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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 9 Mar 2022

Vol. 1019 No. 4

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Crime Prevention

I thank the Minister of State for coming in to take this important issue. There is a real sense of fear among residents in the City Quay area in particular. They are worried about the ongoing street violence that is occurring almost every day. They are virtually being held hostage. Last Saturday week, a young 13-year-old was hospitalised after being stabbed. Thankfully, he will make a full recovery, although I understand it will take a while. It is amazing that someone has not been killed because when you see the knives and weapons seized by the Garda it seems to only be a matter of time before some child or young person will be killed. Then there will be a big outcry and we will say that we should have done this or that. The reality is we need something done now.

I completely understand that there is no simple or overnight solution and people recognise that. Gangs of young people are rampaging and cycling through streets like Townsend Street and smashing cars for the sake of it, and because they can. It is unrelenting and it is unacceptable that residents have to put up with it. Action is needed. If these groups of youths were outside the Minister of State's house, my house or the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's house, it would not be allowed and it should not be allowed outside the homes of residents in City Quay. No one should have to put up with this issue. I accept that the Garda is in a difficult position in that the young people carrying out this street violence are almost all children, which brings challenges. The Garda needs to be resourced better right across the inner city. It needs more resources to work with young people and the community section of the Garda needs to be more involved.

More resources also need to be allocated to community development and youth work groups. It is hard to imagine, given what is happening in the south and north inner city, that the local Talk about Youth group has no dedicated space to work from. Talk about Youth does fantastic work with young people in the community yet it has no place to call home and no dedicated space. It needs a dedicated space in which it can develop its projects and work with young people who are particularly hard to engage with. There needs to be funding for assertive outreach teams to do work with young people who are resistant to engaging with traditional youth groups. There are some local children involved in this but the majority come from quite a distance from the city centre. This 13-year-old came from Dublin 15 to the inner city on a Saturday night. We are failing as a society and we are failing to work with young people to address the issues. The Mulvey report allocated funding and resources for the north inner city and that has to be replicated in the south inner city because the north and south inner city are one community.

On behalf of the Minister for Justice, I thank the Deputy for raising this important matter on Dublin’s inner city and concerns around public safety. The Minister joins all of the House in condemning all acts of violence, in particular any forms of knife crime, and in wishing the victim of the incident referred to by the Deputy a healthy and speedy recovery. I am informed by the Garda authorities that an investigation is ongoing at this time and the Deputy will appreciate that neither I nor the Minister for Justice can comment on that case as it is an ongoing and live Garda investigation. The Minister and I urge anyone who may have witnessed this attack, or who may have any information of potential interest to An Garda Síochána, to contact the Garda. Reports can also be made through the Garda confidential line on 1800 666 111.

The Government is determined to tackle antisocial and violent behaviour and is conscious of the effect it can have on the quality of life for local communities, including in Dublin's inner city. Both the programme for Government and the justice plan contain a number of commitments in this regard, including the establishment of the expert forum on antisocial behaviour to consider the effectiveness of existing legislation and look at proposals for the way forward. I have established a subgroup of the antisocial behaviour forum to specifically examine the issue of knife crime in detail. This subgroup is assessing available evidence to inform legislation and community safety policies, programmes and practices with regard to knife crime. As the Deputy will be aware, the Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027 was also launched last year with the immediate priority to enhance engagement with children and young people who are most at risk of involvement in criminal activity, principally by strengthening services available through the existing network of 105 youth diversion projects, a number of which are located in Dublin's inner city and a number of which I have visited in recent months.

It is important to note that policing and crime prevention are not the responsibility of An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice alone. To achieve better outcomes, supported by a strong inter-agency collaboration and community engagement, three pilot local community safety partnerships have been established, one of which is located in north inner city Dublin.

These partnerships will provide a dedicated communication channel for input and the development of local community safety plans to reflect and respond to the self-identified needs of individual communities. The lessons which are learnt in the north inner city pilot will, of course, be of particular relevance to the future roll-out in the south inner city. In addition, the Minister will launch the community safety innovation fund in the coming weeks, which will enable local communities to seek funding for innovative projects that will improve community safety in their areas.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that Operation Citizen commenced in Dublin city centre on 22 October 2021, focusing on antisocial behaviour, public order and quality-of-life issues, assaults and high-volume crimes, and involves increased visible policing, particularly at key locations. In addition to Garda resources from the Dublin metropolitan region, DMR, north central and south central divisions, Operation Citizen is supported by resources from the wider Dublin region, Garda roads policing units, the Garda national public order unit and Garda operational support units.

In January 2022, the Garda authorities launched Operation Saul to further support, enhance and strengthen the strategic and operational objectives of Operation Citizen. The aim of Operation Saul is to provide a safe environment for commuters utilising public transport services in the DMR. Garda Operation Soteria is also in place to ensure a reduction of assaults in public, reduce the fear of violence within communities, prioritise assault investigations and focus on problem areas and assault hotspots. The Minister wants to assure the Deputy that this combination of targeted Garda operations and Government policy measures are having, and will continue to have, a positive impact on community safety.

Talk about Youth, which is a fantastic youth project in Pearse Street, has no dedicated space. The Minister of State said that he visited different youth clubs. I ask that he also visit the Talk about Youth project and see for himself the great work they do, their lack of resources and their needs, and perhaps work with them to ensure they can have a dedicated space to work with the local community and young people.

The north and south inner cities are one community. They need to be treated as one community, they need to be looked at as one community, and they need to be resourced as one community. I appreciate the measures the Minister of State outlined in his response, but the reality is that there are not enough gardaí on the streets in the inner city to avert the ongoing daily assaults of residences in City Quay. We can have all these projects and programmes in theory, but in practice, the residents are being held hostage on City Quay, Creighton Street, Townsend Street, Dowling's Court, and Lombard Street. It is not acceptable. They need action and more gardaí, and they need it now. I completely accept that it is not a simple solution. I proposed a while ago that the bridge should be opened so that it would divert them. People felt that they had moved to another bridge further down. That may be the case, but then it may not be the case if the gardaí are proactive and have the resources they badly need. The Mulvey report outlined that the north inner city should have extra resources. Equally, the south inner city should have the same resources because they are one community. The docklands authority, before it became a developers' charter, worked with north and south inner city communities and saw them as one, and that is what the Government needs to do.

I again thank the Deputy for raising this very important matter, about which I know he is deeply concerned. The Minister wants to be clear that the incidences of assault or intimidation are completely unacceptable. We want people to feel and be safe, whether they live or work in Dublin city centre or want to visit and enjoy our capital city.

Obviously, the distribution and management of gardaí is a matter for the Garda Commissioner, but as of 31 January 2022, the latest date for which figures are available, 712 Garda members were assigned to the DMR south central division. This represents an increase of more than 13.5% since December 2015, when 627 Garda members were assigned to the division.

The unprecedented €2 billion funding allocated for An Garda Síochána in budget 2022 reflects the commitment the Government has to increasing the number of gardaí throughout the country, including increasing the resources available to those gardaí to help them do their jobs. This will facilitate and fund the recruitment of 800 additional gardaí in the coming period, and 400 additional Garda staff. There is a policy within An Garda Síochána of hiring staff to release Garda members from administrative and desk duties and putting them back on to the front line, which has proven to be very effective. As the Deputy will be aware, a new recruitment campaign for An Garda Síochána has opened and I encourage people to apply.

The Minister is confident that the continued concerted focus on further increasing the number of Garda members and staff, together with the ongoing redeployment of gardaí from administrative to front-line roles, will help strengthen the gardaí and strengthen the focus on community policing. This will deliver significant growth in the operational policing hours nationwide and improve visibility and services to local communities across the country, including Dublin city centre.

Disability Services

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, for taking this question on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, who I know cannot be here. This is a very important and pressing issue in my constituency of Dun Laoghaire. I acknowledge the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte's ongoing efforts and engagements with the families, the staff and service users of Dunmore House and Carmona Services, particularly throughout the pandemic. She has been very generous with her time, engaging on Zoom and attending on-site meetings with those involved.

However, parents, guardians and friends of Carmona Services have been in contact with me in recent days and they are very concerned. Not only were they concerned prior to this latest twist in respite care locally, but they were concerned about the waiting list for respite care generally in community healthcare organisation, CHO 6. They were advised through written correspondence from the HSE and St. John of God that a respite house in Wyattville Park has been allocated solely to one individual, which is as a result of a court case. While we acknowledge and understand the need to allocate that property to one individual, it is obviously needed, there is now a situation in which 88 people are waiting for respite, as well as an additional 33 people on a waiting list. Many of their respite hours are in jeopardy because this property was a key tool in respite within the area and for those families. It is the only respite house available to those 88 people with intellectual disabilities.

This is causing extreme distress and hardship to families. Some have been offered alternative respite 130 km away in County Wexford, which is obviously not suitable. I know the Minister of State recently committed to €9 million for the provision of respite care, which is very welcome, but we have a situation in CHO 6, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin south-east and north Wicklow, whereby we have lost key respite services. It is causing significant distress to parents and families. Just as we are beginning to return to some level of normality, they have no clarity on respite services.

Will the Minister of State engage with officials in her Department, the HSE and St. John of God to expedite the purchase of a new respite property? I know this cannot be done overnight, but the letter is quite vague in that regard. It alludes to the purchase and provision of more respite services, which was needed anyway, but this problem has exacerbated the issue facing these families and the individuals with intellectual disabilities. Can we fast-track the purchase of a property and all that entails with planning and retrofitting? It is an issue of real urgency and that is why I raise it today.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue for discussion and, as he rightly said, I am taking this on behalf of the Minister of State with responsibility for disabilities, Deputy Rabbitte.

The Deputy will be aware that throughout the pandemic, staff and resources associated with closed or curtailed services were redeployed, where possible, to support residential provision and to provide for targeted in-home, community and tele-online supports for service users and families based on prioritised needs. For those with a disability and their families, the impact of the pandemic on those services presented challenges that are still felt today.

The HSE is very much aware of the importance of respite service provision for the families of both children and adults with disabilities and the impact the absence of respite service provision can have on other services being delivered.

Regarding the specific issue of respite provision in CHO 6, the HSE is aware of the recent escalations by services users and their families regarding access to St. John of God respite houses at Wyattville and Ravenswell. Occasionally, respite services must be temporarily curtailed to accommodate urgent emergency residential situations. Unfortunately, this is currently the case with the respite service in Wyattville, which has been impacted since the week commencing 21 February 2022. To manage the emergency, the only available and appropriate option was to use Wyattville and its staff team until an alternative location and an additional staff team are recruited. As the Deputy knows, that can take some time.

The HSE advises that families were contacted by St. John of God Services in early February to outline the situation, and that Community Healthcare East further contacted families on 24 February, apologising unreservedly for the additional stress the situation had caused. St. John of God Services have confirmed to the HSE that there are 69 individuals affected by the repurposing of Wyattville and there are nine individuals on the waiting list. The HSE advises that it is committed as far as possible to support Wyattville respite service users with supported holidays while Wyattville remains inaccessible, although I take on board the point made by the Deputy that somebody was offered a holiday in Wexford, which was 130 km away, which can be very difficult for the family. I will bring that to the attention of the Minister of State.

I can confirm that the HSE has requested information from St. John of God Services regarding the list of service users and their preferences for respite breaks to identify and prioritise individuals to offer interim respite supports. HSE Community Healthcare East is committed to considering these priorities as a matter of urgency, within the available funding. Once this information is received, the HSE and St. John of God Services will liaise with the alternative service provider to ensure there is limited reduction to the individuals' scheduled respite provision over the next six months. Communication will issue to all individuals outlining the details of the proposed supported holidays, including any transition plans that are required.

Regarding reduced access to respite in Ravenswell, the HSE advises that this is specifically related to ongoing recruitment challenges in the sector. St. John of God Services have assured the HSE that they are actively campaigning for additional staffing.

I thank the Minister of State for her reply and for a copy of her statement. I specifically did not mention Ravenswell initially because it is part of the problem but that was before the latest news about Wyattville Park. The challenges that have faced Ravenswell have been there for quite some time, and recruitment was an issue long before it became an issue generally in every sector in society. I will come back to that again directly with the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, who is aware of it.

In her statement, the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, said that, occasionally, respite services must be temporarily curtailed, which is understood and, unfortunately, families have witnessed that over the years. She said that the HSE has requested information from St. John of God Services about creating a list for priority. That is welcome but her statement goes on to say that, over the next six months, communication will issue to all individuals outlining the detail proposed for supported holidays, including any transition plans that are required. I ask, through the Minister of State, that the Department of Health make urgent contact with the HSE specifically around speeding up that process. There is no lack of resources within the Department of Health or the HSE to try to assist St. John of God's.

This is having an enormous impact on families in south-east Dublin and north Wicklow. This news came as a bolt from the blue to them but, as I said, they have been impacted for so long by the impact of changes in respite care that many of the families cannot even plan six days in advance, let alone six weeks in advance, because they do not know when respite is coming. They do know one thing for sure, which is that respite is not coming for the foreseeable future for any of the individuals who were allocated to Wyattville Park. I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, through the Department of Health, to try to speed up the process as much as possible.

Both the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, and the HSE acknowledge the need for more services to provide much-needed respite to service users and their families. I take on board the points the Deputy has made. Parents are very concerned and this is very difficult for them after two very difficult years. I will certainly speak to the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, to see if it can be expedited in any way.

While I acknowledge the immediate issue in CHO 6 is causing distress to those families affected, I reiterate that this is a temporary measure to accommodate an emergency residential situation. I acknowledge and welcome the fact the HSE is committed to supporting the service users affected by this temporary closure as a matter of priority.

One of the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte’s key priorities is building capacity in disability services, particularly in respite, in a safe and equitable manner into the future so those who care for their loved ones are provided with appropriate support to continue doing so, no matter where they live in the country. Last year saw a €5 million commitment to build capacity for an extra 10,400 bed nights for people with disabilities. In 2022, €9 million has been committed to establish three additional specialist centre-based services to provide 4,032 nights to 90 children, one to be Prader-Willi appropriate and the other two to provide high-support respite for children and young adults with complex support needs. In addition, seven further respite services will provide 9,408 nights to 245 children and adults in a full year.

I take on board the Deputy’s point that it is about the short-term issue for the families who used to receive respite in Wyattville, notwithstanding the difficult situation they were in. I will certainly bring his concerns to the attention of the Minister of State.

School Transport

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Josepha Madigan, for attending to take this matter. I am back again, as this is my third or fourth time dealing with the issue. The pressure on schools in east Cork again this year is very high. There are long waiting lists in all of the schools and this has been the case for many years, for many reasons. It has led to a situation where parents are compelled to apply to more than one school. In east Cork, Carrigtwohill and Midleton are 3 km or 4 km apart and there are four second-level schools in Midleton and two in Carrigtwohill.

The Minister of State is an accomplished legal person and I understand the Leas-Cheann Comhairle is an accomplished barrister, so they might be able to help me with this issue. When an application is made on behalf of a child to attend a school and that child is put on a waiting list, that is tantamount to a refusal. The next step is to appeal that to the board of management. If that is refused, under section 29 of the Education Act it goes to the Minister and the Department. If that is refused, the child is entitled to school transport to the next nearest school. This is challenging and because parents do not know this information, they apply to many different schools. Eventually, they are accepted in one, which may not be the nearest school. When they look for school transport, they are asked for the paperwork to show they have been refused in the nearest school, that they appealed it to the board and were refused, and that they appealed it to the Minister and were refused, so that, now, they can be given school transport. Parents do not know this. The child is then on the concessionary list for spare seats on a bus, which may appear or not.

This is madness. The stress and strain on children and parents trying to access places is the same every year. What I am suggesting to the Minister for the third or fourth time is that, in this particular case, where there are six schools in very close proximity, we designate that area as one education centre, and the problem is sorted regarding school transport. I understand the Minister can do it with one stroke of a pen.

I acknowledge that a review is ongoing. The review of school transport started in October 2019 but I understand it still has not been completed and that it was only in January of this year that it went for public consultation. We are waiting for this review. In the interim, I and my colleagues are facing this problem every year where children have to wait and wait, and the waiting lists are long again this year.

I hope the people in the Department are listening to me, and maybe they are not - I do not know. I ask the Minister to look at this solution. It is a simple solution and it would take a lot of pressure off principals, Bus Éireann, parents and children, and it will not cost a whole lot at the end of the day. If there are four schools in one town and the child applies to the nearest school, technically, we can get out a tape measure to find that the nearest school is a couple of hundred yards away from the next nearest school.

If we wanted to be really pedantic about it, we could say a person should go to that school and not the other school even though they are in the same town. I suggest moving that on a little further by taking two adjacent towns a couple of kilometres apart, with four secondary schools in one and two in the other, and making that one education centre. That solves many problems for many people and makes it very simple. I look forward to the Minister of State's response to this.

We are facing long waiting lists in east Cork again this year. The Minister, Taoiseach, school principals, Deputy O'Connor and I met last year to discuss this issue. That will tell the Minister of State how serious this is. It was unprecedented. It was sorted last year by the provision of extra places but we are back this year with the same scenario. What is going on as well, of course, is that parents apply to more than one school and therefore there are long waiting lists. There is a model in County Limerick where they have a kind of central applications office for secondary schools and that helps. Perhaps that is something the Minister of State might also consider in cases such as this.

I am a full-time Teachta Dála.

We are legal eagles

That is true although neither of us is practising at present.

I thank the Deputy for raising this important Topical Issue matter. He will appreciate that I am taking this today on behalf of the Minister for Education. Transport is not directly under my remit. The Deputy is quite correct, however. A review is ongoing at the moment. I understand that recommendations will be coming shortly from the steering group, which will examine issues such as the effectiveness of the scheme, sustainability, climate action, rural development and all other important pertinent issues.

Approximately 121,400 children avail of the school transport scheme on an annual basis, of whom 15,500 are children with additional needs, which obviously falls under my remit, at a cost of €289 million in total. I understand that in the areas the Deputy mentioned, approximately 292 children avail of the particular services he outlined. I acknowledge what he said about Carrigtwohill and Midleton being separate and distinct post-primary centres. I understand they are 9 km from each other. The Deputy knows County Cork better than me

That is the briefing I have here. I also understand from the Department's response that there are no plans at present to recognise both as one education centre. The Deputy is correct that there are two post-primary schools in Carrigtwohill, that is, Carrigtwohill Post-Primary School and St Aloysius' College, and four in Midleton, namely, Midleton C.B.S. Secondary School, St. Mary's High School, St. Colman's Community College and Midleton College.

I also understand that 168 pupils who live in Carrigtwohill avail of transport to Midleton and that 141 pupils who attend Midleton avail of transport alleviation measures. I appreciate what the Deputy said about concessionary services as well. I know there are additional services and increased-size buses were provided in terms of an interim measure before the review kicks in. My understanding is that the review is ongoing. The fact that the Deputy brought it up in the Dáil may be no harm. The Department will be aware of it and can take that into account when it is undertaking its review.

They are two distinct post-primary centres and my understanding is that the Department has no plans to change that at present. It is important that children have transport, however. My understanding is there is no child without transport to and from school at the moment.

From what the Deputy said, even though it is a separate issue, the waiting list issue is interlinked. Again, I will bring his contribution to the Minister for Education. The Deputy mentioned that he had a meeting with her because of the issues around this. I am aware of it on a regular basis in that I must ensure children with additional needs all receive placements and an appropriate education, preferably in their locality. It is not always possible but that is what we endeavour to do. Obviously, that applies for mainstream schools as well.

It is difficult to micromanage if parents put their names down for different schools at the same time. Nevertheless, I understand the rationale for doing so when the Deputy tells me they are concerned that their child may not get into a particular school and, therefore, cover all bases by putting the children's names down. The Department has a geographical information system in order that it can forecast and anticipate demand and capacity in different areas through the building and planning unit. That is obviously something else that needs to be looked at in this regard.

I thank the Minister of State for her response. This review started in October 2019. I know we had a pandemic but it is still ongoing. I understand it is only this year that public representations are being sought. I am disappointed that the Department has no plans to make the change. I would like to know why not. Would it cause some major rupture to policy all over the place? Why is this not happening? Does the Minister not have the authority to do this?

The distance between the two centres is just over 7 km. I checked that and it is quite short. At the moment, however, parents have no choice but to apply to more than one school. Sometimes, they are applying to four different schools in the hope the child might get into one of them. That is leading to all these long waiting lists. If the parents and their child eventually get admission to a particular school, which is not the nearest, they will grab it with both hands because they are afraid they will have no place. The stress this is causing for children is shocking. Children aged 11 or 12 say all their friends have a school place but they do not, and they ask if something is wrong with them.

I am putting forward a very simple solution. If the Department has just decided it is not doing it then tell the Department to do it. I ask that the Minister actually gives an instruction to do this - make it one centre and get on with it. Let us take away the stress and pressure that is on people. It will not cost any more but it will relieve much pressure on Bus Éireann, parents, school principals and the pupils themselves.

As the Minister of State mentioned special education, I will also bring up the fact that many young children from my area with additional educational needs must travel very long distances to get to school. I have been saying repeatedly that we need a special school in east Cork in order that the school transport issue is solved there as well. Perhaps the Minister would look at that issue and come back to me at some future date. I again ask that the issue of education centres be looked at. We met the Minister last year on the same topic. This is a perennial issue. The solution is simple; let us get on with it.

I hear what the Deputy is saying around this. My understanding from my instructions, to use a legal phrase, is that the Department has no plans-----

Change the plans.

-----to recognise one centre. That is not to say it will not, however. I think it will consider this following the Deputy's contribution. There is certainly an argument for a more streamlined approach, bearing in mind the criteria, difficulties and challenges parents are facing and the stress delineated by him.

I would surmise that because this review is ongoing, this is something that will be looked at. As I said earlier, my understanding is that recommendations will be coming shortly from the steering group, which will be looking at school transport in general terms around eligibility criteria, trends, cost drivers and all that kind of thing to assess the overall effectiveness in meeting the objectives of the schemes.

I also hear what the Deputy said around children with additional needs. We are looking at special schools. We opened three special schools in the past two years - one in Carrigaline, County Cork and two in Dublin. We will always endeavour to provide special schools where they are needed if there is not capacity.

I appreciate that. The Deputy and I speak about this outside the Dáil Chamber on a regular basis. I will obviously take that very seriously and look to see what we can do in that regard.

Education and Training Provision

If the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and Minister of State remain lawyers despite their current occupation, then I remain a primary school teacher, and I am very much proud to be one.

I am a timekeeper.

Then I will endeavour not to waste it. That is the lens I am bringing to the Ukrainian crisis that is unfolding at the moment, the scale of which is shocking. The total number of refugees fleeing Ukraine reached 2 million people this week. More than 1 million people arrived into Poland, almost 500,000 into Romania and more than 100,000 into both Hungary and Slovakia, the four EU neighbours bordering Ukraine to the west.

We have seen some arrive in Ireland but not yet in the numbers we expect. The words of the EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Ylva Johansson, at the European Parliament were very stark: "More is to come. Worse is to come. Millions more will flee and we must welcome them."

This is a scale of movement we have not see on the Continent of Europe in some 75 years. It is hard to fathom. The United Nations has described the movement from Ukraine as one of the fastest exoduses of modern times. Putin's attack on a peaceful democratic country has set in train a historic wave of migration that will scar the individual family histories of millions of individuals and families in coming years.

Of the 2 million who have already left and sought safety in the EU, an estimated 800,000 are children. They have crossed the border bundled onto trains, buses, into cars and on foot, some with mobile phone numbers scrawled on the back of their hands and clutching plastic bags. Yesterday, the Irish Red Cross had received more than 6,000 pledges of accommodation for Ukrainians in people's own homes. We have a generosity of spirit in this nation. We must bring it to bear to provide sanctuary and solace to those leaving their homes behind for now.

The Government response to date has been swift and significant. The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, has announced a specialised unit will be put in place to meet refugees from Ukraine as they arrive in at airports and ports in Ireland. I also welcome the Minister for Social Protection's commitment that her officials are working to give PPS numbers swiftly to Ukrainian refugees when they arrive to allow them to access services, supports and enable access to the labour market here.

However, as I said, it is the lens of the primary school teacher that I bring to this debate. Based on a back of an envelope calculation, if we are estimating that 100,000 people are going to arrive here, some 50,000 are likely to be children. That translates to 2,000 classrooms. That is just the physical built infrastructure. It also has to translate into 2,000 additional teachers, at a minimum, as well as all the supports that need to go into place. These will be deeply traumatised children. They will need the psychological supports. That is not the Minister of State's brief. They will need considerable language inputs. They will arrive here, presumably, with very little English. And then there are all the extra supports that we would just expect for schoolgoing children of that age. We also need to have a sense of where the demand will be geographically.

We also need to have a broader conversation about the best way to deliver a curriculum to these children. Do we anticipate they will be here in five and ten years? In that case we should absolutely integrate them and fold them into the Irish curriculum. Or do we think they will be here for a shorter period? Should we be looking at ways to deliver something that is closer to the Ukrainian curriculum? Should we be looking at trying to get resources to deliver it, or at least some of it, in Ukrainian to minimise the disruption to these children's education or should we be trying to create a stepping stone between those two things whereby we say we will deal with their specific needs now but try to scaffold them into an Irish system in the longer term? These are questions and that is how I pose them. There is a huge job of work to be done and it needs to be done extremely quickly.

I thank the Deputy. This is a real topical issue at the moment. I want to reiterate the Government's position that the continuing Russian military action against Ukraine is illegal and immoral. As the Government has stated, the priority is a full and comprehensive cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of the Russian military from Ukrainian territory. The Deputy is quite right that the war in Ukraine has caused a humanitarian crisis on a scale we have not seen for many decades in Europe. That will require a whole-of-government approach to supporting the people who arrive here.

There is no logic to Irish people offering this wonderful céad míle fáilte to Ukrainian nationals and their families if we cannot provide the additional supports they require. It is an evolving situation and we do not know how long they will be here. It is commendable that the Irish people have made in excess of 6,000 offers of accommodation. Our schools have a strong tradition of welcoming children of all nationalities and backgrounds and have experience of doing this throughout the school year. Many schools, primary and post primary, have contacted the Department already to express how keen they are to ensure any children arriving in their areas are welcomed into their schools. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, has published a range of resources to support learners with English as an additional language. Further guidance for teachers about these resources will issue to schools shortly.

The Deputy mentioned psychological supports. I think that will be pertinent, particularly around trauma. These children may have seen things as well as the stress of their having to leave their home of origin. Schools are provided with support from psychologists from the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. NEPS has developed materials for schools to assist them in supporting children of Ukrainian heritage and others who may be experiencing distress in relation to current events. Temporary crisis measures will be put in place where needed.

It will take a Trojan effort from the education sector which is on the back of coming out Covid. I commend all the teachers - the Deputy is a teacher himself - and all the school staff for the incredible work they have done to date. They will require even more fortitude to look after these children. In my constituency of Dublin Rathdown, I heard only yesterday of twins who have already come from Ukraine and are in school. Schools with capacity to welcome children can do so in the usual way. There will be a helpline for schools and we are putting information online and on social media for parents in relevant languages to support them in accessing schooling for children. My officials have already spoken to the staff unions and management bodies, and work is under way on engaging with other Departments, agencies and stakeholders. We need to see where there are children being accommodated so that we can cater for them in schools in the locality.

There are obviously children in Ireland who are looking for schools but we must also cater for Ukrainians. It is also important to mention there will also be teachers coming from Ukraine. The Teaching Council will work with the Department on expediting registration for those teachers so that they can teach in their mother tongue, as the Deputy mentioned. There will be procedures for those who do not have proof of qualifications so that they can teach here.

What I understand from the answer is that we are talking about a default position where we fold these children into the general school population. If that is the considered position we arrive at with the best expert evidence, that is fine. I would be happy to support that. However, we have to acknowledge the huge additional pressures that would place on schoolteachers, staff and principals in particular. It is something we need to consider. The Minister of State did reference that it is presumed we will have educational professionals who will arrive from Ukraine. It is important to identify those and use them as quickly as possible.

I have concerns. I have taught children with very little English. These children will be deeply traumatised by their circumstances. It is very difficult to reach them when you do not have a shared language, particularly if you are in a class of 25 or 30, as so many of our teachers often are. If that is where we are landing, then let us plan around that and support it. I am concerned the scale and numbers of children arriving will make that difficult and will place huge pressure, even on the built environment.

We should be engaging the NCCA. We have experts on curricular reform and planning. We should engage that expertise. I have written to the Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and asked it to suspend its work programme to dedicate some time to this to hear from best international evidence and to hear how best we can support these children. It would be a really good use of our time. There is a lot of expertise on that committee and we should use it to support the Government action as much as possible. We should think deeply about whether our response of folding them into the general school environment is best for the children themselves and also the staff who have to deliver.

As a teacher, the Deputy has experience of educating children. As a country, we need to look at novel, innovative approaches for how we will educate Ukrainian nationals.

Teachers who come from Ukraine will be able to teach in their mother tongue, which will be of assistance to these children. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment will publish resources to support learners with English as an additional language. It may well be that some sort of compromise will be found between folding children into the existing educational system as well as providing a hybrid and novel approach. As the Deputy suggested, perhaps having the Oireachtas committee look at it is a good idea.

We should dedicate some time to this because we do not want a situation where our schools, and we have 4,000 in this country, are under acute pressure when they are just coming out of Covid. It will be a mammoth task for them to take in children, especially if we are talking about approximately 100,000 Ukrainian nationals coming here, but we have to do it. It is imperative we do not just take families as refugees into this country. We waived the visa requirement. There is no arbitrary limit to the number that can come into this country, but we also have to educate their children. They could be here for six months, a year or five years. We do not want them suffering from a lack of education. Since Ireland's schools have a strong tradition of welcoming children from different nationalities and backgrounds, we will have the capacity to do it. The helpline will assist and cohesion between Departments will be crucial to ensure we all speak the same language when we deal with this issue.

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