Early Child Care Education Issues

Questions (529)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

529. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the provision of the free pre-school year is being used by various childcare and preschool facilities during early childhood care to increase childcare fees and charge parents a large top-up fee or premium on top of the States' provision of the free year; her views on whether these additional top-up payments and premiums are narrowing the number of institutions that parents can choose to send their children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30107/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme provides for a free pre-school year to all eligible children in the year before they commence primary school. Almost every pre-school service (more than 4,300) in the State is participating with over 68,000 children, or 94% of the eligible age cohort, availing of free pre-school this year.

Under the ECCE programme my Department provides a capitation payment to participating services for each eligible child enrolled for the free pre-school year. The standard capitation rate is €2,375 per annum (€62.50 per week) and a higher capitation rate of €2,775 per annum (€73.00 per week) is payable to services with more qualified staff. The higher capitation fee is payable to pre-school service providers where all pre-school leaders delivering the pre-school service hold a bachelor degree in childhood/early education (minimum of Level 7 on the National Framework for Qualifications (NFQ) or equivalent) and have 3 years experience working in the sector, and where all pre-school assistants in the service hold a relevant major award in childcare/early education at level 5 on the NFQ or its equivalent.

It is a fundamental principle of the ECCE programme that participating service providers must operate the pre-school provision free to parents in return for the applicable capitation fee, and parents should be given access to the service where their child only attends the pre-school element.  However, service providers may charge parents for optional additional services e.g. hours which are additional to the free pre-school year requirement.  Optional additional services can also take the form of various one-off or on-going activities or services such as outings, specific teaching resources such as dance or music, and food, but must not include activities which would generally be regarded as a normal part of a pre-school service, e.g. general arts and crafts activities.

In all cases, service providers must ensure that parents are aware that their agreement to additional hours or to any optional charge is not compulsory, and that agreement to additional hours or optional charges is not a condition of initial or continued enrolment.  In addition, appropriate programme-based activities must be provided to children not participating in an optional activity where such activities take place during the required period of pre-school provision.

All childcare services participating in the ECCE programme are required to submit a fees policy which sets out their fees calculations and the non-ECCE rate that applies before deductions of the programme funding is made. Parents should also establish the overall cost of the service provided before enrolling their child in the childcare service. Following this, if the parents have concerns about the fees they are being charged, they can contact their local City or County Childcare Committee (CCC), who approve the fee policies in the first instance, and they will be in a position to determine if a particular policy is being correctly applied. Local CCCs also assist my Department in the implementation of the programme and will, if contacted by parents or my Department, raise with providers any concerns that may arise in relation to the implementation of the free pre-school provision.

Pobal, which also assists my Department with the implementation of the ECCE programme, carries out compliance visits throughout the school year to ensure that participating services are adhering to the terms and conditions of the programme.

Abortion Services

Questions (530)

Billy Timmins

Question:

530. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 236 of 9 May 2013, if she will provide an update on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30153/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I am advised by the HSE that six minors who were in State care were assisted in travelling abroad for abortions since 1992.

The circumstances in each case are complex and unique to the individual involved. In the interests of confidentiality and given the very low numbers involved the HSE is constrained from providing details of the individual cases. The HSE has confirmed that it acted within the legislation and in the best interests of the children involved in all cases.

In each of the six cases a psychiatrist was involved in providing an assessment of the mental health needs of the child. In four of the six cases a Court hearing was convened.

Early Child Care Education Issues

Questions (531, 542)

Eamonn Maloney

Question:

531. Deputy Eamonn Maloney asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs regarding the free preschool year, the number of persons employed as pre-school teachers and leaders in approved preschools; the qualifications required of such persons; if her Department seeks information on the qualifications of staff; the most up to date figures on qualifications by HETAC/FETAC level; if her attention has been drawn to any qualified primary teachers working in the preschool sector and, if so, the numbers of same; if there is a central guideline or requirement in respect of qualifications of, and conditions of employment for, staff being hired in the sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30162/13]

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Róisín Shortall

Question:

542. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the basis on which the free preschool year is made to service providers; the criteria which must be met in respect of the qualifications of the staff; the curriculum to be followed; the standard of the premises; the requirement for adequate insurance cover; if she will give details of all health and safety requirements and appropriate planning permission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30713/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 531 and 542 together.

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme provides for a free pre-school year to all eligible children in the year before they commence primary school. Almost every pre-school service (more than 4,300) in the State is participating with over 68,000 children, or 94% of the eligible age cohort, availing of free pre-school this year.

Under the ECCE programme my Department provides a capitation payment to participating services for each eligible child enrolled for the free pre-school year. The standard capitation rate is €2,375 per annum (€62.50 per week) and a higher capitation rate of €2,775 per annum (€73.00 per week) is payable to services with more qualified staff. In childcare services that qualify for the standard capitation, the pre-school leader must currently hold the full FETAC 5 qualification on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) or equivalent.

The higher capitation fee is payable to pre-school service providers where all pre-school leaders delivering the pre-school service hold a bachelor degree in childhood/early education (minimum of Level 7 on the NFQ or equivalent) and have 3 years experience working in the sector, and where all pre-school assistants in the service hold a relevant major award in childcare/early education at level 5 on the NFQ or its equivalent.

I have indicated my intention to increase the qualification requirements for all staff working in pre-school services. The minimum requirement of Level 5 for pre-school leaders delivering the pre-school year will be increased to Level 6. In addition, all pre-school assistants, and all other staff caring for children in a pre-school service, will be subject to a minimum requirement of Level 5. This requirement will be effective from September 2014 for new services, and from September 2015 for existing services. My Department is currently examining measures to support training for childcare staff in line with the increased qualification requirements.

Pobal, which administers the childcare support programmes on behalf of my Department, compiles an Annual Survey of the Early Years Sector. According to its 2011 Annual Survey, there are in the region of 4,300 childcare services participating in the ECCE programme and approximately 3,133 of these services responded to the question relating to the number of staff employed. The results, which did not distinguish between those working with children enrolled for the ECCE programme and other children in the childcare service, show that some 17,123 staff in the 3,133 services that responded were working directly with children.

Figures compiled earlier this year indicated that approximately 20% of the 4,300 services participating in the ECCE programme are in receipt of the higher capitation. All participating services must provide information relating to the qualifications of staff currently delivering the pre-school year, and we are examining the possibility of extending this to a national registration system. Given the vast range of childcare qualifications and awarding authorities, including international awarding bodies, this will not be an easy task. A national qualification and registration system for all early years professionals would be useful, and my Department will be liaising with the Early Years Education Unit, which is co-located within my Department, to determine the optimum means of building and maintaining such a register.

The ECCE programme is designed as an education programme for children. Services are required to implement Siolta, the Early Education Framework developed by the Department of Education and Skills. The programme also encourages services to implement Aistear, the Early Education Curriculum for 0 to 6 year olds. Services opting to participate in the programme must be in a position to deliver these programmes and ensure that qualifying children have access to quality pre-school provision.

Pre-school services are subject to the Child Care (Pre-School Services)(No.2) Regulations 2006, as provided for under Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991. All childcare services that are notified to the HSE pursuant to the Child Care Act 1991 are subject to the Regulations and must satisfy the requirements set out in relation to the standard of facilities, health and safety issues and other measures relating to the well being of children enrolled in pre-school services.

It is also a condition for childcare services participating in the ECCE programme that they undertake to comply with all relevant legal and regulatory requirements which include planning legislation, employment legislation, health and safety legislation and data protection requirements.

Only services who meet the standards set out in the Regulations and are prepared to comply with the terms and conditions of the free pre-school scheme are accepted into the ECCE programme.

Child Care Services Funding

Question No. 533 withdrawn.

Questions (532)

Tom Fleming

Question:

532. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will examine an application by a child care facility (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30213/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I was successful in securing €2.75m in capital funding in Budget 2013 to support the ongoing improvement of the childcare sector via the 2013 Childcare Capital Programme. This programme is being implemented by Pobal on behalf of my Department. Both community not-for-profit childcare facilities and private childcare facilities currently participating in one of the three childcare programmes implemented by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs were eligible to apply for a grant under the Programme. The closing date for applications was 30th April.

I understand that there has been significant interest in the programme with almost 1,400 applications submitted before the closing date. These applications, including the specific application mentioned by the Deputy, are currently being appraised by Pobal with the assistance of the City and County Childcare Committees and the HSE as relevant. It is expected that the appraisal process will be completed and recommendations for approvals made to my Department before the end of June. All applicants will be advised of the outcome as soon as possible.

Question No. 533 withdrawn.

Youth Work Supports

Questions (534)

Regina Doherty

Question:

534. Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps she is taking to protect, enhance and develop youth work services, in particular those run by Foróige in County Meath; if she will commit to ringfencing the funding these services receive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30289/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Youth Affairs Unit of my Department provides a range of funding schemes, programmes and supports to the youth sector. Funding of some €53.498m is available in 2013 to support the provision of youth services and programmes to young people throughout the country including those from disadvantaged communities. Targeted supports for disadvantaged, marginalised and at risk young people are provided through the Special Projects for Youth Scheme, the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund Rounds 1 and 2 and Local Drugs Task Force Projects.

In 2013, funding amounting to €5,930,009 was allocated to Foróige to support a wide range of activities including educational projects, leadership programmes and other support services for some 56,000 young people throughout the country. The funding includes an amount of some €300,000 which Foróige, following earlier discussions with my Department, has reprioritised to strengthen its Big Brother Big Sister youth mentoring programme which is also funded by Foróige’s philanthropic partners.

The savings required under the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure in respect of 2013 amounted to €5.393m on 2012 funding available for the provision of youth services and in 2014 a further savings of €2.97m is required in the youth budget.

My Department has tried to be as equitable as possible in achieving these savings and to ensure that, in the determination process for the allocations, the front line youth services, particularly those for the most vulnerable young people are protected as far as is possible from the impact of any necessary reductions in funding. In considering how best to manage within the reduced budgets available, organisations are being asked to consider the scope for reducing administration costs and overheads, if this is at all possible, in order to maintain the front line youth services for young people. I have met, and continue to meet with, many youth organisations and groups to try and see how we can work together to minimise the impact of these necessary savings in order to ensure that the provision of quality youth services to young people is sustained in these challenging times.

Officials from my Department have recently met with Foróige about the organisation's plans for the future of the Big Brother, Big Sister programme having regard to the challenging funding situation that the programme faces from 2014 onwards on account of the cessation of philanthropic funding.

My Department continues to work with Foróige to assist in devising an expenditure and funding strategy that can support the long term sustainability of this programme.

My Department is developing a new youth policy framework for publication later this year. The new youth policy framework will aim to enhance the provision of youth services and activities and it will, inter alia, promote co-ordination between government departments and youth sector organisations with a view to maximising the effectiveness of the State funding available to support services for young people in future years.

Topical Issue Debate

Questions (535)

Micheál Martin

Question:

535. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of Dáil Topical Issue debates submitted to her Department following selection by the Ceann Comhairle since March 2011; the number of Topical Issues taken directly by her; the number of Topical Issues taken by a junior Minister in her Department; the number of issues taken by a Minister not from her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30336/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department was formally established on 2 June 2011 and since that date 21 Topical Issue debates have been submitted to my Department following selection by the Ceann Comhairle. I replied to 10 of them and a Minister or Minister of State from another Department replied to 11.

On a number of occasions when these issues were raised I was out of the country on Government business.

Services for People with Disabilities

Questions (536)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

536. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding a service (details supplied) in County Kerry; the reason this service has not received additional funding; the reason representations made to her, initiated in the summer of 2010, are still ongoing; her views on the future of the service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30350/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The service referred to by the Deputy is a service for children with disabilities and its primary funding is a matter for the HSE and the Department of Health. However, my Department continues to provide funding to this service through the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme in recognition of the difficulties faced by the families concerned. In the current school year, the service will receive over €18,000 through CCS funding.

Ministerial Transport

Questions (537)

Niall Collins

Question:

537. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the total cost of ministerial transport in her Department in 2010, 2011, 2012 and to date 2013; the number of drivers employed in each year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30548/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department was established on 2 June 2011. In line with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform guidelines on ministerial appointments, I employ two civilian drivers on a week on/week off basis to drive my private car on official business. Each driver receives €631.75 per week in respect of these duties and is not entitled to claim overtime. Civilian drivers are entitled to claim subsistence payments in respect of certified official travel at the appropriate Civil Service rates and under the regulations applying to such subsistence. The total costs of Ministerial transport which includes civilian driver salaries, travel and subsistence and the mileage claims in respect of the use of my personal car on official business since June 2011 is set out as follows:

YEAR

TOTAL TRANSPORT COSTS PAID

From June to end 2011

€53,221

2012

€86,669

To date 2013

€42,670

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (538)

Niall Collins

Question:

538. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the total costs of photography incurred by her Department in 2011, 2012 and to date 2013 in tabular form per event. [30564/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department was formally established on 2nd June 2011 and to date photographers were booked for the following events:

Date of Event

Event

Cost

11/07/11

Launch of the report of consultations with young people on Reform of the Junior Cycle in 2nd level schools.

€590.20

27/07/11

Launch of the report of consultations with children living in the care of the State.

€590.20

18/11/11

Dáil na nÓg Event

€820.00

23/11/11

Research launch

€375.00

28/08/12

Task Force Agency Launch

€493.72

15/10/12

Launch of How we see it: Report of a Survey on Teenagers Body Image

€436.97

07/11/12

Launch of Life as a child & young person in Ireland

€493.72

09/11/12

Comhairle na nÓg National Showcase

€828.55

23/09/12

Vietnamese Family Day in Farmleigh

€575.00

24/09/12

Adoption Administrative Arrangements

€493.72

25/09/12

Photo-call of Vietnamese Minister for Justice with An Taoiseach

€340.50

04/03/13

Launch of Standard for Local Youth Groups

€436.97

Total Cost - €6,474.55

Addition - Paid to NYCI

Date of Event

Event

Total Cost

10/04/12

Dáil na nÓg

€180.00

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (539)

Niall Collins

Question:

539. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the details and costs of any newspaper supplements her Department has been involved with in 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013. [30580/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

A cost of €8,439 (VAT inclusive) was incurred in relation to a proposed ‘Metro Wrap’ about the Children’s Referendum. This publication was planned for 9th November 2012 but did not proceed following the Supreme Court ruling in the McCrystal case on 8th November. The amount paid was 50% of the price quoted for publication.

Youth Services Issues

Questions (540)

Seán Kyne

Question:

540. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will report on the progress of addressing the issues raised by an organisation (details supplied) from County Galway. [30609/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Youth Affairs Unit of my Department provides a range of funding schemes, programmes and supports to the youth sector. Funding of some €53.498m is available in 2013 to support the provision of youth services and programmes to young people throughout the country including those from disadvantaged communities. Targeted supports for disadvantaged, marginalised and at risk young people are provided through the Special Projects for Youth Scheme, the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund Rounds 1 and 2 and Local Drugs Task Force Projects. These funding schemes support national and local youth work provision to some 400,000 young people and involve approximately 1,400 paid staff and 40,000 volunteers working in youth work services and communities throughout the country.

Óige na Gaeltachta was established in 2006 and provides youth services to over 50 youth clubs in Gaeltacht regions and over 2000 young people from 7 to 18 years. The organisation receives funding from Údarás na Gaeilge and is not in receipt of funding under the Youth Affairs budget of my Department.

The savings required under the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure in respect of 2013 amounted to €5.393m which equated to almost a 10% reduction on 2012 funding available for the provision of youth services. The savings required in 2014 in the youth budget under the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure amount to €2.976m. In light of budgetary constraints, the focus in 2013 and 2014 is on consolidating and maintaining, insofar as possible, the level of existing programmes and services for young people. In these circumstances, my Department is not in a position to consider any additional applications for funding.

A comprehensive Value for Money and Policy Review of youth funding has been commenced in my Department and it is anticipated that the findings of this report will inform the future development of youth programmes and services.

My Department is also developing a new youth policy framework for publication later this year. The new youth policy framework will aim to enhance the provision of youth services and activities and it will, inter alia, promote co-ordination between government departments and youth sector organisations with a view to maximising the effectiveness of the State funding available to support services for young people in future years.

Preschool Services

Question No. 542 answered with Question No.531.

Questions (541)

Regina Doherty

Question:

541. Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of relevant childcare facilities in existence in County Meath; the procedures in place to conduct regular inspections of such facilities; if anything has emerged in recent years that has given cause for concern regarding the operation of such facilities; if any such facilities have been closed within the past three years, or if directions have issued to any such centres in the past three years to significantly amend or review their operational systems; if parents of children attending such facilities have been so advised; the procedures in place to ensure the childcare facilities meet the highest possible standards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30697/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Pre-school services are subject to the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No.2) Regulations 2006, as provided for under Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991. As the implementation of these Regulations and the inspection of pre-schools is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE), I have asked that it examines these matters and respond directly to the Deputy with the most up-to-date information.

Question No. 542 answered with Question No.531.

Child Care Services Regulation

Questions (543)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

543. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding child care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30715/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme introduced the first-ever requirement for minimum qualifications for staff working in the childcare sector. Under the programme, the pre-school leader delivering the programme must hold a qualification in childcare/early education at a minimum of Level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications of Ireland (NFQ), or an equivalent nationally-recognised qualification or a higher award in the childcare/early education field. A higher capitation rate is payable to services where all of the pre-school leaders hold a bachelor degree in childhood/early education (minimum of Level 7 on the NFQ) and have three years experience working in the sector, and where all of the pre-school assistants hold a relevant major award in childcare/early education at Level 5 on the NFQ.

I have indicated my intention to increase the qualification requirements for all staff working in pre-school services. The minimum requirement of Level 5 for pre-school leaders delivering the pre-school year will be increased to Level 6. In addition, all pre-school assistants, and all other staff caring for children in a pre-school service, will be subject to a minimum requirement of Level 5. This requirement will be effective from September 2014 for new services, and from September 2015 for existing services.

Under the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No 2) Regulations 2006, the inspection of pre-schools is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

It is important to realise that inspections alone are not the answer to improving quality. What is required is a multifaceted approach, and since this Government came to office we have been working to ensure issues relating to child protection and welfare are put front and centre. The establishment of a Department of Children and Youth Affairs was recognition of the huge body of work which needs to be done in this area.

As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, driving the early childhood care and education quality agenda is one of my key objectives. I believe we can achieve this objective by taking a number of steps in conjunction with the Department of Education and Skills, including the adaptation of the existing pre-school inspection system to provide a more comprehensive and broader-based inspection regime for pre-schools, moving to a greater focus on outcomes for children.

In support of this, a Joint Pilot Inspection of Early Years Services was carried out by Inspectors from the HSE and the Department of Education and Skills between September 2011 and May 2012. This pilot will inform the proactive approach being taken.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to improve the quality of the free Pre-School Year and, by extension, the quality of all early childhood care and education, through the implementation of standards and by reviewing training options for the workforce.

This commitment has always been a key priority for me. This is why my Department and I have been progressing work on Ireland’s first-ever Early Years Strategy and this why we have been working on a comprehensive Pre-School Quality Agenda.

We have identified a number of key areas of action which I believe need to be considered and addressed as a matter of urgency. These include:

- Introducing a registration system for all pre-school services

- Taking steps to make the inspection system more consistent and more robust

- Publishing inspection reports on-line as soon as possible

- Ensuring appropriate action is taken in response to findings of non-compliance

- Increasing and widening the sanctions which can be taken for non-compliance.

Registration of all childcare providers

Work is already underway in the Child and Family Services area of the Health Service Executive (HSE) to introduce a registration system for pre-school services. I understand this system will be in place for new services from the end of this year and will be phased in for existing services thereafter. This is an important development because it will move services from the current position, where they are required to notify the Pre-School Inspectorate of their intention to open, to a requirement to be inspected and found satisfactory, before being permitted to open. All pre-school services are currently required to pay an annual fee to the HSE of between €40 and €80. I am looking at increasing this fee. The additional funds raised will assist in improving inspection and supports for quality improvement.

Publication of Inspection Reports

Parents will rightly demand and expect the highest standards and this will be a key factor in driving change in the sector. Publishing inspection reports is an essential step in ensuring high standards and accountability. All new inspection reports will be made available on-line from the HSE as a matter of urgency. All current inspection reports will be made available on-line in 2014.

Taking steps to make the inspection system more consistent and more robust

We are working on developing a more robust, consistent and regular inspection system. There has been a significant programme of work underway in the HSE over the past year to develop a single, consistent national inspection service (as opposed to 37 different local systems).

We propose moving to a position where there is consistent and assured national target rate for the frequency of inspection of pre-school services, while ensuring capacity for prioritisation based on risk assessment. The HSE is currently reviewing the regional spread of inspectors with a view to identifying whether either additional resources or redeployment of existing inspectors is required to achieve this.

Building on this work, officials of my Department and the Department of Education and Skills have been examining options to incrementally develop a more comprehensive and broader-based inspection regime for pre-schools; moving away from a narrow focus on compliance, and leading to a greater focus on children's outcomes, including educational development and child wellbeing. This work is being informed by the findings of the recent Joint Pilot Inspection carried out in a small number of settings by Inspectors from the Health Service Executive and the Department of Education and Skills.

Ensuring appropriate action is taken in response to findings of non-compliance

We are working to ensure consistent action is taken in response to findings of non-compliance. There must be a follow-through on inspections. Clearly, services which are found to be in serious breach of the Regulations will face closure and prosecution. It is proposed to develop a protocol with the Pre-School Inspectorate which will take a calibrated approach and which will enable more decisive action to be taken in response to non-compliance.

Increased Sanctions for non-compliance

My Department will also be undertaking a review of the penalties currently in place for breach of the Child Care (No. 2) Regulations 2006, as provided for under the Child Care Act 1991. The review will look at increasing the range and severity of the existing penalties including the actions which can be taken by Inspectors without recourse to court prosecution, as is currently the case.

In relation to childminders, one of the specific issues of policy which I have identified for consideration in the preparation of the new Early Years Strategy is the future role and regulation of the childminding sector, which I recognise as an important component of early childhood care and education. It is expected that the Strategy will be published later this year.

The Deputy will be aware that I published the Draft Heads and General Scheme for the Children First Bill 2012 on 25 April 2012 and immediately referred the Heads of Bill to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children for consideration and advice. The Committee published their report last year and my Department is currently considering the broad range of submissions to, and recommendations of the Committee, including those submissions pertaining to the issue of childminders.

Nursing Home Services

Questions (544)

Finian McGrath

Question:

544. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the nursing homes support scheme and the implications of the Government levy increase on nursing home residents from 5% to 7.5% under the terms of the budget (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30519/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme is a system of financial support for individuals who require long-term nursing home care. Under the Scheme, nursing home residents contribute towards the cost of their nursing home care based on their means, and the HSE pays the balance. The budget for the Scheme in 2013 is €974m.

Currently, an individual’s contribution towards the cost of their care is calculated based on 80% of their income and 5% of their assets per annum. If the person is a member of a couple, the assessment is based on half of the couple's combined income and assets.

The average weekly contribution under the Scheme is currently about €280.

It was announced in Budget 2013 that the asset contribution would be increased from 5% to 7.5% per annum. The legislation underpinning the Scheme must be amended before this change can take effect and this is being progressed in the Health (Amendment) Bill 2013. The increased asset contribution will only apply to new entrants to the Scheme after the enactment of the Bill. In the case of the principal residence, there will be a cap of 22.5% (i.e. three years).

The Scheme contains several important safeguards which ensure that both the person in the nursing home and their spouse/partner, if applicable, are adequately provided for:

1. Nobody will pay more than the actual cost of care.

2. The first €36,000 for a person's assets, or €72,000 for a couple, is not taken into account during the financial assessment.

3. The principal residence is only included in the financial assessment for the first three years of a person's time in care. This three year cap can also apply to family farms/businesses in certain circumstances.

4. Where an individual's assets include land and property in the State, the contribution based on such assets may be deferred and collected from their estate. This is the optional Nursing Home Loan element of the scheme.

5. Individuals keep a personal allowance of 20% of their income, or 20% of the maximum rate of the State Pension (Non-Contributory), whichever is the greater.

6. If there is a spouse/partner remaining at home, s/he will retain 50% of the couples income, or the maximum rate of the State Pension (Non-Contributory), whichever is the greater.

7. Certain items of expenditure, called allowable deductions, can be taken into account during the financial assessment. These allowable deductions include health expenses.

8. There is a financial review mechanism which takes account of the fluctuating value of assets and the fact that cash assets will naturally deplete over time as payments are made to the nursing home etc.

Hospital Staff Issues

Questions (545)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

545. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if he will confirm if reports are correct that South Doctors are regularly called into Bantry Hospital, County Cork, to attend patients in the absences of duty doctors; and if so, whether this a new policy on the part of the Health Service Executive; the amount it has cost since January 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30015/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

In relation to the particular query raised by the Deputy, as this is a service issue, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in this matter.

Patient Statistics

Questions (546)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

546. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health if there is a record of the number of patients with minor injuries that have been redirected from Bantry Hospital, County Cork, to Cork city hospitals, without treatment, from January 2013 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30016/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

In relation to the particular query raised by the Deputy, as this is a service issue, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in this matter.

Medical Card Applications

Questions (547)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

547. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if he will arrange for the change of name in respect of a medical card in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30052/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Health Service Executive has been asked to examine this matter and to reply to the Deputy as soon as possible. The Health Service Executive operates the General Medical Services scheme, which includes medical cards and GP visit cards, under the Health Act 1970, as amended. It has established a dedicated contact service for members of the Oireachtas specifically for queries relating to medical cards and GP visit cards, which the Deputy may wish to use for an earlier response. Contact information has recently reissued to Oireachtas members.