Rural Environment Protection Scheme Contracts

Question No. 606 answered with Question No. 592.

Questions (605)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

605. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will introduce supports for farmers who will have a serious reduction in their incomes when they have completed their REP scheme contracts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32071/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Agri-Environment Schemes, namely the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) and the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) and the Organic Farming Scheme (OFS) are delivered through the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013, as approved by the European Commission. Future supports and policies will be determined in the context of the agreement on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and the introduction of the EU regulatory framework governing the next programming period 2014-2020. I expect that environmental sustainability will continue to play a key role in any future agri-environment scheme.

Question No. 606 answered with Question No. 592.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Appeals

Questions (607)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

607. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a decision has been made on further evidence provided on an application for derogation of a disadvantaged area scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32180/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named is one of a number of applicants under the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, whose case was impacted by the requirement to have had a minimum stocking density on their holding in 2011 of 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare and who applied for and was refused derogation in this regard. The person named subsequently appealed unsuccessfully to the independently chaired DAS Appeals Committee and was notified accordingly by letter dated 14 March 2013. As advised in that letter, there remains the option to pursue the matter with the Office of the Ombudsman.

Single Payment Scheme Payments

Questions (608)

John McGuinness

Question:

608. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the further single farm payments that are due to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [32287/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department has now completed the review of the 2006 to 2010 applications of the person named, specifically, with regard to the eligibility under the Single Payment Scheme of two land parcels owned by him.

My Department has advised the applicant of a positive outcome in regard to the two land parcels in question. Monies due on foot of this review have already issued.

Departmental Funding

Questions (609)

John McGuinness

Question:

609. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if a phone service (details supplied) is funded by the Government and if so, if she will confirm the amount granted in the past three years; the extent of the marketing campaign to promote the phone service number and the way that campaign is funded; the number of calls received by the phone service since it was established; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31710/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The 116000 Missing Children Hotline is operated by the ISPCC in liaison with a cross-sectoral Project Team, chaired by the DCYA.

The ISPCC has been successful in securing EU Daphne funding of €141,422 to support the establishment of the line. The ISPCC also submitted an application for funding to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to cover the establishment and running of the Hotline. This application has been approved for 2012 (€50,240) and 2013 (€87,631). Future applications for running costs will be considered in the context of the annual budget estimates process.

The funding received from both the EU Daphne fund and from DCYA includes the establishment costs and the national promotion and advertisement of this Hotline service.

The promotion of the Hotline has been ongoing since the service opened in 2012. There have been numerous press releases issued by the DCYA and the ISPCC, the 116 000 Missing Children Hotline has been covered in the print (9 articles) and broadcast (6 radio stations) media since opening in May 2012. There has also been an ongoing website and social media presence utilising ISPCC, Facebook and Twitter to highlight the service as well as information on missing children. The 116000 Missing Children Hotline website (www.missingchildrenhotline.ie) was launched on the 5th of June 2013, the day of the official launch of the service.

ISPCC staff and volunteers have worked to disseminate posters in local areas and posters have been distributed nationally to Garda stations.

The ISPCC will now escalate the promotion of this service, which will include promotion in schools. The Project Team will be kept informed on an on-going basis of the ISPCC's plans and activities related to awareness raising.

The Missing Children Hotline has been operating on a full-time basis since end April, 2013. Reliable data on calls is not available prior to this point. The ISPCC will submit quarterly activity data to my Department, which will include information on the number of calls received by the service. It is expected that data on calls to the service since its establishment on a full-time basis will be available in the next quarter, and henceforth on a quarterly basis.

Departmental Staff Rehiring

Questions (610)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

610. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of temporary clerical officers who have been employed by her Department during each of the past three years; the number of those who have been retired public-civil servants; her views on whether her Department should employ retired staff in these positions in view of the level of youth unemployment here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31568/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Since its establishment in June 2011, my Department has not employed temporary clerical officers. Youth employment is a pressing challenge at present, domestically and across European Member States. My Department, through its focus on youth policy and youth work, is contributing to addressing this challenge on a range of levels. Through the Action Plan for Jobs 2013, my Department has met all targets in relation to actions outlined and is firmly committed to maximising the role the youth sector can play in this area. On a European level, we have ensured that the theme of youth work and its contribution to youth employment is central to our Presidency Programme. This has been a keynote of all our Presidency events (EU Youth Conference, Structured Dialogue Process, Ministerial Council etc) and has resulted in the adoption of Council Conclusions and, in the last two weeks, has informed a Dublin Declaration on the contribution of youth work to youth employment.

Early Child Care Education Issues

Questions (611)

Robert Troy

Question:

611. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the estimated cost of implementing the workforce development plan for the early child care sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31616/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Workforce Development Plan for the Early Childhood Care and Education sector set out the key areas that emerged from an extensive programme of research and consultation. These key areas are:

- The necessity for clearly articulated professional pathways into and across professional domains of practice related to the care and education of children. These include occupational role descriptors with associated qualification levels.

- The establishment of an agreed set of national standards for all awards in early childhood care and education (incorporating core knowledge, skills, competencies and work experience) across all relevant levels of the National Framework of Qualifications in Ireland. These were published by FETAC in 2011.

- Access to flexible, affordable and nationally accredited learning opportunities at all levels of qualification for pre-service and in-service professional development.

- The necessity to ensure consistent quality of ECCE courses nationally across a range of variables including content, delivery and work placement.

It was envisaged that the cost of delivering on the key objectives could be accommodated within existing resources.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Questions (612)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

612. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the progress to date regarding inter country adoption; the progress that the adoption authority has made in relation to establishing administrative arrangements with the Hague countries regarding inter country adoptions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31642/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Under section 72 of the Adoption Act 2010, the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) may enter into administrative arrangements with another contracting State to the Hague Convention. An administrative arrangement is not mandatory for intercountry adoption between countries that are both signatories to Hague. However some contracting states, including Ireland, may determine that in some instances co-operation in the field of intercountry adoption is best served by the development of such arrangements.

The Adoption Authority is continuing its work to establish administrative arrangements with a number of Hague countries in relation to intercountry adoptions, as provided for under section 72 of the Adoption Act 2010. The Authority has travelled to a number of jurisdictions in order to make contact with the Central Authorities, advise of our processes and procedures, assess the need for additional administrative arrangements or agreements; and to glean as much information as possible of relevance to prospective adopters from those countries. The visits also provide opportunities to streamline processes on both sides and obtain up-to-date information for prospective adopters on developments in these countries.

In relation to intercountry adoption with Bulgaria the AAI has advised me that referrals for the adoption of Bulgarian children by Irish applicants have commenced. In September 2012 the Adoption Authority and the Vietnamese Central Authority for Adoption signed an administrative arrangement for intercountry adoption. The administrative arrangement is the first international arrangement for intercountry adoption entered into by the AAI and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam since both countries ratified the Hague Convention. The Adoption Authority accredited Helping Hands for activities in relation to facilitating adoptions from Vietnam and Helping Hands has recently received confirmation from the Vietnamese authorities of its approval to operate there. I met recently with representatives of Helping Hands who informed me that they expect adoptions to commence shortly.

A delegation from the Adoption Authority made an official visit to the US State Department in Washington in 2012. Following this visit administrative arrangements in relation to intercountry adoption between the United States of America and Ireland were drafted by the AAI. The AAI and US State Department have recently finalised these administrative arrangements. The AAI has information on its website (www.aai.gov.ie) in relation to intercountry adoption from the USA, including information in relation to the arrangements and the criteria which must be met before the adoption process can proceed. These criteria will apply to all adoptions taking place between Ireland and the United States of America with immediate effect.

In March I lead a delegation to India which included the Chair of the Adoption Authority of Ireland and a departmental official. The visit, which was in conjunction with representing the Irish Government at official functions in India for St Patrick's Day, afforded me the opportunity to assess the position in relation to intercountry adoption in India and to clarify issues in relation to the requirements of the Indian authorities in that regard. I was advised that registration is now open with CARA (the Indian Central Authority) only for special needs cases; this includes children with intellectual or physical disabilities, siblings including twins, and children over 5 years of age. It was explained that India currently operates intercountry adoption with other Hague countries without the need for any specific administrative arrangements of the type in place with Vietnam. In order for adoptions, other than special needs cases to reopen, an Irish accredited agency will need to be approved by CARA to work in India.

Work has also been undertaken in terms of agreements on adoption from non-Hague countries. Russia and Ethiopia are not signatories of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. As such, future adoptions from Russia and Ethiopia would require a bilateral agreement between Ireland and these countries. I travelled to Moscow, accompanied by Dr Geoffrey Shannon, Chair of the Adoption Authority, in order to discuss at a diplomatic level issues in relation to the potential for a bilateral agreement with Russia. My officials are in active discussions with officials in the Office of the Attorney General and in the Department of Foreign Affairs on advancing a draft agreement for consideration by the Russian authorities. I have invited the Russian authorities to visit Ireland in September in order to finalise consideration of this aspect of the draft bilateral agreement.

The Adoption Authority delegation visit to Ethiopia in April last year was an initial part of the Authority's deliberations on the feasibility and suitability of entering into discussions with Ethiopia on a bilateral adoption agreement. The Authority is examining the compatibility of the Irish and Ethiopian adoption legislation. As intercountry adoption is a constantly changing landscape, the most up to date information on individual countries can be found on the Adoption Authority website (www.aai.gov.ie).

Children in Care

Questions (613)

Michael Creed

Question:

613. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children born to female children in the care of his Department or its agencies for each of the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31653/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I have requested the information from the HSE and I will revert to the Deputy when this information is to hand.

Departmental Budgets

Questions (614)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

614. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will provide a report on her Department's capital programme for 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31668/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

A sum of €25.760 million has been made available to my Department in 2013 to support capital developments. This includes:

National Children Detention Facilities (Subhead A.7)

Just over €20 million is being made available in 2013 to undertake the National Children Detention Facility Project at Oberstown. My officials in the Irish Youth Justice Service continue to work closely to progress this project with the Office of Public Works (OPW) which is providing the relevant project management services for my Department. The tender process for the award of a contract for the project is currently ongoing and the current projected timeline estimate from the OPW indicates that the first new residential units, to provide sufficient capacity to end the practice of sending 17 year old boys to St. Patrick's Institution, will be available for use by mid 2014. The overall project for the campus, which will also replace some existing outdated buildings and deliver education, visiting and other ancillary facilities, is currently scheduled for completion by mid 2015.

2013 Childcare Capital Programme (Subhead B.4)

A sum of €3.25 million is being made available to support the ongoing improvement of the childcare sector. The 2013 funding programme, which is being implemented by Pobal on behalf of my Department, covers four strands as follows:

Strand 1: small grants to purchase equipment or carry out small maintenance work;

Strand 2: grants to improve accessibility of services for children with disabilities;

Strand 3: grants to provide natural outdoor spaces that promote active outdoor play; and

Strand 4: grants towards critical works to ensure that buildings are fit for purpose under the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No.2) Regulations (open to community/not-for-profit services only).

Community/not-for-profit and commercial childcare providers/childminders that are currently providing services under one or more of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs' funding programmes - the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme, the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme and the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme - were eligible to apply and the closing date for applications was 30th April. The appraisal process is almost completed and it is expected that all applicants will be advised of the outcome this week.

Youth Programmes and Services (Subhead B.5)

A sum of €1.75 million is being made available under a capital programme that will include the allocation of €1 million to support the provision of new Youth Cafés. The programme is being administered on behalf of my Department by Pobal and the funds will include support for fit-out, refurbishment works or building enhancement projects for the startup of new Youth Cafés. In addition, resources amounting to €500,000 will be made available to youth projects for small refurbishment works or the purchase of equipment and a further €250,000 towards play and recreation facilities.

Child Protection Services

Questions (615)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

615. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will provide an update on the reforms that are underway in child protection services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31669/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The establishment of the Child and Family Agency is at the heart of the Government's reform of child and family services. The Government decided that it was essential and appropriate that child welfare and protection services transfer from the Health Service Executive to a new, dedicated Agency. From its establishment the Agency will have service responsibility for:

- Child welfare and protection services currently operated by the HSE including family support and alternative care services;

- Child and family-related services for which the HSE currently has responsibility including pre-school inspections and domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services;

- The Family Support Agency which currently operates as a separate body under the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and will be merged into the new Agency;

- The National Educational Welfare Board which also currently operates as a separate body under the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and will be merged into the new Agency;

- Community-based psychology services (this does not encompass psychologists operating within acute, disability, mental health or other specialist settings).

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Health are working jointly on an impact analysis of proposed future arrangements for this service as they relate to children and family services covered by the Child and Family Agency and to services provided by the HSE.

The establishment of a single agency incorporating key children's services will provide a focus for the major reforms already underway within Children and Family Services. These reforms include:

- the continued and urgent implementation of a comprehensive change programme to improve the quality and consistency of child welfare and protection services. This change programme is addressing the quality and consistency of child welfare and protection services, and is being led by the Chief Executive designate of the Child and Family Agency. This change process will continue into the new Agency;

- the separation of children and family services within the HSE from other health and personal social services, with discrete management responsibilities and budgets, providing transparency and accountability for the use of resources to meet national priorities;

- the development of dedicated children and families responsibility and accountability at area, regional and national management team levels;

- commencement of external inspection by HIQA of the child welfare and protection services.

Extensive work is ongoing in the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs and Health, and in the HSE to prepare for the establishment of the Child and Family Agency. The preparations are designed to allow for the Agency to assume full statutory responsibility for services for children and families upon establishment.

Drafting of the Child and Family Agency Bill is at an advanced stage. This legislation will be published and debated by the Oireachtas at the earliest opportunity. A precise target date will be set when consideration of the legislation is advanced.

In addition to this large scale structural reform programme, the HSE Child and Family Directorate is also implementing a significant programme of ongoing reforms. These reforms at operational level respond in detail to many identified gaps and changes needed to ensure a more consistent, effective and quality service delivery. They include, for example:

- Development of a National Child Care Information System to comprehensively address issues of record keeping and data management;

- Improvements in respect of social worker assignment and care planning;

- The preparation of a business case for a National Out of Hours Social Work Service;

- The recruitment of 260 additional social workers proposed in the Ryan Report Implementation Plan.

Over 1,400 social workers are employed in Children and Family Support Services and the introduction of 260 additional social workers represents a significant strengthening of the work force. Arrangements for the induction, training and supervision of these staff have been put in place. Support for all staff includes the introduction of national guidance, such as Child Protection and Welfare Practice Handbook, and supervision of the implementation of this guidance.

The development of the legislation to establish the Child and Family Agency is part of a suite of legislative developments to strengthen child protection in accordance with the Programme for Government. Another significant piece of legislation relates to the Children First guidance. Following publication of the Draft Heads and General Scheme for the Children First Bill, 2012, consideration by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children of the Bill and related submissions, my Department has further considered a range of policy and operational issues, and the preparation of revised policy proposals is currently under way.

My Department has a range of other legislation also in train in the area of adoption and is also reviewing scoping further legislative requirements as may arise from the Children's Referendum. Together with the programme of reform of structural governance and the operational change programme, I believe this represents one of the most challenging agendas of reform of any sector across the public services.

Early Child Care Education Standards

Questions (616)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

616. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans for independent oversight and monitoring of compliance with set standards in the provision of childcare and early childhood education services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31670/13]

View answer

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. Under the Regulations the HSE has responsibility for the inspection of pre-school services. While pre-school inspections are necessary to ensure compliance with the regulations, 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 preschools, moving to a greater focus on outcomes for children.

The Government has approved the Heads of the Child and Family Agency Bill and has also agreed to the priority drafting of this Bill. The necessary legislative and organisational preparations are being prioritised so that the Agency can be established as soon as possible. The Agency, upon establishment, will assume full statutory responsibility for a range of child and family services currently provided by three separate agencies; namely the HSE which will include the services provided by the Childcare Inspectorate, the Family Support Agency and the National Educational Welfare Board.

The majority of preschools in this country are participating in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme and providing a free pre-school year to almost 68,000 pre-school children each year. The programme is subject to terms and conditions which are strictly implemented to ensure that quality pre-school care and education services are provided to qualifying children. To ensure compliance by participating services, Pobal who assist my Department with the implementation of the programme, carry out annual compliance visits and will also engage further with services when required.

Youth Cafés Expenditure

Questions (617)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

617. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the support she has provided for the development of youth cafes; if she will provide details of applications for the recent round of funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31671/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Some €2.2m has been made available in funding to date to support the provision of Youth Cafés. One of the core functions of a youth café is that it offers support to young people, ranging from practical support through to advice and participation in activities of interest to them that are varied and on offer at times that suit their normal activities. It is estimated that there are now over 100 Youth Cafés in existence. Funding of up to €1 million is available in 2013 from my Department for fit-out, refurbishment works or building enhancement projects for the startup of new Youth Cafés. Pobal is assisting my Department in managing the Youth Café scheme 2013. The criteria for the Scheme place a clear focus on both long term sustainability and service planning.

Some 95 applications have been received for the 2013 Youth Café scheme. The initial appraisal process of the applications received is in the final stages. It is expected that applications that are successful in the initial appraisal process will go through to the second phase of the process and will be notified in the coming weeks. These applications will be further evaluated over the period July to October 2013. It is anticipated that the draw-down of funding by the successful applications that emerge from the second phase and are considered suitable for contracts will commence in November, 2013.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (618)

Finian McGrath

Question:

618. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will confirm the date of publication for the Child and Family Support Agency Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31679/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Following a Government decision on the Heads of Bill in November last, work on the drafting of the Child and Family Agency Bill has been progressing in conjunction with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and is at an advanced stage. As set out in the General Scheme, the Bill will largely focus on the technical task of bringing together the functions of the three “source” agencies (the HSE, the Family Support Agency and the National Educational Welfare Board). Particular care is required in respect of the disaggregation of the functions from the HSE to ensure that there are no unintended consequences (for either the Agency or the Directorates remaining within the HSE framework) in the separation of functions, either in legal terms, or in terms of the practical operation of day-to-day services for children and their families or HSE clients across the life cycle.

A key task in drafting the legislation will be to ensure that the Agency operates within a strong framework of public accountability. Other important features of the legislation relate to the need to create the correct platform for interagency arrangements, shared service arrangements and a robust process for the commissioning of services from a range of providers. In addition to creating a framework for the future, the Bill also has to take account of the transitional arrangements which will inevitably have to be prescribed. These are potentially complex against the backdrop of changing governance and structural arrangements in the context of the wider Health Reform programme. It is my intention to introduce the Child and Family Agency Bill to the Houses of the Oireachtas in this session.

Cross-Border Co-operation

Questions (619)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

619. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the mechanisms that are in place for North-South Co-operation in the areas of child care and child protection; her plans to develop such co-operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31725/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The ongoing North South work of my Department takes place under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council. The North South Ministerial Council meets in Sectoral Format to oversee co-operation in agreed areas/sectors. At these Sectoral meetings the Irish Government is represented by the Minister or the Minister of State responsible for that Sector, and the Northern Ireland Executive is represented by two Ministers nominated by the First Minister and deputy First Minister on a cross-community basis.

Following a North South Ministerial Council Plenary meeting in February 2008, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety [DHSSPS] and the then Office of the Minister for Children (now DCYA) established a Cross Border Group on Child Protection, comprising officials from relevant departments to intensify cooperation on Child Protection including:

- early progress on an all-island Child Protection awareness campaign;

- the identification of other medium/long term measures to improve Child Protection, including an examination of an all-island approach to child protection, focusing in particular on vetting and exchange of information;

- any areas for co-operation on children’s services emerging from the North South Feasibility Study on health and social services.

The cross border group is co-chaired by DCYA and DHSSPS. In June, 2008, it was agreed to take forward 5 initiatives through a sub-group structure, in areas where co-operation, shared learning and best practice could be of benefit to both jurisdictions, and to meet every six months to review progress. The first five sub-groups were:

(i) Vetting and Barring Protocol

(ii) Research and Knowledge Transfer in Child Protection

(iii) Internet Safety

(iv) All-Ireland Media Awareness

(v) Inter-Jurisdictional Protocol for the Transfer of Child Care cases between Northern Ireland and Ireland

The Steering Group agreed that since the work of the first five sub-groups had largely been completed, they were accordingly stood down and a new work programme developed. The group, in July 2012, explored a number of areas of potential co-operation and recommended that a future programme of work be taken forward through five specific work streams focussing on: Work Stream 1 - Knowledge Exchange Forum, designed to promote continued learning through use of research and evidence based practice.

Work Stream 2 - Quality and Effectiveness, to build work-force capacity and improve the quality and effectiveness of social work and social care work interventions and practice.

Work Stream 3 - Deaths of Children in Care, contribute to learning in relation to deaths of children in care by developing an overview and analysis of the features of deaths of children in care in both jurisdictions.

Work Stream 4 - Cultural Competence in Safeguarding, to assist the development of common guidance for practitioners working with other cultures and to develop a publication of Good Practice Notes for work with new communities.

Work Stream 5 - Specialist Services, to assess the opportunities to develop specialist services on a cross-border basis to assist in meeting the needs of those children and families where there is a requirement for a high volume of expertise.

Children in Care

Questions (620)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

620. Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position as of this month of the number of high support and or special care secure accommodation unit residential places in total here; if she will confirm the location of the facilities; if she will further confirm the up-to-date position as of this month regarding the number of children currently awaiting such a placement on the direction and or recommendation of a judge; the current average waiting time for a child to be provided with such a placement after the direction and or recommendation of a judge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31732/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I have requested the information from the HSE and I will revert to the Deputy when this information is to hand.

Departmental Correspondence

Questions (621)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

621. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when a reply will issue to correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31813/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I am advised that a response to the Deputy's queries has now issued.

Child Protection Issues

Questions (622)

Robert Troy

Question:

622. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if it is common practice for a supervision order to be taken out without the prior consultation or knowledge of the relevant parent or guardian; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31849/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Once a child protection referral is received and screened by the HSE, a decision will be taken as to whether an Initial Assessment is required. Following Initial Assessment decisions will be made on the type of intervention required, including the drawing up of a child protection plan, family support interventions, as well as decisions regarding supervision orders or whether a child may need to be taken into care for a short term or longer period. The Child Protection Plan will have identified the key risk factors in the case such as: - the risk itself; how it will be reduced, including specific actions; and how the agencies working with the family will measure the reduced risk within a specific timescale.  A supervision order is sought from the Court if the family do not cooperate with the Child Protection Plan.

The Child Care Act, 1991 provides that the HSE may apply to the Court for a supervision order. Section 19 (1) provides:

Where, on the application the Health Service Executive, with respect to a child, the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that—

(a) the child has been or is being assaulted, ill-treated, neglected or sexually abused, or

(b) the child's health, development or welfare has been or is being avoidably impaired or neglected, or

(c) the child's health, development or welfare is likely to be avoidably impaired or neglected, and it is desirable that the child be visited periodically by or on behalf of the Health Service Executive, the court may make an order (in this Act referred to as a “supervision order”) in respect of the child."

A supervision order gives the HSE the authority to visit and monitor the health and welfare of the child and to give the parents any necessary advice. It also allows the Judge to give directions as to the care of the child directly to the parent . The order is for up to a maximum of 12 months but may be renewed. A supervision order is often the first step in proceedings where the HSE believes that while further action is required, it is not necessary to apply to the Court to take the child into care. Supervision orders may also be used when a child who has been in care is returning to its family. The HSE has informed me that it is not common practice to apply for a supervision order without informing the parent(s) or guardian(s) as supervision orders are generally aimed at outlining, in specific terms the areas of action for a parent(s) in implementing a child protection plan.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Questions (623)

Derek Keating

Question:

623. Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when funding will be made available to Irish adoption agencies working with adoption agencies in the USA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31954/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Work is ongoing in my Department in relation to the issue of funding of agencies accredited for intercountry adoption in order to ensure the sustainability of the agencies and continuity of service. Officials from my Department are in discussion with the agencies, the Adoption Authority and the HSE in relation to examining the future funding arrangements for accredited bodies in intercountry adoption. This includes a review of the immediate sustainability of a number of individual agencies in the context of current demands as well as a longer term review of the most appropriate structuring, financing and charging arrangements of adoption mediation services in order to provide a sustainable high quality and efficient model of future service delivery.

Preschool Services

Questions (624)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

624. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number and percentage of eligible children not availing of the free preschool year; the outcome of any investigation known to her Department on the reason not all parents are availing of this free service; and the steps that are being taken to improve the take up. [32055/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (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. In line with the Programme for Government, my Department has made a significant commitment to maintaining this universal programme. The ECCE programme has been extremely successful to date with the number of children availing of the free pre-school provision consistently high each year since the programme was introduced in 2010. In the current pre-school year, 2012/2013, approximately 68,000 children, or an estimated 95% of the eligible cohort, are participating in the free pre-school year. Access to quality and affordable childcare has a major impact on the lives of children, and this programme has been particularly important for those children who may be socially or economically disadvantaged and would not otherwise be in a position to avail of quality pre-school care and education.

In each year some 3 to 4 thousand eligible children do not participate in the pre-school year and we are aware of some of the reasons for this. For example, over 1,500 children within the age cohort participate in the Early Start Programme run by the Department of Education and Skills and I am aware that some children with disabilities attend special preschools funded by the HSE. To date no research has been carried out on the factors impacting on decisions made by parents in relation to participation.