Childcare Support Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages

Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, and 14 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

“ “Act of 1991” means the Child Care Act 1991;”.

Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, are technical drafting amendments which are required as a result of amendment No. 14 which seeks to amend the Child Care Act 1991 to enable the regulation of school-age childcare services. As a result of amendment No. 14, there will be more than one reference in the Bill to the Child Care Act 1991. Therefore, amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are needed to the interpretations in section 1 of the Bill. Amendment No. 3 is required to ensure clarity on the meaning of "school". The amendment specifies that, for the purposes of the Bill, "school" has the same meaning as it has in the Education Act 1998. This is of particular relevance in the context of amendment No. 14, which amends the definition of school-age service in the Child Care Act 1991 in order that it refers to "school" rather than "a recognised school". The Education Act 1998 states "school" includes both primary education and post-primary education. It is broader than the term "recognised school" as it includes schools which do not receive State funding. This is important as it is intended that the affordable childcare scheme should be available on the same equitable basis to school-age children in registered childcare settings, regardless of whether they attend a recognised school. Equally, it is not intended that certain school-age childcare services will be exempt from registration simply because they are providing services for children enrolled in a school that is not a recognised school, as this would not be in the best interests of children.

Amendment No. 14 provides for a number of related amendments to the Child Care Act 1991. The amendments result from my decision to introduce the regulation of school-age childcare in advance of commencing the affordable childcare scheme. This will allow school-age childcare providers to take part in the affordable childcare scheme while providing for quality assurance of all providers who take part in the scheme. The amendments address a small number of anomalies in the 1991 Act in respect of school-age childcare. With the regulation of school-age childcare to be introduced shortly, several amendments are required to ensure the legislation underpinning the new regulations will be clear and robust. The amendments will provide for three sets of changes to section 58 of the Child Care Act 1991.

First, the current definition of "school-age service" in section 58 of the 1991 Act refers to children enrolled in a primary school, whereas the affordable childcare scheme will provide subsidies for children up to the age of 15 years. Accordingly, the amendments extend the definition to refer to both primary and post-primary education and include services provided for children up to the age of 15 years. The amendment also broadens the scope of regulation and funding of school-age childcare to services that cater for children under 15 years who are enrolled in any school providing primary or post-primary education, not just recognised schools.

Second, the amendments clarify the overarching purpose of school-age childcare and, while quality school-age childcare should provide a range of activities that are developmental, educational and recreational, their primary purpose is to care for children where their parents are unavailable. It is not and never was intended that the definition should include either school completion services or services that solely provide activities related to religious teaching such as Sunday schools. Accordingly, it is proposed to amend the definition of school-age service in section 58(a) of the 1991 Act to explicitly specify the primary purpose of school-age services and exclude services solely focused on religious teaching.

Third, amendments are needed to the exemptions from the regulation set out in section 58(c) of the 1991 Act. Section 58(c) exempts childminders from registration if they care for three or fewer children. This provision is interpreted by Tusla as referring to preschool children only.

Once registration of school-age services commences, it will mean that all childminders caring for more than three children, whether preschool or school age, will be required to register. Unless section 58L, as amended, is amended the regulation of school-age childcare will bring a large number of childminders within the scope of regulation, including, for example, a childminder who cares for three preschool children and just one school-age child. While it is my intention to move progressively towards the wider regulation of childminding, we are still at an early stage in this process. It is not my intention, in bringing school-age childcare into the scope of regulation, to also require the regulation of childminders. Indeed, I am conscious that there may be negative, unintended consequences if we were to require the regulation of childminders before strong supports and a proper pathway have been put in place. That said, the exemption must specify a limit in terms of the number of children. Childminders caring for a large number of school-age children are, in effect, school-age services, even if operating within a childminder's home. I therefore propose to amend the 1991 Act so that it exempts childminders who care for no more than six children at any one time, of which no more than three can be preschool children. Childminders who care for seven or more children of any age, or those who care for four or more preschool children, will then be required to register.

In the medium term I plan to move progressively towards the wider regulation of childminding, and I will be developing supports for this purpose, having regard to the expert group report on childminding that was submitted to me in January. In addition, the amendment I am proposing today will allow registered childminders to remain registered in situations where a change in the number of children they care for or the transition of one of more children from preschool to school would suddenly and arbitrarily exclude them from registration. If we fail to provide for this amendment anomalies may arise where childminders, through no fault of their own, finds themselves deregistered. It could happen, for example, if a child leaves a childminder, causing the number of children to fall from seven to six. In such a case, as registration is a requirement for participation in the affordable childcare scheme, the loss of registration would cause the ending of subsidies under the scheme for all children in the care of that childminder. We do not want that to happen.

The amendments I am proposing to section 58L, as amended, of the 1991 Act therefore allow childminders who have been continuously registered for at least a year to remain registered, even if they no longer meet the minimum requirements in terms of numbers of children, provided they wish to remain registered and that they continue to meet regulatory requirements.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 5, line 25, to delete “Child Care Act 1991” and substitute “Act of 1991”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 6, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

“ “school” has the same meaning as it has in the Education Act 1998;”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 4 and 11 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 6, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following:

“(2) In this Act any reference to a partner of a person shall apply only if the person is a member of a couple.”.

Amendments Nos. 4 and 11 respond to a concern raised by Deputy Rabbitte on Committee Stage on provisions for lone parents. Amendment No. 4 provides clarity throughout the Bill that any reference to a partner in the Bill does not apply if the applicant is a lone parent. While it was always the intention that one-parent families would benefit fully from the scheme - and there is no flaw in the Bill - this amendment removes any risk of misinterpretation. The amendment therefore provides assurance that one-parent families are recognised and reflected in the legislation.

Amendment No. 11 provides for up to 40 hours of financial support each week, at a maximum, to be paid on a temporary basis during transitions into or between periods of work and study. This amendment addresses the scenario to which Deputy Rabbitte referred on Committee Stage of a lone parent who is temporarily out of work following the completion of a training course and prior to commencing employment. Such a person may be out of work for only a short period of time. However, a temporary drop in child care support from 40 to 15 hours per week could disrupt the stability of child care arrangements, which might make it harder for the lone parent to return quickly to the labour market, as the Deputy has ably argued. In such a case, a strict application of the link between hours of subsidy and participation in work or study could potentially have negative effects on both child outcomes and labour market participation. The amendment I am proposing would avoid this consequence by allowing for the continuation of the maximum hours of subsidy on a temporary basis.

The amendment refers to the commencement, interruption or cessation of work or study. Regarding commencement, the amendment would, for example, allow the maximum hours of child care subsidy to be awarded to a parent who had been offered a job or a place on an education or training course and who wanted to help his or her child to settle into a new child care setting in advance of commencing the new job or the new education or training course. In relation to interruption, the amendment would allow maximum hours to continue, and a child to continue in his or her child care setting, for a limited period of time if a parent has to step back from his or her work or study temporarily. Regarding cessation, this amendment would allow the maximum hours of subsidy to continue after completion of an education or training course or the ending of a period of employment to provide stability in child care arrangements for a person who takes up another employment within a short period of time. This approach will allow the scheme to support parents during all critical bridging periods, when they are entering or moving between employment or educational opportunities, including the particular scenario outlined by Deputy Rabbitte on Committee Stage.

I would like to emphasise that, as the proposed amendment would allow enhanced hours subsidies while parents are temporarily transitioning into or between different jobs or education and training courses, it should not undermine the basic labour market incentives that are built into the scheme. Rather, it should in fact further reinforce and bolster them. More broadly, I can reassure Deputies that the affordable childcare scheme will provide a high level of support for one-parent families. First, the scheme will be open to separated parents to make separate, parallel applications for support. Second, because the average income level in one-parent families is lower than in two-parent families, one-parent families will on average be awarded higher subsidy rates under the scheme. Third, while the maximum hours of subsidy each week will only be awarded to a one-parent family if the parent is taking part in work or study or transitioning into or between periods of work or study, maximum hours will only be awarded to a two-parent family if both parents are taking part in work or study. One-parent families will therefore not be placed at any disadvantage.

I would like to thank Deputy Rabbitte for raising this important issue. By taking it on board via the present proposed amendment I am confident that we are strengthening the affordable childcare scheme and its supporting legislation.

I thank the Minister for taking on board what was discussed on Committee Stage. I also thank my colleagues from Sinn Féin who supported the discussion throughout Committee Stage. The Minister has understood where I was coming from on this issue, as has the Department. A large number of representations were made by lone parent families to me regarding that particular amendment. It is greatly appreciated. The Minister has addressed us in great depth tonight as to how the amendment will support the transition periods and bridge the gap between education or training and re-entry into the workforce. In a two-parent family there is always one parent who can provide support, but in a lone parent family one parent has to do 100% of everything all of the time.

It would be regressive to think that we had educated or retrained people, given them the second chance or even got them back into the workforce, when all of a sudden on finishing their training they would be back to 15 hours, without flexibility. As such, I welcome this and I will totally support it. Again I thank the Minister, her Department and my colleagues for getting this over the line. I was very passionate about it. I felt very strongly about bridging the gap and looking at this in a timely manner and supporting families that really need it. I welcome this.

Again, I thank Deputy Rabbitte for raising it and my Sinn Féin colleagues for supporting it. I know that everyone brought that interest and concern for lone parents to this discussion. There were areas where the Bill could be improved on in that regard, and that is what this amendment addresses "to be sure to be sure", to bridge the gap, as Deputy Rabbitte said. It is a great privilege to be able to ensure that the law does that. As Deputy Rabbitte mentioned, I acknowledge the hard work of my officials in wanting to find the most creative and effective ways to ensure that the law, particularly through these amendments, will respond to the concerns of lone parents. That is, of course, such a huge part of the Bill, certainly where my own vision is concerned. In putting in place an affordable child care scheme, I am keen to ensure that it is as affordable as possible for people from different income categories as well as being there to support parenting of different forms.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 7, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

“(5) The scheme shall operate on a 52 week basis, such that listed weekly subsidies shall reflect the value of one fifty-second of the overall annual subsidy that is payable.”.

The Minister is nodding and knows exactly where I am coming from on this. As opposed to the current 48-week outline, the subsidy would be outlined on a 52-week basis. This issue was brought to my attention by several child care providers. They identified it in the Bill and requested that, working with the Minister's Department, we amend the Bill to acknowledge the 52 weeks.

Again I appreciate the concerns that are expressed by Deputy Rabbitte. It is really important that we have the opportunity to clarify this. The Bill, as published, sets no limit to the number of weeks of child care support per year. I can assure Deputies that regulations to be made under the Bill will provide for payment of child care support for up to 52 weeks per year.

The policy paper published in October 2016 proposed limiting subsidies under the scheme to 48 weeks per year. However, on foot of feedback received during consultation on the policy paper, the policy position was reviewed. The heads of Bill and general scheme published in January 2017 subsequently proposed paying subsidies up to 52 weeks per year. That remains Government policy. I, therefore, do not believe there is a need for an amendment that states the scheme will operate on a 52-week basis.

Furthermore, it would not be appropriate for weekly subsidies simply to be determined by dividing the level of annual subsidy by 52, for two reasons. Firstly, a child who is at school or taking part in the early childhood care and education, ECCE, scheme may need more hours of child care each week during holiday periods than during term time. To ensure that subsidies during holiday periods are adequate, it will be important that the level of weekly subsidy differs between holiday periods and term times. Secondly, a child care provider may choose to offer child care only during term time periods, and some parents may only want child care during term times. As such, dividing annual subsidies into 52 parts and paying one part each week, which is outlined in the Deputy's amendment, would unfairly limit the amount of subsidy paid in such cases. For these reasons, I am not accepting the amendment.

In the amendment I sought reassurance for child care providers. While I accept what the Minister said, that it was part of the policy review, they seek reassurance that they have guaranteed income for 52 weeks. In other words, any provider that has signed up to the various subsidies will have that income to count on. When they are preparing their budget, it will not vary much. That is the concern of the child care providers, which I am trying to echo on their behalf. We can talk about flexibility within the scope of the Bill, but the payment is key. Pobal makes the payments on a week-by-week basis. In the beginning, the affordable child care scheme was administered on the basis of half days, partial days, etc.

While I accept what the Minister said, I am still not convinced that the 52 weeks are captured in this provision. While there is flexibility, it is not borne out, to be quite honest. I am trying to ensure that a child care provider can prepare its budgets week in, week out, and can depend on income from Pobal for 52 weeks.

I understand exactly what Deputy Rabbitte is raising and I thank her for doing that on behalf of the providers. I can say to her and to the providers that the Bill does not set a limit to the number of weeks of child care support. The regulations that will be made under the Bill will provide for payment of child care support for up to 52 weeks per year. Deputy Rabbitte's amendment seeks to ensure that the payment operates on a 52 week basis. It can do so, if that is what is desirable for an individual provider and family. However, if it is not desirable in the individual context, it can be done in another way, rather than nailing down a 52 week basis for payments. If we did that in the Bill, there would be unintended consequences. Instead, the Bill does not limit the number of weeks of child care support per year, and the regulations will provide that payment can be made up to 52 weeks per year.

I thank the Minister for clarifying that issue for me. If a child care provider wishes to have payment made 52 weeks per year, it can have this. However, if there is another way of doing business, which will be best advised by Pobal, which is a part of that conversation, that is its choice. There is the option for payments to be made over a 52 week period if the provider so desires. Am I hearing the Minister correctly?

Yes, that is correct. Obviously the arrangement will be made in consultation with the families.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 9, line 11, after “parent” to insert “or guardian”.

This is the simplest amendment of the night, to be honest. I see the need to have the words "or guardian" inserted for the simple reason that it is not always a parent who is looking after a child.

It could be a guardian, whether the child is in care or otherwise. A guardian could be an aunt, an uncle or a grandparent. In amendment No. 6 I am seeking the inclusion of the words "or guardian" after "parent".

I support the Deputy's objective. I can confirm that the definition of "parent" in section 1 of the Bill, as amended, states that, for the purposes of the scheme, "parent" includes a person acting in loco parentis. As a guardian is acting in loco parentis, any reference in the Bill to "parent" must, therefore, be understood to include a guardian. As the amendment proposed is already provided for in the Bill, I am not accepting it. I thank the Deputy, however, for raising this important issue in respect of guardians.

I thank the Minister for clarifying the matter. On the basis of her clarification, I will withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 10, line 20, to delete "section," and substitute "section.".

Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 follow legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General. They relate to an amendment passed on Committee Stage that introduced an explicit reference to the participation of registered childminders in the affordable childcare scheme in section 8 of the Bill. The intention of the Committee Stage amendment to section 8, to allow for the participation of registered childminders, is one that I fully endorse. I assure Deputies that registered childminders will be part of the affordable child care scheme. The reason I argued against the amendment on Committee Stage was that the Bill already provided for the participation of registered childminders.

Section 1 of the Bill defines "childcare services provider". This definition encompasses any provider who is on the register of providers under section 58(c) of the Child Care Act 1991, which is the register maintained by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

Section 8 requires that, in order to be part of the scheme, a child care services provider must sign a contract with the Minister. Therefore, any childminder who is registered with Tusla and has signed a contract with the Minister may take part in the scheme. I understand the intention of the Committee Stage amendment was to make the inclusion of registered childminders more explicit, but I have received legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General that any such amendment may reduce the clarity of the Bill or even undermine the inclusion of childminders.

First, as worded, section 8(2)(i) which contains the amendment made on Committee Stage describes what may be included within a contract rather than determining who is eligible to sign a contract. Second, none of the terms "Tusla-registered", "centre-based" or "childminding" is defined in statute and, as such, they have no legal status. Third, the Parliamentary Counsel has explored the possibility of changing the position of the clause and the formulation of words. However, the Parliamentary Counsel has advised that any statement in section 8 that specifies the inclusion of childminders within the term "childcare services provider" risks implying that references to "childcare services provider" in other parts of the Bill where there is no explicit reference to childminders may be interpreted not to include childminders. I acknowledge that the intention of Deputies Kathleen Funchion and Denise Mitchell in introducing the amendment on Committee Stage was to ensure registered childminders could be part of the scheme. I fully support them in that intention. For that reason, I must take care to avoid language in the Bill that unintentionally creates any uncertainty about whether registered childminders can be part of the scheme. I am sure the Deputies will share my concern in that regard.

Following on from the advice of the Parliamentary Counsel, the best way to ensure the inclusion of registered childminders is to define child care services providers in section 1 of the Bill in such a way that the definition includes registered childminders. That has already been done. At the same time, I stress that I will ensure public communications on the affordable child care scheme are clear on the fact that the scheme does include registered childminders. That is really important. I fully support the intention of Deputies Kathleen Funchion and Denise Mitchell and the other committee members who voted in favour of their amendment. However, in the light of the legal advice, I propose the deletion of section 8(2)(i).

We met officials in the Minister's office and went through the detail. We have been assured that the definition does include registered childminder services. Therefore, we are happy enough with the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 10, to delete line 21.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 11, line 24, to delete "training provider" and substitute "education or training provider".

This is a minor technical drafting amendment. Section 9 specifies the process by which parents may apply for financial support under the scheme and the details they must provide. One such detail is the name and address of the parent's employer or education and training provider, as appropriate. In order to allow verification of this information, the Bill requires applicants to authorise the scheme administrator to contact their employers or course providers to confirm the information provided on the application form. However, the word "education" which is included in the reference to an employer or education and training provider in section 10 and section 9(3) is accidentally omitted from section 9(4). The amendment simply rectifies that omission to ensure consistency throughout the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 10 has been ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 10 not moved.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 14, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:

"(c) in the case of income-related financial support, any change of circumstances in work or study of the applicant and his or her partner including the commencement, interruption or cessation of such work or study,".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 12 has been ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 12 not moved.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 15, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:

"(3) In specifying the terms and conditions of an agreement under this section, the Minister and the statutory body concerned shall have regard to the objective of the provision of stability for children attending childcare services.".

Amendment No. 13 addresses concerns raised by Deputies Kathleen Funchion, Denise Mitchell and Anne Rabbitte during Committee Stage about the operation of section 14 in supporting vulnerable children and their families. The Deputies pointed to the importance of stability in child care arrangements, for vulnerable children in particular, and noted the risk that child care support for these children could be withdrawn too suddenly or at a time that impacted negatively on a child. I agree with them that this would not be in the best interest of the children.

As highlighted on Committee Stage, the intention underlying the Bill is that section 14 agreements will allow for a planned and graduated withdrawal of support. Nonetheless, given the importance of the issue, I am proposing the amendment to ensure the agreements that underpin section 14 referrals will attach significant weight to the need for children, especially vulnerable children, to have stability in their child care arrangements. The intention of the amendment is not to prolong the section 14 arrangements unduly where the original purpose of the referral has already been achieved but rather to enable and ensure a planned and reasonable withdrawal of section 14 support, having regard to the best interest of the child. For example, the amendment might result in a Minister and the relevant statutory body agreeing not to end section 14 support until the end of a term. The amendment will not, therefore, alter the underlying policy intention but rather copperfasten it.

I thank Deputies Kathleen Funchion, Denise Mitchell and Anne Rabbitte for raising this very important issue.

I thank the Minister and members of the Select Committee on Children and Youth Affairs for conducting their work in a very professional manner in the past few months. I must make special mention of the staff of the Department of Children and Youth affairs who worked on the Bill and were very helpful when discussing amendments and other issues.

We are happy to see amendment No. 13 included. We were keen to see it there. It deals with the issue of provisions and support for vulnerable children. We were particularly pleased to see a clear reference to stability for children attending child care services. We did not want supports to end suddenly down the road. We all know what major problems that would bring for the children concerned. As such, the clear reference to stability for children attending child care services is very welcome.

I also welcome the amendment. While amendment No. 12 was ruled out of order, I agree with what I see in amendment No. 13. There was a great deal of debate on this on Committee Stage. Deputy Mitchell used the serious word "stability" which is what I was looking for when we sat on Committee Stage. I wanted to ensure that children could complete their term time. I spoke about Halloween, Christmas and Easter and the need for children to feel they reached a conclusion and were the same as everyone else if situations changed and they had to leave a service where the section 14 time was up. In child care settings, it is all about the annual celebrations during term time whether that is Halloween preparations for witches, Christmas preparations for Santa or Easter preparations for the Easter bunny. Child care providers create that setting so well and children participate in it. Every child needs to feel included because that is what providers work for through the Síolta and Aistear schemes. It is all about completing the programme of work. They always finish it with a bang or a party so that children feel into it. That is what I wanted to express in my contribution on Committee Stage. I felt very passionate about children getting the chance, regardless of circumstance, to complete. I thank the Minister of State for acknowledging it and including it. There was a robust debate on Committee Stage. I thank the Minister's colleagues in the Department who came back with this amendment. It is welcome from a child's perspective and a useful one to make.

I thank Deputies Rabbitte, Mitchell and Funchion, all of whom spoke very passionately about this in the context of knowing what was going on with providers of children's services and the various circumstances which exist. It is being aware of and attentive to those contexts which provides the best impetus for good law. I appreciate the fact that the Deputies raised that with me and am glad my officials were able to respond appropriately.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 21, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

“Amendment of Act of 1991

22. The Act of 1991 is amended—

(a) in section 58A—

(i) by the insertion of the following definition:

“ ‘school’ has the same meaning as it has in the Education Act 1998;”,

(ii) by the substitution of the following definition for the definition of “school age service”:

“ ‘school age service’ means any early years service, play group, day nursery, crèche, day-care or other similar service which—

(a) caters for children under the age of 15 years enrolled in a school providing primary or post-primary education,

(b) provides a range of activities that are developmental, educational and recreational in manner, which take place outside of school hours, the primary purpose of which is to care for children where their parents are unavailable, and

(c) the basis for access to which is made publicly known to the parents and guardians of the children referred to in paragraph (a) of this definition,

but excludes those services—

(i) solely providing activities relating to—

(I) the Arts,

(II) youth work,

(III) competitive or recreational sport,

(IV) tuition, or

(V) religious teaching,

or

(ii) for whom statutory provision for inspection exists, prior to the commencement of this section;”,

(b) in section 58L by the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (c):

“(c) a person taking care of not more than 6 children, of which not more than 3 are pre-school children, of different families (other than that person’s own such children) at the same time in that person’s home, except where that person has been continuously registered as an early years service for a period of one year, wishes to remain on the register, and continues to satisfy such conditions as may be prescribed.”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 23, to delete lines 5 to 8 and substitute the following:

“Review of Scheme

25. The Minister shall, as soon as may be after the expiration of 12 months from the date of the making of the first payment of financial support to an approved childcare services provider under section 15, conduct a review of the operation of the Scheme and make a report in writing to each House of the Oireachtas of his or her findings and conclusions resulting from the review.”.

Amendment No. 15 provides for a review of the scheme 12 months after the first payment of financial support under the scheme. The amendment is intended to address the issue raised by Deputies Funchion and Mitchell on Committee Stage of the importance of assessing the operation of the scheme, in particular section 13, at an early stage to allow any necessary policy adjustment to be carried out promptly. The amendment previously proposed by the Deputies focused on section 13 and its associated regulations in recognition of the fact that the section provides for the scheme's rules on income thresholds, subsidy rates, maximum hours of subsidy and definitions of "work" and "study". While I agree with the Deputies that section 13 is of central importance, it cannot be reviewed in isolation from other sections. For example, section 13 provides for a maximum income threshold to be prescribed for receipt of income-related financial support. However, section 10 determines what is assessable income. As such, section 13 cannot be reviewed in isolation from section 10. Therefore, the amendment I propose requires a review of the whole scheme. For such a review to be meaningful, however, it is essential that the scheme would have been operational for a certain minimum duration to ensure that sufficient data are available to inform the review process. For that reason, amendment No. 15 stipulates that the review shall begin 12 months after financial support payments start. This will allow for data to be available which cover a full annual cycle of income assessments, subsidy warrants and financial support payments.

I welcome the amendment, which is a progressive step. It is welcome that the points we made about a review were taken on board. We appreciate that, as we appreciate Deputy Rabbitte's support on Committee Stage. Many schemes could learn from this and other committees could learn that including provision for a review makes sense. The six-month requirement was perhaps a little short and 12 months makes a great deal more sense in order to have the proper data available. We are very glad this has been included. It really is a progressive step. We are often talking here about issues where schemes were not reviewed and did not operate very well. If there is a review after 12 months, we will at least be able to see what is and what is not working. We welcome the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 16 arises out of Committee Stage proceedings. Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 are related. Amendment No. 17 is a logical alternative to amendment No. 16. The amendments will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 26, to delete lines 17 to 22 and substitute the following:

"

Child and Family Agency

To enable participation in a childcare service as part of the provision of child care and family support services by the Child and Family Agency to promote the welfare of children who are in need of additional care or protection.

".

On Committee Stage, I accepted in principle the amendments to Schedule 2 proposed by Deputies Funchion, Mitchell and Rabbitte but requested time to consult the Office of the Attorney General on the precise wording. The amendments proposed on Committee Stage related to the purpose for which the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs may make an agreement with Tusla on referrals for child care support under section 14. Having consulted the Attorney General and the Child and Family Agency, I am happy to accept the wording as proposed by the Deputies on Committee Stage. In particular, I welcome the fact that the amendment uses language which is positive in tone. In amendment No. 16, I propose to use the exact wording proposed by the Deputies on Committee Stage. This wording refers to children in need of additional care or protection.

I am pleased to see the inclusion of amendment No. 16, which was originally proposed by Deputy Funchion and me and which is similar to another amendment proposed by Deputy Rabbitte. The amendment may seem like a small one but, going forward, it will make a huge difference. Previously, the Bill provided that Tusla could authorise additional supports if a child was not receiving adequate care and protection. People in the sector, including me, were worried that the wording implied that there needed to be some form of parental failure before protection would be implemented. The new wording proposed is much more positive. It encourages Tusla to promote the welfare of children who are in need of additional care or protection. It is much more wide-ranging and represents a more proactive approach. As such, it is good to see it included.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 17 not moved.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration and passed.