Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Parliamentary Question No. 6 is in the name of Deputy Coppinger. Unfortunately the Deputy cannot be here and she sends her apologies.

Question No. 6 replied to with Written Answers.

Departmental Funding

Bernard Durkan

Question:

7. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which she remains satisfied regarding the adequacy of the budget available to cater for the full extent of her Department's responsibilities including the protection of children, the monitoring of at risk cases and the follow-up as necessary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45721/18]

My question seeks to ascertain the extent to which the Minister remains satisfied that she has adequate resources at her disposal to carry out the work and the tasks entrusted to her, including all the referrals, the first instant responses, the placements and the follow ups.

I thank the Deputy; brevity is his middle name.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the gross amount of funding being made available to my Department in 2019 will be €1.511 billion, which represents an increase of 9% over its allocation for 2018. The allocation includes a current provision of €1.479 billion and a capital allocation of €32 million.

Just over half of the total funding, or €786 million, is targeted at public services within Tusla to protect our children and to provide for their welfare. A further €574 million will help us to build an accessible, affordable and high quality childcare system. I have secured an additional €110 million for Tusla since becoming Minister in 2016. With regard to 2019 funding, I am pleased to confirm that the agency will receive an additional €33 million. This will bring Tusla’s overall allocation to €786 million, an increase of 4% over the 2018 allocation. Some €25 million of the overall increase will be used to meet increasing costs associated with existing services.

In addition to this, the extra funding I secured for Tusla will be used to progress a number of key priorities including the implementation of recommendations made by HIQA following its investigation into the management of child sexual abuse allegations. Together with experts from Tusla, the Garda, children’s rights campaigners and advocates I have been examining how we can improve our support and help to children who have been sexually abused. This is another issue.

Funding has now been secured to allow us to pilot a new approach to ensure children do not have to relive their abuse by having to retell their experience over and over again. A new One House model will be piloted in 2019, and this represents a joint approach across three Departments and three statutory agencies.

I thank the Minister for her reply. To what extent does the Minister continue to be satisfied regarding the response rate and the time from the first notice of a child, children or a family at risk? Does the Minister remain satisfied that she has achieved an adequate response rate, that the follow up for placements is quick enough to ensure the protection of children and that it is effective enough to ensure the children are not replaced in similar circumstances?

I thank the Deputy for his thoughtful question. I can certainly say that I feel very assured that when a child comes to the attention of Tusla, in the context of what is going on within the family, and if there is an immediate risk to the child's safety, the processes are in place for supporting the child and that the risk is removed.

Subsequent to that, and with regard to the second part of the question, there are processes for analysis of the issues and circumstances and the best ways of supporting the child in the context of the family, prioritising the child in the context of the other children and families Tusla has to address in the different areas. I am aware that those are arenas where the processes and numbers of people who are working in Tusla need to be improved and are being improved with various action plans and reform plans in place. This is in light of many of the difficulties it has experienced, even in the last year. It is not as good as any of us would like to see it, but I know that plans are in place for reforms.

Is the Minister satisfied that adequate steps can be taken in the current year to address the issues that have concerned her in the past and that continue to concern people who have an obvious interest in the welfare of children?

There are two arenas. There is the retrospective abuse case allegation with regard to the McCabe issue. The disclosures tribunal reported on that. The statutory investigation by HIQA also reported on that. In both cases, and certainly in the statutory investigation, the board put in place an action plan. I have met the board recently and it is working through that. We identified a number of areas that the board needs to ensure are addressed. In both of the contexts I feel confident that the plans are in place and that the organisation is attentive to the real, deep concerns that are there, and what needs to be done in order to change.

Youth Services Funding

John Curran

Question:

8. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of youth projects established under the single targeted youth funding programme to date; the details of each project; the location of each; the funding each project has received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45939/18]

John Curran

Question:

24. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of the several sample projects that were established in 2016 and 2017 in relation to the future development of a single targeted youth funding programme to replace the current schemes; the number of these projects which are now fully operational; the number of new sample projects that have been established to date in 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45938/18]

For some time the Minister and her Department have engaged in establishing a single targeted youth funding programme. A number of individual projects have been set up. Will the Minister give details of those projects and the future timeline for the roll out of the entire programme?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 24 together.

A key recommendation of the Value for Money and Policy Review of Youth Funding Programmes was that we should amalgamate four existing funding schemes into a single targeted youth funding scheme. To provide continued funding to the youth sector during this process, sample projects were established across the State. There are now 23 such sample projects approved since 2016, of which 20 are operational and a further three are to commence by 1 January next. Of the 23 projects, seven have involved the augmentation of existing projects to respond to identified needs. The three new projects approved are in Skerries, Carrigaline and County Longford. My reply includes a set of tables with details of the 23 sample projects, by year of first approval and by amount of funding provided in 2018 to date.

In determining the sample projects for funding, my Department has worked closely with the 16 education and training boards, all of which were invited to nominate locations within their catchment areas for new and augmented projects.End of Take

The 23 sample projects fall within ten of the education and training board, ETB, areas. The remaining six ETBs are involved in a process to identify the local needs of young people in these areas with a view to submitting applications for new or augmented services in 2019.

I am committed to supporting and reforming our youth services and I believe that the reformed system will bring substantial benefits to our young people.

New Sample Projects approved 2016

Location

ETB

Allocation of current funding provided in  2018

Current Funding Received 31st October 2018

Boomerang  Youth Service Drogheda, Co Louth

Louth Meath ETB

€100,920

€109,920

Crosscare Youth Service West Wicklow

Kildare Wicklow ETB

€144,538

€108,405

Cahir Youth Project, CoTipperary

Tipperary ETB

€116,288

€87,216

Fethard/ Killenaule Youth Project, Co Tipperary

Tipperary ETB

€111,545

€83,658

Bounce Back Youth Project, East Cavan, Co Cavan

Cavan Monaghan ETB

€176,211

€138,106

Roscommon VFM Project, Co Roscommon

Galway Roscommon ETB

€229,462

€172,095

 Augmented Projects approved 2017

Location

ETB

Status as of 31st October 2018

Allocation of current funding provided in  2018

Current Funding Received 31st October 2018

Include Youth Service Co Monaghan

Cavan Monaghan ETB

Project fully established.

€161,803

€101,545

Cloyne Diocesian Youth

Service Project Middleton

Cork ETB

Project fully established. 

€76,090

€38,045

Crosscare – East Wicklow Youth Service

Kildare Wicklow ETB

Project fully established. 

€206,844

€138,141

Ossory Youth Kilkenny

Gateway Project (YWI)

Kilkenny Carlow ETB

Project fully established. 

€115,803

€115,083

Croom Foróige Youth Project, Croom Co Limerick

Limerick Clare ETB

Project fully established. 

€101,170

€50,585

Co Longford Youth Service (CLYS)

Longford Westmeath ETB

Project fully established. 

€109,863

€109,683

Templemore Youth Project & Thurles Youth Project, Co Tipperary

Tipperary ETB

Project fully established. 

€181,554

€136,164

 

 New Sample Projects approved 2017

Location

ETB

Status as of 31st October 2018

Allocation of current funding provided in 2018

Current funding received  by 31st October 2018

Bounce Back Youth Project West Cavan

Cavan Monaghan ETB

Project fully established

€106,780

€81,920

Carrigaline Youth Project, Co Cork

Cork ETB

Project not yet fully established.  ETB anticipate project will be fully operational for start of  2019

€0

 

Mitchelstown Youth Project, Mitchelstown, Co Cork

Cork ETB

Project fully established. 

€65,853

€36,128

Dublin Rural North (Skerries)

Dublin Dún Laoghaire ETB

Project not yet fully established.  ETB anticipate project will become operation before end of 2018

€0

 

Tyrrelstown Youth Project Dublin 15

Dublin Dún Laoghaire ETB

Project fully established.

€80,260

A funding request in regard to this project is currently being processed.

County Longford Project

Longford Westmeath ETB

Project not yet fully established.  ETB anticipate project will be fully operation for start of 2019

€0

 

Foroige Gort Youth Project, Gort, Co Galway

Galway Roscommon ETB

Project fully established

€75,180

€37,590

Tullow Community Youth Project, Tullow Co Carlow

Kilkenny Carlow ETB

Project fully established. 

€81,050

€40,525

Garryowen Youth Project, Garryowen, Co Limerick

Limerick Clare ETB

Project fully established. 

€71,700

€35,850

Foroige Ballyhaunis Youth Project, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo

Mayo Sligo Leitrim ETB

Project fully established.

€87,620

 €43,812

I thank the Minister. I do not have the detail of the chart yet, but I thank her for the information.

My initial concern is that this targeted programme comes about as a result of a value for money programme that was done in 2014, we are now in 2018, and 20 projects have been rolled out. The immediate concern is the roll-out of the programme in full.

The secondary concern is around the identification of the projects to be funded and, in particular, looking at the programmes that they are replacing, specifically the young people's facilities and services fund and local drug task force projects, many of these projects were aimed specifically at some of the most problematic and disadvantaged communities in our area. That is why the clarity around the identification of projects and the future roll-out of the programme is very important. My concern is that our most needy and disadvantaged areas may not be receiving this funding and these supports.

I share the Deputy's concern and I am pleased he raised this matter. He noted that the process of changing the way funding happens has taken some time and I acknowledge that. The research was done, the recommendations came and the sample projects are in place to ensure that youth services do not lose out when we move to the final points of the single targeted funding stream. The Deputy has identified that as his concern. I understand there are some remaining areas. Six ETBs are involved in identifying, with the use of tools, where the sample projects should be. That is taking some time. Some of that is indicative of the need for my Department to work with them and support them to ensure that their ways of doing things effectively are at the standard required of these services. That is ongoing and my Department is working intensely with them.

I thank the Minister for her reply. I want to put this in context and, while I talk about the Minister's funding, my concern is dealing with areas of greatest disadvantage and it goes across a number of Departments. When I join this up with other programmes, I have a concern that the most disadvantaged areas are not receiving the targeted support they did previously. I specifically talk about places where RAPID funding has become the community enhancement programme. When I look behind the detail of the programme, it is a much broader spread rather than targeted at the most disadvantaged.

Regional and local drugs and alcohol task forces have not seen any increase in funding since 2014, having been cut in the previous years. It is in that context that I raised the issue with the Minister and I will raise it with others. The single targeted youth funding programme must be sure that it is identifying and meaningfully supporting our most disadvantaged areas. I am concerned that this number of programmes is resulting in them not being as targeted now as they were previously. That is the source of my concern.

We are in the process of change. As I said, I share the Deputy's concern and understand what he is speaking about from the perspective of having done that work professionally. I also know that the people who are providing the service, the organisations that Deputy Curran is speaking about, largely have been participating in a process with my Department to try to do this in the best possible way. I was with 200 such people in Croke Park this week. The aim is ultimately to ensure that those who need it the most are not lost or left behind, as well as finding more efficient ways of working, but not reaching those who need it most should not be sacrificed for efficiency. I accept what the Deputy is saying, but I am also saying to him that people who have worked in the field have been working very closely with my Department over this time to ensure that does not happen.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Denise Mitchell

Question:

9. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the timeline for the beginning of excavation works at the site of the former mother and baby home at Tuam; the draft legislation required to advance this project; the offers of financial contributions that have been made by religious orders and institutions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45725/18]

Will the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs outline the planned timeline for the beginning of the excavation works at the site of the mother and baby home in Tuam? What is the draft legislation required in advance of the project, and were there any offers of financial contributions?

The Government agreed an approach to dealing with the site of the mother and baby home in Tuam, County Galway, at its meeting of 23 October last. I am committed to leading this project. It is my view that a phased approach will mean an informed and targeted approach to the forensic excavation of the available area. In this way the logical sequence of complex technical, legal and forensic decisions will be grounded in real-time information emerging from the site as the work progresses. My proposals are based on offering compassion and dignity for the children who were interred in such an horrific manner on this site.

As outlined in the expert technical group report, the circumstances in Tuam are unprecedented and, because of this, we need new or bespoke legislation to enable the necessary work to proceed. Exhumation is strictly controlled in law. It will take time to prepare and enact the new legislation and we need to get it right. I am putting in place a small cross-departmental team to develop the legislation as a matter of priority. We will have a clearer picture on an overall timeframe once the cross-departmental team has commenced its work.

I started negotiations with the Bon Secours order on a contribution to the costs of taking the proposed measures at the site in Tuam. The order has willingly and constructively engaged with me, and an offer of €2.5 million has been made. To be clear, this is not a settlement offer relinquishing the order from any future liability. It offers no indemnity. I will revert to Government to seek approval of the agreement in the coming weeks.

I understand that this is a very important decision for all connected to the site in Tuam, most especially those who believe they may have a loved one buried there and those now living close to the site. I am committed to ensuring that all the children interred at this site can have a dignified and respectful burial. It is only by taking the right actions now can we truly demonstrate our empathy, compassion and commitment to work towards justice, truth and healing for what happened in our past and, most especially, for those who were abandoned.

I thank the Minister for her response. I know we dealt with much of this before the recess and, again, I commend the Minister and her Department on the work done here. The decision taken is certainly the right one.

The Bon Secours sisters announced that they would contribute to this important work. Have any similar contributions been offered by other religious orders in terms of other sites? Has the Minister officially received a response yet from the Vatican to the letter she wrote in August?

To answer the Deputy's first question, I have not sought nor received any contribution from any other religious orders. To be perfectly clear, the reason we did this in this circumstance is specifically related to the site and the remains of the children there and because knowledge and evidence of that was referred to the Government and it responded. That is why I looked for resources. I have not looked for resources relating to any other things that have gone on in that home or any other home before the commission of investigation reports.

I have not heard anything back yet from the Pope or the Vatican to my communication, but we are making inquiries about that communication through our new ambassador to the Vatican who is being appointed this week.

I thank the Minister for her reply. It is a bit disappointing that she has not got any acknowledgement yet from the Vatican, and I want to put that on the record. I also note the Minister has committed to updating the House on this issue, and that is welcome.

I know the commission's report is due out early next year. Will the Minister tell us if she thinks this process at Tuam is going to be a blueprint for how we deal with similar sites? Will she also tell us if she thinks that this is the beginning of a process that will develop beyond Tuam?

I thank Deputy Mitchell for her question. It is pertinent given the discussion we had in committee yesterday. I understand the Minister attended a conference where the potential impact of this proposed legislation on other sites was widely discussed. Will the Minister offer some clarity to the House? As Chair of the Minister's line committee, the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, I presume this Bill that the Minister is proposing will come before that committee and, if so, when does she expect to present that Bill to the House?

I was at an extraordinary conference in Boston last week. It brought together many top-class Irish scholars as well as some international scholars. It was a privilege to be there, I learned a lot, and I am taking much of it into account as we move forward. On the legislation itself and whether that has the potential to form the basis for the use of a template or model for other sites, should that be required, I expect that it could and I hope that it will. That is a decision that has to be made once the people gather together to begin to develop the approach. It does, however, seem a reasonable one.

In respect of the committee, perhaps it will be the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs. The issue is that the legislation to be created relates primarily to issues of justice as well as coming within the context of the mother and baby homes. That will again be decided in the context of development of the legislation.

Children in Care

Catherine Connolly

Question:

10. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Question No. 1165 of 7 September 2018, if the report of the national review panel, NRP, which commenced in 2016, on three cases of child abuse in a foster home in County Galway has been completed; if so, when it will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45923/18]

My question is on the independent review set up in respect of the three children on whom appalling abuse was perpetuated. I will not go into the details in the Chamber, particularly given the young children in the Public Gallery. The Minister knows well the case I am talking about. It is the Tuam case. The review arose as a result of a "Prime Time Investigates" programme. I have asked repeatedly where is the review and why it has not been completed, given the lapse of time.

I thank the Deputy for her important question. The abuse suffered by these very brave young women while in foster care in the early 2000s is shocking, and I am very sorry that their lives were so disrupted and deeply impacted by it. The Deputy will appreciate that although the review was started in 2016, it was suspended during the criminal investigation and prosecution and only became active again when these processes were completed. I have been advised by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, that the NRP expects to finalise its report by the end of this month. It had been expected that the report would be completed by the end of October.

Part of the review process is to give all those who participated in the review, including the young people involved and Tusla staff, an opportunity to review and respond to the sections of the report which relate to them. When deciding whether to publish any NRP report, Tusla must consider the views of the young people involved and the potential impact publication may have on them and their families. The guidance governing the NRP states that it must operate independently of both Tusla and my Department. I therefore cannot instruct the NRP to bring forward the submission of the report. I am not in a position to interfere with the process. To do so would be inappropriate and would run the risk of compromising the independence of the NRP.

I am aware that the reviewers are leading experts in the areas of child protection, foster care and child sexual abuse. It is important that the work is independent, and can be clearly seen to be independent. The NRP must also be allowed the time it requires to complete its work properly, and for the Tusla staff involved to be afforded fair procedures. I very much hope that the report will be published, subject to the points I have outlined here, and most important, subject to the views of the young women involved.

I never asked the Minister to interfere in any way with an independent process. What horrifies me is that we are now in November 2018 and there is no sign of the report. Is there a problem with staff or are there insufficient resources? We have seen the report from Mr. Justice Charleton in October 2018 and that tribunal was set up in February 2017. We saw the number of documents and witnesses that went through his hands and he still has a report quicker than this review of a specific case of three young children under the age of ten who suffered repeated abuse.

I understand that all of the files were reviewed in April 2016, the terms of reference were set up in October 2017 and here we are in November this year and there has been no communication. Questions have to be asked about what is needed to complete this review. Are extra resources needed? What is the position? Those questions can be asked very efficiently without interfering with any independent mechanism. Clearly, those questions have to be asked. We all watched the programme. Deputy Rabbitte has asked questions, the leader of Sinn Féin has asked questions and I have asked questions. but the answers we are getting are unacceptable.

I appreciate Deputy Connolly's frustration and the questions that she is raising. I do. My understanding is that a certain portion of the delay, as the Deputy is aware, is because of the criminal investigation. The national review panel was requested to pause, effectively, and now it is back working. I do not understand that it has to do with resources or people. The NRP is working through whatever ways it decides itself with the expertise that it has. The Deputy is aware that we do have some appropriate professionals doing the work. My understanding is that it will be reporting at the end of this month.

At the end of the "Prime Time Investigates" programme, the girl who was brave enough to give her name said that she did not know why she came forward. We have to show that we are responding to these issues in a timely manner. It is stated on page 7 of the report that the Minister commissioned from the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, Report of the investigation into the management of allegations of child sexual abuse against adults of concern by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) upon the direction of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and which was presented in June this year: "it is imperative that Tusla ensures its own operational arrangements and cross-agency working practices do not allow criminal investigations to impede its statutory duty to safeguard children". That was a specific imperative that Tusla look at this and not be caught by criminal investigations. Notwithstanding all of that, this man was convicted in April of this year. The NRP started looking at this case in April 2016 and here we are now in November 2018.

I cannot accept it. It looks like the Minister has had some communication if she understands that there is no problem. What mechanism is there for this independent review panel to communicate with the Minister and the Government in respect of what is happening with time and resources? The Charleton tribunal, which was on a much larger scale, could report in less time and communicate with us regularly. The commission in respect of Tuam and the various mother and baby homes is also coming back to us regularly. Where is the mechanism to explain to us the delay?

On the issues the Deputy raised about Tusla and its practices, as I referred to, the national review panel is independent of Tusla as well. It is also independent of me. I again appreciate the questions raised by Deputy Connolly. I indicated that I understand that the report will be delivered within a short time. I do not have any more information than that because it is operating independently of my office. I accept the questions that the Deputy is asking but I do not have any more information and I do not have any power to bring it forward.

Child and Family Agency

Catherine Connolly

Question:

11. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when the oversight group to ensure recommendations contained in a report (details supplied) was established; the membership of the group; the progress to date on the implementation of the recommendations contained therein; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45924/18]

On the previous question, I will go back to what the Minister said about having no control and that the panel is independent. Mr. Justice Charleton was very independent and he still kept us updated. We have independent investigations all of the time that keep us updated. Something is seriously amiss here with the terms of reference for this investigation.

My specific question relates to the oversight group. As I stated, there is overlap between the two questions. The HIQA report from June had a number of recommendations, including four overarching recommendations, with one of those advising the setting up of an oversight group to ensure recommendations are implemented. Will the Minister tell me the membership of that group and the up-to-date position on the group?

I directed HIQA to carry out the report being referred to by the Deputy. HIQA made four key recommendations, one of which was to establish an expert quality assurance and oversight group to support and advise Tusla and the Department on the implementation of the recommendations of this investigation report, as well as the implementation of Tusla’s child protection and welfare strategy and corporate plan. The group referred to as the expert assurance group has been established. I appointed the chair of the group on 29 June and the full membership on 23 August. The group held its first meeting on 30 August and has met three times so far. The membership of the group has expertise in governance, law, human resources and child protection and comprises Dr. Moling Ryan, chairperson; Dr. Helen Buckley, fellow emeritus at the school of social work and social policy, Trinity College Dublin; Mr. Gerry Verschoyle, human resources consultant; Mr. Andrew Lowe, public policy consultant; Dr. Conor O'Mahony, lecturer in law, University College Cork; and Ms Michele Clarke, chief social worker at my Department. The group will report to me each quarter and these reports will be published. I expect the first such report at the end of November.

Each of the remaining three key recommendations is being addressed. The first recommendation is for Tusla to develop an action plan to address the findings in the HIQA report. Tusla's board approved its action plan in September and it is structured under themes of the screening, preliminary inquiry and initial assessment of referrals, safety planning, retrospective cases, interagency working, information management and learning, workforce and governance. The second recommendation is about working with higher education authorities on educational pathways and on an operational review. My officials and officials from Tusla are working with an interdepartmental group that is engaging with third level institutions with respect to the health and social care workforce. My officials are also to meet representatives of the Technological Higher Education Authority and the Irish University Association. Tusla is preparing a workforce strategy that is expected to address recruitment, retention, team skill mix, etc. The third recommendation is for a review of regulatory frameworks. My officials chaired a round-table discussion with national bodies and are carrying out a survey of the regulatory mechanisms in other jurisdictions, as well as a review of literature on relevant regulatory frameworks.

I thank the Minister for confirming that. As she can see, my concern, like hers, arises from the various reports I have been reading. The HIQA report confirmed that it was a matter of significant concern that Tusla, a learning organisation, had the same issues emerging over and over again. The Charleton report had much to say about Tusla but in particular it indicated the lack of upfront honesty and a failure in self-analysis and self-criticism led to a tribunal of inquiry. That is where we are with the failure of an organisation.

The good work of Tusla has been complimented in various reports as well but, unfortunately, the serious concerns and the danger to the protection of children outweigh that good work. I can give a flavour of what the Charleton report stated. It indicated that nobody within Tusla considered owning up to the serious mistakes that had been made. It sent a file where it should not have been sent, and when the file arrived in Dublin, certain documents were taken by some unidentified person in Cavan or Monaghan and so on. I could give many such examples but my time is limited. It is why I have the most serious concerns. I welcome that the Minister has set up the review panel and the reports will be published in an ongoing fashion.

The Deputy has articulated her concerns arising from the report of the disclosures tribunal with great passion and clarity, and I share them. The Deputy raised issues and Deputies mentioned other concerns when we discussed the findings of the disclosures tribunal the week before last. I raised them explicitly with the board of Tusla when I met it approximately two weeks ago, just before the break. Serious failures have been identified, some of which relate to the disclosures tribunal report, as the Deputy identified, as well as practices.

Arising from the meeting I had with the board, I sent an extensive letter to the chairperson detailing the key issues I wanted addressed that it said it would address. That is separate from the other action plan and the process of tackling the other four matters raised in the HIQA investigation mentioned by the Deputy. I appreciate her comments and I have put in place ways that I hope will address her concerns over a short period.

The Minister is really the last hope in this as it is quite clear institutions have no ability to self-reflect. We knew this from the Garda and health service. We know it now about Tusla and the Health Service Executive. The Minister is the last stop in town, as it were, so what she sets up must be implemented. From the report I can see a high level of cases where a social worker has not been appointed. Yesterday I was told there is no social worker for south Connemara and I am checking that out as I do not know if it is true. If this is the 21st century and there are no social workers being appointed to cases, leaving aside governance matters and the failure of self-reflection and to learn from mistakes, we are in serious trouble with child protection.

Going back to my first question, the young woman was courageous enough to come forward but she could be left with a feeling that has her wondering why she came forward because nothing is happening. That is the message coming across from the panel. Will the Minister communicate with them so that confidence can be restored?

I will do that if I can. I appreciate and value the Deputy's comments on the way forward for Tusla. I agree with her and it is what I am working towards. When we work with an organisation that has more than 4,000 employees, and which the Deputy knows is in transition with its leadership at executive and board level, the option is to work with the organisation and do the analysis. It is about asking the board and executive to put in place plans and ask the executive to be accountable to the board and the board be accountable to me. That is what I am doing. I share the impatience of the Deputy and I wish it could happen more quickly. It is my hope, given that various plans have been put in place and the way in which I am trying to intently monitor or seek accountability from the board, which will ask the same of the executive, that things will change.

Family Resource Centres

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

12. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the new role of family resource centres under the auspices of Tusla in providing services to families and children experiencing homelessness; the guidelines for the centres; the extra resources being made available to them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45726/18]

As the Minister knows, we still have almost 4,000 children experiencing homelessness in emergency accommodation, with perhaps thousands more in insecure and unsuitable accommodation. The Minister told me earlier this year that we now have 120 family resource centres operating across the country with a budget of approximately €14 million. Does the Minister intend to give increased allocations to some or all of the centres in order to provide some services for families and children experiencing homelessness?

Tusla has an important role to play with a number of elements of Rebuilding Ireland, the national Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness. As the Deputy knows, these include a number of areas where family resource centres, part-funded by Tusla, have a role to play, such as enhanced liaison on family support, child welfare and child protection, practical supports for daily family life and practical supports and advice for good nutrition for those without access to cooking facilities. Tusla is committed to helping provide spaces where homeless children and families can avail of services in a safe, warm, welcoming space and where they feel comfortable and respected. Family resource centres provide facilities where children can do their homework, relax, receive nutritious food, avail of laundry facilities and Wi-Fi and receive family support services and any other relevant supports.

Services using this model have been put in place in a number of family resource centres, including in Mulhuddart, Ballyfermot and Ballymun.

Tusla homeless family support services are also engaging with a number of other family resource centres which may be in a position to offer similar enhanced services. Tusla will extend this service across the greater Dublin area in 2019. Furthermore, as an interim measure, it has established an evening service to support homeless families at the Focus Ireland coffee shop. It has also appointed a homeless liaison officer to facilitate the planning, co-ordination and integration of services with other relevant agencies. I have been informed by Tusla that, where enhanced services as referred to are to be rolled out to family resource centres, they will be underpinned by a service level agreement.

I am pleased to be able to confirm that I have secured €33 million for additional investment in Tusla in 2019, bringing the total annual budget for it to €786 million next year. The additional funding includes €6 million for new developments and other priorities, including further development of family resource centres.

That €6 million is welcome, but people are still unclear on the exact role family resource centres will play. Are the new services only for those families in hubs or will the supports be available to all those in hotel rooms, guest houses and bed and breakfast accommodation? The constituency I represent and that represented by the Minister are among those that have the highest numbers on housing and homeless lists in the country. Are the new services targeted at those centres?

I know that there have been some changes recently to the Focus Ireland placement service. I was in contact with its director, Mike Allen, who told me that changes in how families were booked into homeless accommodation had taken place. For example, I mention the Focus Ireland evening coffee service which is part funded by Tusla. Will the regional housing executive co-ordinate these efforts in the additional services being provided?

Is this not still a very piecemeal approach the Minister is adopting to providing essential services for families and children? We seem to be operating on an ad hoc basis. As the Minister knows, we have the scandal where a vast number of children are homeless, some of whom have been in unsuitable accommodation for more than two years. How exactly will the guidelines for family resource centres operate?

In the time available to me I will deal with two of the issues raised, including the final question about the piecemeal approach being adopted. In the past it was piecemeal, but we are trying to make it less so by focusing on the provision of supports for families within the hubs the Deputy identified. Tusla can provide services and operate in that context, but it also provides other supports where it has a liaison officer, but I am specifically talking about trying to bring forward some additional services in order that the approach will be less piecemeal and that services will be provided in more than one place in hubs and family resource centres.

On the issue of additional investment, we have allocated additional resources for family resource centres in 2019. There will be engagement with each of the original 109 Tusla family resource centres to determine the best way to allocate much of the funding, but in addition I will request that some of the money be used to provide additional supports for homeless families, especially in Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Cork, to build on the approach developed in 2018.

Children can suffer mental health difficulties because of the unsettling and distressful nature of being in emergency homeless accommodation. We recently received the National Women's Council of Ireland report, Out of Silence, which referred to the high rate of suicide among girls in this country compared to the rates in other EU member states. Will mental health supports be made available to complement the services family resource centres can provide? Given the waiting lists in child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS, and for mental health services generally, is the Minister liaising with community centres in areas in which the homeless figures are high and which have not yet been designated as family resource centres to also involve them? Again, my constituency and that of the Minister are probably exemplars of areas where such supports are necessary.

I am always so pleased to be asked a question about concerns about the mental health of children and the services required because I acknowledge that there are not enough such services provided. Tusla has to provide some of them, but other Departments also have to be called on. Some of my biggest concerns are in this area. I share them with the Deputy and others. On family resource centres, in some places Tusla is bringing together teams, particularly as part of a therapeutic approach, to offer the services the Deputy has identified. That is one way for us to move forward.

On access to and waiting lists in CAMHS and other services, GPs refer patients to CAMHS. If it cannot take care of a patient, Tusla often provides private therapeutic support for individual children and families because of the lack of services elsewhere.

Commissions of Investigation

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

13. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will consider the recommendations made in a report (details supplied) for the commission to hold hearings in public and provide a transcript for witnesses who have given oral evidence to it in private; and if she will consider the request for the archive not to be sealed once it finishes its inquiry. [45789/18]

Will the Minister consider the recommendations made in the Clann project report for the commission to hold hearings in public and provide a transcript for witnesses who have given oral evidence to it in private? Will she consider the request for the archive not to be sealed when the commission finishes its inquiry?

I welcome the submission made by the Clann project to the commission of investigation. I am not in a position to comment in detail on the report, as it was submitted in the context of the commission’s ongoing work, but I thank the Clann project for its work. It is important to recognise that a statutory commission is fully independent in the conduct of its investigations. The precise timing and approach to the gathering and examination of evidence are matters for the commission to decide and progress. The decision to hear evidence in public is a matter for the commission. It is open to an individual to make a case to the commission to do so.

The confidential committee module of the commission of investigation was established to provide a forum for persons who were formerly resident in the homes or who worked in the institutions to provide personal accounts of their experiences in confidence and in private as informally as is possible in the circumstances. I acknowledge the courage it took in providing testimony on personal experiences to inform the commission’s work. The crucial value of first-hand witness testimony to the statutory investigation is reflected in the arrangements establishing the commission. It is open to those who have given testimony at the confidential committee to contact the commission to make arrangements to view the transcripts of the evidence they gave to the committee, if they so wish. The commission will produce a report on the confidential committee’s investigations.

The Commission of Investigation Act 2004 provides direction on what will happen to the records once the commission submits its reports. What will happen to the records will depend on their nature. I intend to discuss these matters with the chairperson of the commission in due course. Before the dissolution of the commission, the chairperson is obliged to deposit all evidence received and all documents created by or for the commission with the prescribed Minister. It is then up to the prescribed Minister to decide what will happen to the records. As the prescribed Minister, I will be obliged to balance all relevant parties’ rights and requests, as well as observing due process, natural justice and respect the Constitution when making a decision on the records, but as a matter of principle, I am supportive of transparency and the widest possible access to them.

As I could not hear all of what the Minister was saying, I will read the Official Report, but I got some hope from it that the Minister would consider some of the recommendations made in the report of the Clann project. I attended the launch of the report and heard some of the people who made statements. It was harrowing listening to them as they told about the abuse they had suffered. The apologies and financial payments are important, but the truth is also important. It was important for some of the witnesses to be able to make their statements in public. They may not all want to do so, but it was important for those who did. When the work is done, it is important that the archive become available because we still have to discuss an appropriate memorial because if the silence continues, the abuse will also continue.

The truth is important.

As I indicated in my response to an earlier question, I spent the last week with many of these people and with all of the authors of the Clann project report and am very familiar with their recommendations. As I also said previously, an independent commission of investigation is currently operating. That said, I understand the desire to have some of the testimony in public and we are considering that issue. I also understand the issue of access to records, which we are also considering both in the current context as well as in terms of future processes. I have heard and understood all of the issues that Deputy O'Sullivan has raised and assure her that we are working on them now.

I acknowledge what happened at the two day conference in Boston University. I read what the Minister said at the conference and am aware that members of the Clann project also attended. One of the themes of that conference was transitional justice and how important it will be. In its report, the Clann project provides a comprehensive account of the countries where access to records is provided, including the UK, Germany, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium. Why should Irish people be treated differently?

I take hope from what the Minister has said today, that some witness statements can be made in public and that she will consider the matter of the archives when the report is finalised.

One of the issues discussed towards the end of the aforementioned conference was whether the term "transitional justice" is appropriate in Ireland. I, too, have been using that language. Various stakeholders, researchers and experts, having spent two days discussing these matters at the conference, asked whether it would be more appropriate to talk about transformation as distinct from transition. If we are able to find additional processes for making the truth public, providing access to records and making the testimony public and doing so across the board, in the context of various institutions that oppressed our children and young people in the past, then perhaps we are in a better position to bring about the systemic and structural transformation of Irish society for the future.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.