Single Payment Scheme Expenditure

Questions (220)

Frank Feighan

Question:

220. Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the average single farm payment per hectare in every county; and if he will furnish this information broken down by county. [12288/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The average Single Farm Payment per hectare per county is as follows:

COUNTY

AVERAGE PAID PER HECTARE

CARLOW

373.26

CAVAN

286.62

CLARE

252.38

CORK

341.85

DONEGAL

191.89

DUBLIN

317.09

GALWAY

243.65

KERRY

198.15

KILDARE

333.83

KILKENNY

376.78

LAOIS

377.71

LEITRIM

193.47

LIMERICK

303.63

LONGFORD

310.58

LOUTH

363.33

MAYO

193.70

MEATH

368.16

MONAGHAN

349.93

OFFALY

338.41

ROSCOMMON

278.13

SLIGO

212.54

TIPPERARY

354.33

WATERFORD

336.60

WESTMEATH

319.83

WEXFORD

370.95

WICKLOW

270.48

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Payments

Questions (221)

Frank Feighan

Question:

221. Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when disadvantaged area scheme payments will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon. [12289/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named is one of a number, their derogation applications having been unsuccessful, who were offered the option to appeal to the independently chaired DAS Appeals Committee. To date, this option has not been availed of. Should the applicant choose to lodge an appeal, it will be referred to the Committee for its consideration.

Agriculture Schemes Appeals

Questions (222)

Frank Feighan

Question:

222. Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide an update in the appeal in respect of person (details supplied) in County Roscommon. [12290/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

An appeal was received from the applicant and is being examined. The applicant will be informed of the outcome when the examination has been completed. It is expected that this process will be completed shortly.

Early Child Care Education Issues

Questions (223)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

223. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent of her Department's involvement in the development of the early childhood care and education sector here; her views on the importance of social policy in relation to the health and well being of children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12104/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department is currently developing a new Children and Young People’s Policy Framework which will set out high-level goals for both my own and other Departments for the next five years. The Policy Framework is expected to be published in mid 2013 and will build on Our Children - Their Lives, Ireland’s first Children’s Strategy which was published in 2000. This is relevant to the National Early Years Strategy as the Strategy is one of three, more detailed strategies which will be developed under the Framework.

The Early Years Strategy, which will be Ireland's first ever national strategy for early years, is already under development and is expected to be completed and published later this year. It is expected that it will cover a range of issues affecting children in their first years of life such as health, including physical and mental development, vaccination programmes and population health issues such as nutrition and exercise, as well as parenting and family support, learning and development, play and recreation and early childhood care and education, including literacy and numeracy.

The Strategy will bring together and consider a significant amount of international and domestic research on the importance of early years for child development, including findings from the 'Growing up in Ireland' study. It will also be informed by the evaluations from the Prevention and Early Interventions Projects which have been funded jointly by my Department and philanthropic organisations, as well as an analysis of existing service provision and associated resources. The major programme of institutional change which is currently underway, including the establishment of the Child and Family Support Agency, will also be taken into account. The results of a public consultation, undertaken as part of the development of the Children and Young People’s Policy Framework, is currently being analysed and will inform both the Framework and the Early Years Strategy. A further, focussed consultation with key stakeholders in relation to the Early Years Strategy, is also proposed.

My Department provides funding to support three childcare programmes - the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme, the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme and the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme - which provide a range of supports to parents of preschool children and also after-school care for children older than 6 years.

The CCS programme is provided through community-based childcare services and enables those services to provide childcare at reduced rates to disadvantaged and low income families. For the purpose of the CCS programme, disadvantage and low income are determined by reference to a range of means-tested allowances and payments including receipt of a social welfare payment, Family Income Supplement (FIS) and qualification for a medical or GP visit card.

My Department also implements the CETS programme which was introduced in September 2010. The eligibility criteria under which trainees and students qualify for the programme is determined by FÁS and the Vocational Educational Committees (VECs) and €145 towards the weekly cost of full time childcare places is provided by my Department to those deemed qualified. Students on part-time courses are funded on a pro rata basis.

The ECCE programme was introduced in January 2010 and provides a free pre-school year to all eligible children in the year before commencing primary school.

A new School Age Childcare initiative was announced in Budget 2013 as part of a packet of measures to support children and families. It will be implemented as a joint venture by my Department and the Department of Social Protection. Under the initiative, over 6,000 after school childcare places will be made available for children of parents availing of employment opportunities. My Department has been given a full year allocation of €14 million to provide for the scheme which is expected to be fully rolled out in September 2013. This Department provides in the region of €260 million annually to support parents with the cost of childcare under these programmes and despite the budgetary situation the programmes have been maintained and expanded.

Child Poverty

Questions (224)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

224. Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the measures that will be taken between her Department and the Department of Social Protection to end child poverty here, in line with the new EU recommendations Investing in Children: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12142/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The European Commission Recommendation "Investing in Children - Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage" is part of the "Social Investment Package" published by the European Commission in February. Because of the complex nature of the package, it will be necessary to coordinate initial positions across all relevant Government Departments. The Department of Social Protection recently wrote to my Department proposing that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs nominate a representative to a network of relevant Departments which the Department of Social Protection is establishing to facilitate appropriate input for all of the relevant policy areas in the development of Ireland's position on the Social Investment Package. I am glad to say that my Department will be part of the network and I look forward to working with my colleague the Minister for Social Protection and other colleagues in relation to the Social Investment Package and the European Commission Recommendation on Investing in Children.

Adoption Legislation

Questions (225)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

225. Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has considered the recommendations of the Adoption Rights Alliance regarding adoption legislation; if measures will be taken to address the 44 recommendations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12143/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I have received detailed submissions from the group which outline suggested amendments to the Adoption Act, 2010 and proposals in relation to information and tracing for those affected by adoption. I am currently examining a number of proposals in relation to amendments to the Adoption Act, 2010. I intend to bring forward any changes to the legislation in conjunction with the draft Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2013.

Work is ongoing on the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill, which will provide for a structured and regulated approach to providing access to adoption information and will facilitate contact for those affected by adoption, including in circumstances where an adoption order was not effected. It is intended that the Bill will provide for the Adoption Authority to have access to all adoption records. The Bill will provide for a National Index of Adoption Records to be maintained by the Adoption Authority containing information as to where all known adoption records are located within the State. It is envisaged that only the Authority, the HSE and accredited bodies will hold adoption records, with the Authority having overall charge of those records.

It is also intended that the Bill will provide for placing the National Contact Preference Register on a statutory basis. The purpose of the Register is to allow persons affected by adoption to register their names with a view to receiving information about a person from whom they have been separated as a result of adoption and will allow for registering a preference, as to whether or not, they want to have contact with that person.

A National Tracing Service will be established, the operation of which will be subject to guidelines which will be set out in regulations. It is intended that the Tracing Service will be made available to adopted persons, birth parents and relatives with the Adoption Authority having the overarching responsibility for the service. It is intended that prior to the release of adoption information, counselling will be offered by the Adoption Authority, the HSE or by an accredited body to an adopted person, a birth parent or to an adoptive parent if, in the opinion of the Authority, the HSE or an accredited body, such counselling would be beneficial in the circumstances, or if such counselling is requested by the applicant seeking the adoption information.

Complex issues have arisen during the course of the preparation of the Bill including the criteria for balancing an adopted person's right to information about his or her identity as against a birth parent's right to privacy. My own view is that persons affected by adoption should be provided with as much information as possible within permissible Constitutional boundaries. Consideration of legal and policy issues is ongoing and once these have been satisfactorily resolved, I intend to seek Government approval to publish the Heads of Bill. It is my intention to bring this Bill before the Houses of the Oireachtas in the coming months.

Child Care Services Provision

Questions (226, 227, 228)

Ciara Conway

Question:

226. Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will clarify if the tax free exemption of €15,000 for voluntary notified child minders will remain in place following the abolition of the child minding advisory officers; if she will clarify who currently provides the voluntary notified certificate to the child minders which is a requirement for them to avail of this scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12179/13]

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Ciara Conway

Question:

227. Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the tax exemption for child minders will be available for new entrants; the way this will be administered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12180/13]

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Ciara Conway

Question:

228. Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will outline the way current child minders can continue to avail of the exemption for child minders; if she will outline who will administer the schemes at a local level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12181/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 226 to 228, inclusive, together.

Section 58 of the Child Care Act 1991 provides for exemptions for certain categories of childminders from the provisions of Section 51 of the same Act which requires a person carrying on a pre-school service to give notice to the Health Service Executive (HSE) of their service. Those childminders exempted under Section 58 of the Act can voluntarily notify the HSE of their service and avail of a range of benefits and supports that enables them to improve the standards of their childcare service. These supports include the Childminders Tax Exemption scheme which provides for a tax exemption for those childminders who have satisfactorily participated in the Voluntary Notification process and whose annual income from childminding does not exceed €15,000. While taxation matters are not within my remit, there is no change, nor is any planned, to the Childminder Tax Exemption.

In 2002, the HSE agreed to fund a Childminding Advisory Officer in each county, who would work with the City/County Childcare Committees (CCCs). I understand that HSE funding for the Childminding Advisory Officer posts has gradually decreased in recent years and while this is not a welcome development, I would point to the fact that the CCCs are now well-established and effective bodies at local level, and that supporting the childminding sector is an integral part of their work. As a result, childminders continue to have access to support including the necessary support for childminders wishing to participate in the Voluntary Notification process.

My Department provides annual funding to each CCC to enable them to support and advise all childcare providers at local level. In 2012, the total amount allocated to the CCCs was €11.3m. In addition, in 2012 my Department provided €220,000 to the CCCs for Childminding Development Grants. My Department also provides annual funding, totalling €2.85m in 2012, to seven National Voluntary Childcare Organisations to provide support at a local level to their members. This included €358,000 for Childminding Ireland, the representative body for childminders.

My Department has commenced work on Ireland's first Early Years Strategy. I have received Government approval for the approach I am taking in developing this Strategy as an innovative and dynamic blueprint for the future development of our Early Years sector, aimed at providing a coherent approach to seeking to improve the lives of children from birth to the age of six. One of the policy issues which I have identified for consideration in the preparation of the Early Years Strategy is the development of the childminding sector as a fully-integrated component of early childhood care and education, in particular for the under-one age group.

Child Care Reports

Questions (229, 231)

Ciara Conway

Question:

229. Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will examine the option of registration for all early years services including child minders rather than a notification system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12182/13]

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Ciara Conway

Question:

231. Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to a publication by Dr Mary Daly carried out by Waterford City and County Vocational Education Committee and the Health Service Executive South in 2010 which called for a registration system for all childcare services including child minders, the removal of the exemptions in the 1991 Act and reform of the inspection system to ensure its appropriateness for child minding services; if she will confirm if her Department has considered the implications and findings of this report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12184/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 229 and 231 together.

Under the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No 2) Regulations 2006, services providing care for children who have not yet commenced primary school are required to notify their service to the Pre-School Inspectorate of the HSE. Childminders taking care of not more than three pre-school children from different families are not covered by the Regulations and are not required to notify.

As is the case with all regulatory requirements, the Child Care Regulations set the minimum standards which services are legally required to comply with. However, my Department is pro-active in monitoring, promoting and developing the highest standards of care and education throughout the sector, including the regulatory environment, given the important role which these services play in this crucial phase of children’s lives.

My Department has commenced work on Ireland's first Early Years Strategy. One of the policy issues which I have identified for consideration in the preparation of the Early Years Strategy is the development of the childminding sector as a fully-integrated component of early childhood care and education, in particular for the under-one age group. Decisions on how best to regulate and support the childminding sector will continue to form part of the ongoing work on the Early Years Strategy.