are located at Howth, Dunmore East, Castletownbere, Dingle, Rossaveel and Killybegs. All six fishery centres are, first and foremost, working fishery harbours which provide essential services and facilities to the fishing industry around the coastline. Each fishery harbour centre has unique features which facilitate a broad range of other diverse activities which are important from both an economic and social perspective. The Department is conscious of the importance of both fishing and non-fishing activities at the harbours. This involves day-to-day operational support by harbour staff and management and development and repair of infrastructure, subject to available financial resources.

I am pleased to advise the House that, notwithstanding the prevailing economic environment in which we operate, in excess of €4.2 million has been invested in maintenance, development and upgrading works at Howth as part of the Department's fishery harbour and coastal infrastructure development programme between 2011 and 2014. The Minister also approved funding of €1.79 million for the maintenance and development of Howth fishery harbour centre in 2015. Major works for 2015 include the continued upgrading of the electrical system, provision of a small craft pontoon and traffic management works.

Siltation in Howth harbour is recognised as an issue and is being kept under review. It has been discussed with various stakeholders, and officials from the Department attended the Howth Harbour Users Forum on 29 January 2015 and used the occasion to have a number of tangential meetings with users, at which the issue of dredging was discussed. A further meeting with the Howth Yacht Club was held on 17 July at which the question of dredging was again the main item of discussion.

As part of the 2015 fishery harbour centre development programme, the Minister sanctioned €150,000 to carry out site investigation works in Howth for the west pier pontoon and middle pier upgrade. The site investigation contractor commenced work on site in early November and the work is expected to be substantially complete by the end of the year. It is anticipated that the report on the site investigation will be issued in early 2016. This report will include information on the nature of the material to be dredged and the extent of contaminated material within the dredge footprint. This information is required to prepare a dumping at sea licence application which will be necessary for the commencement of any dredging project in future. It will also provide the basis for an informed estimate of the cost of dredging the harbour at Howth. As with all other developments in the six fishery harbour centres, a dredging project at Howth fishery harbour centre will be considered under future capital programmes on the basis of available Exchequer funding and competing priorities. The suite of projects for inclusion in the 2016 programme is being considered and the Minister will make an announcement on these in due course.

I thank the Minister of State for his response, which provides information that I have received previously. As I stated, the expenditure of €4.2 million was between 2011 and 2014, as was the allocation of €1.7 million which was supposed to have been spent this year. The additional funding since 2011 was critical to preparing and commencing this urgently needed programme of dredging.

The Minister referred to a €150,000 preparatory report which will hopefully be ready in the next month or so. I will certainly welcome that. I hope it will be published widely and that we will then know exactly what has to be done. In his reply, the Minister of State said there was no information on costings except that the cost will be substantial. We know the cost will be significant, and I hope the Department begins to work on the costings immediately on receipt of the scoping report on how the dredging project can be carried out and its likely timeframe. The Howth Harbour action group accepts that the planning and licensing process takes time, but it could push the dredging project way out to 2017, 2018 or 2019. Obviously, that is not going to be good for any of the leisure users or the working fishery users of the harbour. I notice that in the 2016 budget expenditure report, the Minister has €200 million set aside each year for capital projects in 2016, 2017 and 2018. It would have been handy to have him here to discuss this. While in overall global terms it might be small, a significant sum of perhaps €2 million or €3 million should be set aside to facilitate proceeding with the project as a matter of urgency.

When I tabled a recent parliamentary question to the Minister, Deputy Simon Coveney, he could not give me figures on the employment statistics relating to the private and State organisations operating out of the harbour centre. Hopefully that information will become available now, along with information on all aspects of the economy of the centre. Mr. Doran's enterprise alone supports approximately 100 jobs. The bottom line is that marine safety is the core value for all seafarers and their support workers onshore, including the Minister of State and me. The great inconvenience and danger posed to fishing and leisure craft must end and we must proceed with a dredging programme as quickly as possible. Hopefully, the Government might be able to include the dredging project for Howth as part of the good news in the pre-budget announcements before the its term of office ends.

It is an important issue and I agree with many of the points the Deputy has made. On the publication of the report early next year, local Deputies and interested parties may be in a position to meet with the Minister. I will do my best to facilitate that, as it would be the best way to proceed. I will ask the Minister about the capital allocation and see if he can move the issue forward. Howth Harbour is a wonderful amenity, and the issues the Deputy raised are extremely important. We must be in a position to act on them and proceed in an appropriate manner once the report is available. It should be published, available and transparent and we should be able to act on it as soon as it is there. Deputy Broughan and I can facilitate a meeting with the Minister to ensure that we can act on it.

Domestic Violence Refuges Provision

Cuan Álainn women's shelter is a secondary housing centre for women and children escaping from domestic violence. It gives women and children up to six months to live in safety and assists them in moving to permanent housing. It was set up by Respond! three and a half years ago when it saw a need for the service through its work as a housing agency. The service has been used by 71 women and families, 68 of whom have found new homes since. At the beginning of October, seven women and 16 children were in the centre. Over the last year, Respond! has approached Tusla for funding as it does not have the money to keep the service going. The service is very important. I note the experience of a mother of three from County Meath, who I will call Louise, although that is not her real name. Louise left a 19-year abusive relationship in February of last year. She says:

He used to fight with me a lot, grab me and punch me, elbow me and kick me. He called me names and put me down.

She says she stayed with him because she wanted the children to have a family. After a beating in February, she called the Garda Síochána and left with her children to stay first with her sister and then at a refuge in Meath. She then moved to a refuge in Dublin, but after two months her time there was up. She then got a place in Cuan Álainn. She says she realised when she got there that she had been depressed for years, and the centre got her psychiatric help at Pieta House. She says:

I am not in a state yet to be on my own. If this place was not here, I would have had to have gone back to him.

The important point she makes is that she had to go into emergency accommodation or she would have lost her children due to homelessness.

When I asked the Minister a question on this subject on 22 September, he said he would meet Respond!, look at all avenues and services and see if something could be done. He said it was a very important service. The Minister has been busy doing public events about ending violence against women while we have been waiting for a decision. A meeting took place between the Minister and Respond! on 2 November, which is three and a half weeks ago. I started submitting Topical Issue Matters on 5 November and have done so every day since then because I knew we would have to move on this quickly and wanted to hear the Minister's response. Unfortunately, I have heard that the staff have been told that they have notice to quit on 15 January 2016, and everybody is being moved out of the centre at the moment. I think there is one family and one single woman in the centre. I would like to hear from the Minister why he has come to a decision not to fund this vital service. It has been mentioned to him before that we should be opening more of these services because of the important role they have played in assisting women and children in leaving emergency accommodation and going to a safe place before moving on to permanent housing. The Minister has said himself that it is an important place and service for these families.

If the Minister says the centre is going to be closed, I will be very disappointed. Has the Minister even negotiated with Respond! about that body paying wages while Tusla and the Government pays to keep the service open? It is particularly important to keep the service open given the current level of homelessness and the number of children in emergency accommodation in hotels and hostels.

I thank Deputy Joan Collins for raising this issue again, and I welcome the opportunity to clarify the position in relation to the funding of domestic violence services by Tusla, the child and family agency. I was approached by Respond! following previous unsuccessful approaches to South Dublin County Council for funding to allow it to continue with its existing services at Cuan Álainn. I facilitated a meeting with Respond! on 3 November, at its request, to get a first-hand account of the nature of the service it provides and the reasons behind the decision by Respond! to close the current service at Cuan Álainn, and to get a better understanding of previous interactions between Respond! and State bodies in relation to the facility. Respond! advised that it is not in a position to continue funding the centre. The Cuan Álainn centre does not operate as a front-line emergency domestic violence service. In the main, it provides second-stage residential accommodation for persons whose emergency needs have been met. Respond! informed me that it is not accepting any new referrals to the facility. At the time of the meeting there were five families in residence at the Cuan Álainn centre. Permanent accommodation has been secured for two of the families and the remaining three families residing at the centre need to be housed. I have been reassured by the commitment of Respond! to secure alternative accommodation for these families.

In discharging its statutory responsibility, Tusla funds emergency refuge services for adults and children fleeing domestic violence as well as providing a range of ongoing community supports. Tusla will continue to provide such supports in the future. Tusla has informed me that a range of domestic violence supports are available in the Dublin south central and Dublin south west areas. In addition to the specialist domestic violence services and supports provided in the Dublin south west area, Tusla funds several other organisations in the Tallaght area to provide ongoing family support services to families with a range of complex needs, including domestic violence. The families residing at the Cuan Álainn centre have pressing housing needs which the local housing authorities are best placed to address.

At our meeting, Respond! outlined how it decided to build the facility on foot of its own needs analysis, which determined that, although the area did not need another domestic violence refuge, there was a need for move-on accommodation for those using emergency refuges.

In general, Cuan Álainn provides transitional housing for survivors of domestic violence after their emergency needs have been met. The majority of referrals to Cuan Álainn are from existing domestic violence refuges already funded by Tusla. Each of the families at the Cuan Álainn centre has housing needs, which are best provided through mainstream housing supports. As the Deputy will know, there are different supports for these needs, including via local authorities or, if appropriate, income supports from the Department of Social Protection.

I advised Respond! that I would contact the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Kelly, to establish what could be done to assist the families involved, particularly in light of the pressing housing needs of the families residing at the Cuan Álainn centre. I have done that and have asked him to consider what can be done to assist the families involved and to ensure that there is further engagement by the relevant local authorities with Respond! regarding the future of the service.

Since the meeting on 3 November, I have received further correspondence from Respond! indicating that it plans to repurpose the Cuan Álainn facility should it cease providing its current service. Tusla will continue to support these and all families affected by domestic violence by providing appropriate community supports.

I am disappointed with the Minister's response. Those who work in the service with whom I have spoken were disappointed to be given notice to clear out the accommodation by 14 January. Where will Tusla continue providing such supports? I do not know what planet the Minister is living on to say that the families residing at the Cuan Álainn centre have "pressing housing needs" that local authorities are best placed to address. We have a housing crisis. Families are going into emergency accommodation at this very moment. The Minister's response was unbelievable.

The key role played by Cuan Álainn should have been recognised. Indeed, more centres should have been provided in other areas so that families coming from emergency accommodation could have been assessed. Such accommodation can be difficult as the families have young children and many of them are coming from violent backgrounds. They were able to go to Cuan Álainn, which supported them and provided psychiatric services. Pieta House provided supports and linked people with local authorities to try to get them housed. The referrals are coming from the HSE, the Garda and emergency services. Unlike what the Minister has claimed, it is not a midway service. It is important.

I am disappointed. I have tabled questions for Question Time with the Minister next week. I will try to find out more information and revert to him then. The centre only needs €300,000 to keep going. More centres should be put in place instead of services being withdrawn.

At our meeting, Respond! assured us that it would be committed to securing alternative accommodation for these families. The Deputy asked where Tusla would offer supports. It has supports available in Dublin South-Central and Dublin South-West. Many of these are community based and it has been confirmed to me that it will continue to provide those services and support victims of domestic violence.

The Dáil adjourned at 6.45 p.m. until 10 a.m. on Friday, 27 November 2015.