Topical Issue Debate

Family Resource Centres

I thank the Minister for attending to deal with this matter. I put down a number of questions to the Minister yesterday on related issues. In regard to a set of questions on contact centres, she stated:

My Department is committed to supporting and promoting the development, welfare and protection of children, and the effective functioning of families. We recognise that the dynamics of domestic violence and the safety needs of both children and non-abusing parents must be considered in making appropriate arrangements for children's contact with abusive parents in the case of family breakdown.

I wish to acknowledge the valuable work of the child contact centres which were set up under a pilot project operated by Barnardos and One Family ...

I understand that officials from my Department are shortly due to meet with officials from the Department of Justice and Equality to discuss the potential for establishing child contact centres on a national basis.

As I stated in correspondence with the Minister, this relates to a contact centre at Togher Family Centre, of which I am a voluntary board member, although I raise this as a public representative for the constituency. The family centre has for some time been operating a contact centre. There are very few such centres in Ireland and there is considerable desire, as noted in the Minister's parliamentary question response, to see this expanded upon and this was also referenced in the pre-budget submission of the National Women's Council of Ireland. It is important that, where such services are being provided, they are adequately funded.

Togher Family Centre began offering the service in 2012 and has gone from 76 hours of access then to 759 hours of access in 2016, and with 671 hours so far this year, it is likely to surpass that level of access. The need for this service is very clear. It has made an enormous contribution to families throughout Cork city and beyond, and has done so largely at the cost of the board and of the centre itself. While there is some staff funding from Tusla for cases of children in care, this will now be on a case-by-case basis, which is not sustainable, and there are other families who require the service.

I want to particularly dwell on that point. The Minister will be aware I have received correspondence from a number of practitioners in family law who are very concerned about the fact this service may no longer be available in regard to court referrals. Judge Con O'Leary, a prominent family law judge in Cork, who I believe has written to the Minister, is also concerned about this issue. The key point is that the service has been used productively and in a way that has been of great benefit to families who were referred following family law cases. The current situation is that funding is only available for Tusla referrals. Obviously, that may be the sharp end of the wedge but there is clearly a greater need. This excellent service can offer enormous support to families in trying to rebuild relationships, which is a core aim of what Tusla is about in terms of supporting families, and it can do so in a way that allows for supervised access in great comfort. I should add it is a beautiful facility. While I recognise there is funding for Tusla referrals, the lack of funding for court referrals is a problem and is an issue the Department should address.

As the Deputy is aware, Togher Family Centre is a voluntary, community-based project located in the heart of Deanrock estate, Togher, Cork city. The centre is located in a house which has been extended and modified to meet the highest standards of health and safety. I understand the project developed from a long-established, community-based pre-school facility. Togher Family Centre provides services and supports to families and individuals in the Togher area and beyond. These include: early years education, integrated support and early identification of need; family support services; family access services; adult education; and early intervention youth work.

The Togher Family Centre provides an excellent service in line with the principles of Tusla's partnership, participation and family support programme. It receives funding from my Department for its early years education under the ECCE scheme. Funding is also provided by my Department, through Cork ETB, for its early intervention youth work. I understand it also receives funding under the school meals programme. Tusla has advised me that it provides annual funding to the centre through the grants register mechanism. The core budget funding in 2017 was €144,060 and this amount has been supplemented recently by an additional amount of €26,000. Tusla has increased the centre's core budget for 2018 to €177,000, which is an increase of almost €33,000 over the core funding provided by Tusla to the centre in 2016 and 2017.

As one element of the services provided, the centre has developed an access centre, which provides a suitable access facility while mentoring parents and improving parenting practice. The access centre was set up in these new premises with funding from Tusla in 2016.

It prioritises services to its core group of users, those being, the children in care and their families, who are clients of the local south Lee social work department.

The family access programme provides a safe, neutral and child-focused setting for children to visit their non-custodial parents. All visits and exchanges take place under the supervision of trained staff. The Togher Family Centre can arrange for supervised access through referrals from the Child and Family Agency. Supported or fully supervised access is offered, depending on the needs of the particular family. I understand that the access centre has experienced considerable demand from the family law courts in recent times and has, where possible, provided supervised access for referrals from the courts, a matter to which the Deputy referred. However, it is important to reiterate that the core work of the centre is focused on referrals from Tusla and it is not always possible for the access centre to satisfy the increased demand from private law referrals.

I assure the Deputy that my Department is committed to supporting and promoting the development, welfare and protection of children and the effective functioning of families. We recognise that the dynamics of domestic violence and the safety needs of children and non-abusing parents must be considered in making appropriate and safe arrangements for children's contact with parents in the case of family breakdown.

I take this opportunity to advise the Deputy on the provision of child contact facilities generally, a matter that he referred to in terms of the pilot project developed by Barnardos and One Family, which operated a child contact centre from October 2011 to 2013. The pilot served families in private and public law proceedings and operated in three locations in Dublin. The evaluation of the pilot recommended that such centres be rolled out nationally. As to further action, officials from my Department are shortly due to meet officials from the Department of Justice and Equality to discuss the potential for establishing child contact centres on a national basis.

Under the Child Care Act 1991, as amended, the Child and Family Agency has a general duty to provide child care and family support services and may make such provision as it considers necessary or desirable under section 69. This is a perfect example of the type of body that would be considered a family support service.

In terms of child contact centres, the Minister stated that the pilots referred to, which were in the Dublin area, related to children in care and-or whose parents were separated. She stated, "The pilot served families in private and public law proceedings and operated in three locations in Dublin." I take it from this that some of the cases that the family centre dealt with following referrals from the Courts Service were the same kinds of case dealt with by the pilot schemes in Dublin. It appears that the evaluation of the pilots was favourable. Will the Minister confirm whether I am correct in saying that? In light of the positive evaluation and the fact that the Minister is looking to roll this out nationally, will she consider it in this context?

The court referrals part of the service will probably draw to a close before the end of the year because facilitating it will not be possible in the context of current funding. I understand that a request for funding has been made. Will the Minister consider it? Does she believe that the future of these child contact centres must involve a portion of court-referred cases as well as Tusla's directly referred cases? It is a core part.

I should emphasise that this is essentially a regional service. It does not just serve Cork city, but the whole of County Cork and beyond, because there are no other services of its kind in the region.

I was struck by the fact that one of the objects of the Togher Family Centre's mission is to deliver "exceptional Early Years and Youth Services where the voice of the child is encouraged, heard and respected". This undoubtedly underpinned the development of the access centre, which was innovative. Through Tusla, my Department supported its establishment and additional funding has been provided to it to support its excellent work.

Regarding moneys to support services for court referrals to the access centre, which is the specific issue that the Deputy has raised, my colleagues in the Department of Justice and Equality and I have an open mind about the positive aspects of the evaluation of the pilot projects. I acknowledge the excellent work being done in the community centre that the Deputy identified. Officials from my Department are meeting officials from the Department of Justice and Equality to discuss the potential for establishing these centres on a national basis. I must wait for recommendations stemming from that meeting or series of meetings before I can make any decision on the centre in question, but we have provided it with additional funding for 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Schools Building Projects Status

I acknowledge that the Minister for Education and Skills has attended to take this Topical Issue debate. As he knows, the case of Gaelscoil Chnoc Liamhna in Knocklyon in my constituency of Dublin South-West dates back more than 20 years. I was elected as a councillor in 1999. A few years later, the question of a permanent site and school became a live issue. Scandalously, the complex and tedious transfer of title - I was involved in that as a councillor - has taken close to 15 years to resolve. To put it in context, four chief executives of South Dublin County Council passed through office in that time.

It is important to state that the issue of title is not the Department's fault. Until recently, the Department was reasonably powerless to advance the project of a state-of-the-art school for the pupils of Gaelscoil Chnoc Liamhna. The complex work has been handled, though.

I invite the Minister to visit the existing school and see the conditions in which its pupils, teachers and ancillary staff are housed. It is a tribute and testament to the commitment and vocation of the school's teachers and other staff that education of the highest standard is offered at Gaelscoil Chnoc Liamhna. They have operated out of prefabs for 21 years. They have had to repair roofs and ceilings as a result of fungal infections. The school has 245 pupils and a toilet facility is shared between 60 of them. As the Minister will have heard in media reports, the water tank freezes in winter, which means that there are no proper bathroom facilities for children. Rain means that no physical education can take place.

In 2015, the Government stated that no school would have a prefab for more than two years. Given that a quarter of schools that were due for construction in 2015 are still waiting for work to begin or their projects to go to tender, will the Minister consider fast-tracking this school project as a matter of urgency? In the intervening 15 or 20 years, the building projects at every school within a few square miles of Gaelscoil Chnoc Liamhna have been completed or are under way. St. Colmcille's, the local community school, has been built and expanded. Sancta Maria College, a local post-primary school, got a brand new building in that time. St. Colmcille's junior and senior national schools, the largest primary school project in the country, were finished some years ago. Firhouse Educate Together got a new school building and the new building for Gaelscoil na Giúise, which arrived on the scene many years after Gaelscoil Chnoc Liamhna, is under construction.

Gaelcoláiste na Phiarsaigh, a post-primary school, has been facilitated locally also and the sod has recently turned at Kingswood community school. The Department is also looking out for a school for Firhouse Educate Together post-primary school and has advanced school projects in Citywest. Does the Minister agree that the almost unique circumstances surrounding the wait for the commencement of this building project, including design and planning, means the process of commencing the project for a new school should start immediately? Will he commit to prioritising the advancement of the school project to ensure that a school of 21st-century standards will be constructed as soon as possible and that the project commencement process will start as soon as he can make it happen?

I thank Deputy Lahart for raising this. He has more than eloquently outlined the history of Gaelscoil Chnoc Liamhna, which has been on the Department's six year programme. As he outlined, the Department has been working with South Dublin County Council to acquire the site on which it is currently located in temporary accommodation in order to facilitate the permanent building. Agreement in principle in respect of the proposed acquisition was reached in 2006 and a section 183 disposal to the Department of Education and Skills was approved by South Dublin County Council in February 2007. However, there were title issues with a small portion of the property which needed to be rectified by the council in order for the project to progress. Council officials endeavoured to rectify the title issues on this portion of land over a number of years in order to enable the disposal of the full site. In order to rectify the matter, the council proceeded with a compulsory purchase order process to allow the side acquisition to progress. The order was confirmed in May 2016 and a vesting order was subsequently made, with the land vesting in South Dublin County Council at the end of June 2017. The local authority was then in a position to commence the conveyancing process to convey the site to the Department. Draft contracts in respect of the transfer were received in September and my officials have been liaising with local authority officials with a view to advancing matters since then. While due diligence must apply in relation to the legal site transfer, the Department is not aware of any specific issues at this time which would impede the site acquisition.

It is intended to progress the project to architectural planning shortly, with a view to running the design stage in parallel with the completion of the conveyancing process. My Department is working to ensure that a new building for Gaelscoil Chnoc Liamhna is delivered as soon as possible. Running the design work in parallel will ensure there is no unnecessary delay from now on.

I welcome those initial comments and the Minister's confirmation that the project will proceed to architectural planning and design stage. Can he provide me with a date as to when the architectural design stage will begin or, if he cannot commit to one now, come back to me in writing? I would be very grateful if he could.

Does the Minister agree that it is unacceptable and continues to be a scandal that children are educated in substandard conditions? Does he agree that it is in the interests of justice that every effort is made to fast-track this? I ask if the Minister can commit now or in writing to finding a fast-track route for funding in particular given that some projects for which funding was committed have not even commenced the planning application stage. I assume the Minister's party colleague in the constituency and, indeed, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, have highlighted the importance of the project at party and Cabinet level. How long will it take to get from architectural planning and design stage to the submission of a planning application to South Dublin County Council?

I confirm that Deputies Colm Brophy and Katherine Zappone have been on to me about this project, the frustration around which I can understand. Its history has been very difficult. It is the Department's intention to initiate architectural planning for the building project in conjunction with the completion of the site acquisition process. That suggests no undue delay will occur. I presume there will be some procedural steps to select a team. I will seek clarification in writing for the Deputy as to exactly what the next steps will be.

There is a recognition that we want to move this project along in light of the history and the need in the local area. I will let the Deputy know if there is any additional clarification. I make the point that one can never anticipate in advance if a particular project will be prioritised and completed by a certain date as one does not know what site conditions will be or what planning conditions will be attached. All of these issues may arise which means one can never stand up and say it will be done by a certain date because something will jump out of the ground to prove one wrong. From the Department's point of view, however, this is a priority and we will do our level best to ensure that it runs smoothly from this point on.

Is the Minister taking the Topical Issue directed to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Paschal Donohoe?

It is pass the Paschal.

Community Employment Schemes Administration

Of the nine Members who tabled the matter, only six are in the Chamber. I will allow each of the six Members in the Chamber two minutes for each initial contribution, four minutes to the Minister to reply and one minute each for a supplementary question.

I thank the Acting Chairman and the Office of the Ceann Comhairle for giving us permission to raise this matter. It is a cross-party group and one which might not come together on many other subjects. It is appropriate that the Minister for Education and Skills is taking the matter because he will have good knowledge of it also. It is about valuing the work of community employment schemes, as we all do in the House.

Community employment schemes do superb work the length and breath of this country but they are absolutely dependent on the quality of their supervisors for the skills imparted to participants and the benefit for the community through the sponsor. For many years, supervisors have been left in abeyance in relation to their pension entitlements. In 2008, the Labour Court decided that supervisors should have received pension entitlements and FÁS put aside €10 million to put a pension scheme in place. Since then, however, nothing has happened and supervisors, many of whom have retired, are getting incredibly frustrated and feel completely abandoned by the system. They are being abused in terms of their relationship with the local community which is being exploited by forces unknown which know they will not walk out on their local communities. Their commitment to their schemes, which goes way beyond normal employment hours, is phenomenal but it is not being recognised.

I understand that there is a meeting next week of the high-level forum. I also understand that former Deputy, Jack Wall, designed a pathway to a resolution for this, although Deputy Penrose might know more about that. Why have we not proceeded with that pathway and why have we not shown these individuals the respect that we all have for them? Why does the State not show them the respect of rewarding their lifetime effort with a decent pension and a recognition of the benefit they have given to many generations, in some cases, of participants and to their local communities? This is why the cross-party group has come together. There are many other Deputies who would like to be associated with this. The Minister and Deputies Gallagher, McConalogue and Scanlon approached me today. We could have got 159 Deputies to come in behind this. We need it resolved and we want an update from the Minister this evening about next week's meeting.

I thank all colleagues who have come together today to support this very important topical issue. Critical to the success of community employment schemes nationally are the 1,250 supervisors who manage local projects on a day-to-day basis. These supervisors mentor, identify and source relevant training for participants and encourage progression to the workplace. Their work in all communities cannot be underestimated.

Unions representing community employment supervisors took a case to the Labour Court ten years ago seeking the provision of a pension scheme. The Labour Court recommended that an agreed pension scheme should be introduced. Not surprisingly, the workers concerned had a reasonable expectation that a pension scheme would be in place by now. Almost 250 supervisors have since retired with no pension provided. This year, between 30 and 40 supervisors will retire, again with no pension provision in place. After the decision was made, an initial capital sum of €10 million was identified to establish a pension scheme covering the period 2009 to 2011.

With the economic crash hitting Ireland at the time, the capital sum was then used to address other issues. While Ireland's economic fortunes have greatly improved, the community employment, CE, supervisors recognised the ongoing constraints relating to the country's fiscal position. In this context, they are open to making a contribution to their pensions, despite the fact that the original understanding was the pensions would be provided on a non-contributory basis.

I commend all the Teachtaí Dála whose names are associated with this matter and the many others who did not have the opportunity to contribute but who support the thrust of the debate.

I have met many CE supervisors and assistant supervisors in Waterford on a number of occasions over the years. I also met a national group of supervisors that has been campaigning for justice in this area for years. I imagine the Minister has met that group or is at least aware of its concerns and, therefore, of the background to this matter. He will also be aware that the Labour Court made a recommendation on this issue on 1 May 2008 and the supervisors and assistant supervisors want it implemented. I do not believe that is unreasonable. The supervisors and assistant supervisors have a clear pay link with managers, instructors and administrative staff in community training workshops and they are seeking a defined pension scheme similar to that which applies to these grades. What happened to them was a double injustice. It was complicated by the fact that in December 2007, the Public Service Benchmarking Body did not grant a pay increase to the majority of public servants because of the value it placed on public sector pensions. These supervisors and assistant supervisors received no pay increases at the time, even though they were not in receipt of pensions. They did not receive pay increases on the basis of the assumption that they were in receipt of pensions, which was not the case.

The unions accepted that while FÁS was not the direct employer of supervisors and assistant supervisors on CE schemes, because it was the funding agency, they had a claim for a defined benefit scheme. The Labour Court agreed and my simple message to the Minister and the Government is to please implement the Labour Court recommendation, accept the logic and justice of this position and do what is right for these people.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving us the opportunity to discuss this matter and I thank Deputy Calleary for organising the debate. I have been involved with a CE scheme since 1988. I recall meeting Mr. Ruairí Quinn, the then Minister for Labour in 1990. There are huge issues with these schemes and I have called for decades for an audit to be done as to their value. As Deputies Calleary, Butler and Cullinane said, the schemes are no good unless they have good, competent supervisors. His or her role has changed fundamentally in the past 30 years. It bears no relation to what it used to be. There are numerous health and safety and other regulations and they have many agencies to deal with. They first have to deal with the voluntary board of directors whom I must salute as well for doing good work. They then have to deal with all the constituency organisations. My local scheme looks after Ballymacarbry, which is in Deputy Butler's constituency, as well as Newcastle and Ballybacon. Everything from graveyards to schools to GAA fields, community alert schemes, home care, a naíonra and a child care facility is looked after in these three parishes and communities. I could go on forever.

The supervisor is pulled and dragged every day by this, that and the other, apart from the all the agencies and regulations he or she has to deal with. I respect that this has to be done and that every penny must be accounted for. However, they have been abandoned. Many schemes have been amalgamated and supervisors have lost their jobs but they do not have any pensions. We need to recognise their work and salute them because they are filling in for the county council and the HSE as regards visiting the elderly, providing home help and so on. They are the real champions and 99.9 % of them do a tremendous job. Any of them who do not are weeded out.

These people are being abused and misused by the State. They are entitled to some recognition for the valuable service they provide. The most important job they have, especially in these times when there are such mental health issues, is to look after the well-being of all participants on their schemes - and sometimes their families - to ensure that they are in a safe environment where there is no bullying or racism, that the regulations are observed and that the everyday human issues they face are dealt with. Many of them, including our local supervisor, do this diligently. We need to recognise this and not hide behind red tape any more.

I am glad to have an opportunity to contribute to this important debate on the plight of CE supervisors and assistant supervisors who have, notwithstanding the 2008 Labour Court hearing, been denied the import of the recommendation made, which was that an agreed pension scheme would be introduced for them and would be funded by FÁS, the recognised funding agency at the time. I recall meeting supervisors and assistant supervisors from the midland counties and their trade union representative in Rochfortbridge, County Westmeath, two and a half years ago. They were disappointed, angry and annoyed about the failure of the State to engage in a constructive manner in respect of the Labour Court recommendation. The court is an essential part of our industrial relations resolution machinery and they were disappointed, disenchanted and irate that they were being left in the lurch.

We are all aware of the importance of CE schemes through the country and the role they play in environmental enhancement and refurbishment in towns and villages. We have all witnessed, as I did in my own village of Ballynacargy, the annual increase in points in the Tidy Towns competition. Much of this arises from the contribution of Tidy Towns associations and the participants in CE schemes who take great pride in their work. CE schemes act as a stepping stone to regular work for some. There are 25,000 participants on schemes currently working with crèches, community halls, GAA and soccer clubs, Meals on Wheels schemes, Tidy Towns association and looking after the maintenance of green areas, as Deputy McGrath said. Critical to the success of the operation of CE are the 1,250 supervisors and assistant supervisors who manage the local projects on a daily basis and ensure the objectives of each scheme are achieved. This involves a plethora of bookkeeping, record-keeping and general management expertise. Since 2008, more than 250 supervisors have retired and, notwithstanding their expectation, no pension scheme or gratuity was provided. The Department is not looking to a create a precedent and a scoping exercise is being explored to see what can be provided but the community sector high-level forum, which was established in 2015 on foot of a recommendation by Mr. Kieran Mulvey, has been an abysmal failure. I understand the most recent meeting on 7 April 2017 broke up in disagreement because it is the equivalent of having talks about talks instead of confronting the issue head on and achieving a just and fair resolution for the supervisors and assistant supervisors. They will all be retired and they will get nothing until they qualify for the old age pension.

We should acknowledge that Deputies Curran, Fleming and Bríd Smith were on the clár.

It is unfortunate that the Minister for Finance is not present, particularly in light of the level of interest among Members in this topic. It is unusual that no Minister from the Department of Finance is present and that is regrettable.

We are all too well aware of the important twofold role CE plays in supporting people, mainly from disadvantaged areas, to get back into the workforce through providing education and training opportunities and getting them to a point where they are work ready and in providing critical community facilities and services for people - whether they relate to the environment, child care or the elderly - that would not be provided otherwise if CE was not in place. The role of the CE supervisor is critical to the success of all those efforts. It is a challenging and responsible job and we should respect those who do that work.

Almost ten years ago, the Labour Court made a clear ruling that these people needed to be treated fairly and have pension provisions made for them in view of the responsible work they do. Subsequently, we had the economic crash and the extraordinary flexibility shown by unions and CE supervisors was exceptionally generous. They recognised that circumstances had changed and there was a need to pull back on that in spite of the fact they had an open-and-shut case, funding had been set aside and a full scoping exercise had been carried out by FÁS. We need a commitment from the Minister, on behalf of the Minister for Finance, regarding the full implementation of the then year old Labour Court ruling. That is why we are here. It is now time to deliver on that undertaking that was made almost ten years ago.

I thank the Deputies for raising this matter. This is unusual in that I am not sure I have before seen such a consensus across a number of Members of the House on a Topical Issue. I apologise on behalf of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, who is unavoidably unable to be here, but I think people recognise that he is dealing with particular issues of significant urgency at the moment. I am, therefore, taking this matter on his behalf.

I have seen throughout my fairly lengthy political career the benefit of the role of the community employment, CE, scheme. It has been a huge support for many communities at a time when neither the State nor the commercial sector could fulfil certain needs. It has also been a great opportunity for progression for many of those who participated. It gave them a chance to do useful work as well as access to training and skills. I, therefore, acknowledge the combined support of the House for the work it does.

The position is that, following a meeting with the trade unions SIPTU and IMPACT in late 2015, the community sector high level forum, which had ceased operation some years earlier, was reconvened by the then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, in order to fully examine certain issues pertaining to the community employment sector, having regard to the consequences for costs and precedent. The community sector high level forum is chaired at assistant secretary level by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The membership also includes a number of other Departments, namely, the Departments of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Health, Education and Skills and Housing, Planning and Local Government, as well as the agency Pobal and IMPACT and SIPTU, the two unions which represent the community employment scheme supervisors and assistant supervisors.

An issue which has been under discussion by the forum relates to community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors who have been seeking, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme. This Labour Court recommendation was issued on 22 July 2008 following a hearing on 11 July 2008 in relation to a claim on behalf of community employment scheme supervisors and assistant supervisors, as supported by their unions. FÁS, the then funder of the community employment schemes, was not a party to the Labour Court hearing on the matter.

At the most recent forum meeting in April of this year, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform outlined its intention to conduct a detailed scoping exercise in order to comprehensively examine and assess the full potential implications of the issues under consideration. In considering the particular matter referred to, regard must be had to the costs and precedent of such an arrangement, were one to be created. This exercise is currently being progressed and will be completed shortly. The next meeting of the high level forum is on 2 November and the results of the scoping exercise will be made available to all members of the forum on that date.

It continues to be the position that State organisations are not the employer of the particular employees concerned and that it is not possible for the State to provide funding for such a scheme. The employees in question are, or were, employees of private companies, notwithstanding the fact that the companies concerned are, or were, reliant on State funding. In considering the matter, regard must be had to costs and the precedent of such an arrangement, were one to be created, given that the individuals employed in that sector are not employed by the State, even if many of the services they provide are funded by the State.

That is an enormously frustrating response as it is the same response we have been getting for two years now. One, therefore, gets the impression from the response that the forum established by the former Minister, Deputy Howlin, has not achieved anything. Deputies have mentioned supervisors who have since retired. The first person to raise this issue with me has passed away - I am sure there are many others - and his family has been left without the benefit of a pension.

This weekend last year, the Tánaiste made a statement on a Labour Court recommendation relating to the Garda and referred to "the Government's long-standing respect for the rulings of the Labour Court as the independent industrial relations body of last resort in the State". That is how she defined the Labour Court and its rulings, and properly so, yet, on this occasion, the Government is ignoring the findings of the Labour Court - the independent industrial relations body of last resort of the State. A pathway on how to avoid relativity issues and other issues the Minister has mentioned was laid out but it seems it is being ignored. If we have to come back again on a cross-party basis, we will, but I ask the Minister to communicate to the Minister for Finance and the forum the cross-party support within Dáil Éireann for this case.

I, too, am extremely disappointed with the answer. The CE supervisors have experienced incredible frustration with the extreme slowness in resolving this situation. They have been extremely frustrated with the time taken to get the high level forum up and running. I understand that the forum met only four times since it was established in 2015. As the Minister is aware, another meeting of the forum will be held on 2 November. It is essential that a clear pathway is identified to finally recognise the Labour Court's recommendation that an agreed pension scheme, which would be funded by the recognised funding agency, should be introduced for the supervisors and assistant supervisors. It is ironic that the Government, which on numerous occasions has laid great store in the need for unions to accept and adhere to Labour Court recommendations, is itself refusing to commit to implementing this particular recommendation.

The last part of the Minister's response sums up the problem. This does not relate to CE workers alone, although these supervisors are at the heart of this particular Topical Issue. We are increasingly seeing an outsourcing of State work to private companies. These are almost fully grant-supported by the State, yet the terms and conditions of employment for those who work in the companies are different from those of public sector workers. They also do not have the requisite pension entitlements. This is unfair on those workers and they are being penalised. I, too, am concerned about what I am hearing with regard to the high level forum and what might come back from it. The response is pretty much the same to that of the past two and a half years. This response is teeing up a response that there is nothing which can be done as it would create a precedent and the organisations and the State cannot afford to cover the costs. That is the writing on the wall. It is deeply cynical and disappointing. We will await the report but we will be back. The Labour Court recommendation should be implemented in full.

I, too, compliment Deputy Breathnach on being involved in the mid-Louth Leader programme as well as our Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher, who is also involved. Any one of us who is worth our salt in the community have been impressed by the CE schemes. However, it is a poor relation and is considered cheap labour for the Government. These supervisors need to be supported. Some 250 members have retired since 2010 and many have died, with their families left without any semblance of a pension in recognition of their work. I am not asking but demanding that the Minister for Finance sit up and pay heed to the Labour Court, which has made the decision that they must be supported in some way.

Turas Nua, a private company, is one of the new groups tormenting people and driving them to all kinds of distraction. CE organisations nurture them and look after their bodily and mental well-being and look after the communities. Tidy Towns committees and others are of the people, from the people and by the people. They are the very essence of Ireland. Take them out and Ireland will stop because they are running so many institutions, including GAA fields and soccer pitches. They are involved in sport for health and provide all kinds of assistance to people. They are at the front line. Please acknowledge it and do not have us back here on an all-party basis. We will come back on an all-party basis and keep at it until we get due recognition for our excellent team of supervisors.

It is grossly unfair that those people will be reduced from earning a living to being dependent on social welfare and the old age pension. I have no doubt that, if the Government side engaged constructively with the trade unions, SIPTU and IMPACT, it would find willing partners who would work might and main to get a reasonable resolution that takes cognisance of the issue involved and, in particular, the country's ongoing tight fiscal situation.

The Deputy is right that there was a pathway towards dealing with the issue in terms of gratuities, etc., which would be paid, but it would recognise that a precedent would not be set. Let us have a formal commitment to set about implementing the Labour Court recommendation of 2008 and demonstrate that the Government respects the ruling of the Labour Court as the independent industrial relations body of last resort of the State. These supervisors have waited patiently for justice on the issue for the past nine years and we should allow them have it. Let us stop hiding behind the fig leaf that they are not employed by the State. In some local authorities, some CE supervisors did get pensions. Local authorities were in a position to provide them where they were engaged with the local authority. Therefore, let us stop this nonsense and get to the root of the problem. Former Deputy Jack Wall had a pathway to work with Jack O'Connor then. Let us implement that and it would solve the problem.

The Minister's response is extremely disappointing. It represents a very significant departure from standard practice where the Government accepts and adheres to a recommendation of the Labour Court. The Minister is welshing on an earlier agreement. That is the only way to describe it. The principles involved in this were accepted and established in 2008. Bringing in the question of these people not being direct State employees is really a distraction. The ruling was in respect of FÁS needing to provide the funding necessary for the pensions, the successor organisation to FÁS is SOLAS and it should be doing it. The high level forum is not working. It is seen as merely a talking shop and a way of putting this issue on the long finger. We need solutions, not excuses, and a commitment from the Government to honour the agreement that was reached ten years ago.

In the absence of Deputy Fleming, Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher had asked to say a couple of words.

I fully understand and I am not going to create a precedent although I would like to get in. As Deputies Calleary and McGrath said, I am very involved with the schemes in Donegal, as is Deputy McConalogue. I fully support my colleagues.

SOLAS is not the successor to FÁS in respect of community employment schemes. The successor for those schemes is the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. SOLAS received the training element when FÁS was broken up and the other element went elsewhere.

I will certainly convey to the Minister the strength of people's concerns about this. I do not think it is fair to portray it as welshing on an agreement because, as I understand it, FÁS was not at the Labour Court. The procedure used in the Labour Court was that a party went to be bound itself but the other party, FÁS, did not consent to the taking of the issue to the Labour Court for a determination.

It made the funding available.

It was not the normal Labour Court hearing where people went in together and looked for an adjudication. That said, there is a recognition and an effort by the Department to put together a detailed scoping exercise. There is a commitment that this will be presented on 2 November, which is only a matter of days away. I will convey to the Minister the concerns of the Members who have spoken, which I am sure are shared by many others. Everyone recognises that this is a tricky area. It is not the State providing a service in the normal way.

It is cheap labour.

It is an unusual circumstance that has created difficulty over a considerable period. That difficulty has been recognised by many parties that have been in government over the period. It is not just some particular quirk of the Minister of the day. This has created difficulties for all the Ministers for Finance over the intervening period. It is a tricky issue but I will convey to the Minister the Deputies' concerns.

Sitting suspended at 6.25 p.m. and resumed at 7.05 p.m.