Education Welfare Service Staff

Questions (177)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

177. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when a number of education welfare officers will be appointed to assist schools in County Donegal. [42541/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Within the statutory remit of the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB), the Education Welfare Service (EWS) has specific responsibility for the Board’s general function to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education. The EWS has a current staffing complement of 74 officers delivering front line services, 2 of whom have distinct duties in relation to the education of children in places other than recognised schools.

Within that frontline cohort, there are currently two Education Welfare Officers in Donegal; one serving north Donegal and one serving south Donegal.

In addition, the NEWB is in the process of refining and implementing a new strategic approach to service delivery through the integrated working of its three service strands, namely; the Education Welfare Service (EWS); Home School Community Liaison Programme (HSCL – 402 school-based co-ordinators); and School Completion Programme (SCP – €26.456m in funding provided to support 124 school cluster projects and related initiatives). This integrated model of service will provide an enhanced response to the needs of children, families and schools. As part of this process the NEWB is also reviewing the basis on which the EWS was originally configured and a full consultation process is underway with EWS staff and their representatives to reconfigure and optimise service delivery to ensure an appropriate correlation between EWO resources, student population and their needs. I see this strategic national approach as a crucial reform in our efforts to tackle school absenteeism.

Vacancies that arise in staffing front line services for children and young people at risk of early school leaving, are prioritised by my Department in so far as possible, working within Government policy on public service numbers and the moratorium on recruitment.

Early Child Care Education Issues

Questions (178)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

178. Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the progress being made in relation to the development of a national early years strategy, regarding the provision of affordable childcare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42643/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Since my appointment as Minister I have consistently highlighted the importance of investing and supporting quality interventions in the early years of children’s lives. There is an increasing body of Irish and International evidence which quantify the benefits of early year’s interventions in terms of improving children’s outcomes and in delivering significant economic and societal return to the state.

In line with this commitment I announced the preparation of Ireland’s first Early Years Strategy which will represent one of three, more detailed strategies under the high-level Children and Young People's Policy Framework.

I appointed an Expert Advisory Group, chaired by Dr. Eilis Hennessy of UCD to advise my Department on the Strategy and I am happy to advise the Deputy that the Group has now completed its work and I have recently received its Report and recommendations. I expect the Strategy to be published later this year.

My Department currently provides in the region of €260 million annually to provide for three childcare support programmes which ensure that more than 100,000 children have access to quality and affordable childcare. These programmes will be maintained in 2014 and I expect the Early Years Strategy to identify opportunities for more effective utilisation of existing resources and funding, as well as priority areas for further investment through funding availability over the life of the Strategy.

Child Poverty

Questions (179)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

179. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will provide an update in the area based approach to child poverty; the funding available for same; the date on which the areas and allocations will be announced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42681/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department is implementing the new Area-Based Response to Child Poverty programme which was announced as part of Budget 2013. The programme is being co-funded by philanthropic partners and is expected to have a total funding allocation of up to €29.7 million. The programme is being introduced on foot of the Programme for Government commitment to adopt an area-based approach to child poverty, drawing on best international practice and existing services to break the cycle of child poverty where it is most deeply entrenched and improve the outcomes for children and young people. The programme will build on and continue much of the work of the Prevention and Early Intervention Programme (PEIP) which was also implemented by my Department and co-funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies.

The three existing PEIP sites and a number of additional sites are expected to participate in the new programme. In addition, it is my intention to broaden the impact of the programme by beginning the process of mainstreaming some of the evidence-based programmes which have been positively evaluated and are cost-effective. The establishment of my Department's Child and Family Agency in the coming months will be important to this process.

Applications to participate in the programme were invited from interested not for profit consortia earlier this year. The closing date for receipt of applications was 31st May and fifty applications were received. The immediate priority was to transition appropriate activities funded under PEIP into the new initiative, and this has been progressed as a matter of urgency. Last July the Government approved the transition of the three sites which participated in the PEIP into the new Area Based Approach to Child Poverty programme. My Department is seeking to finalize contracts with the PEIP sites in the near future.

The remaining applications have been reviewed by a Working Group led by my Department, using criteria set out in the application process. An Interdepartmental Project Team, chaired by my Department, will consider these applications, and make proposals to Government later this month for funding under Phase 1 of the initiative.

Early Child Care Education Issues

Questions (180)

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

180. Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she is planning a strategy for getting Exchequer investment in early childhood care and education towards a minimum of 1% of GDP by 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42691/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs was established on 3 June 2011 and the annual spend on childcare related programmes has been in the region of 0.16 per cent of GDP for the years 2011 and 2012. This expenditure does not include expenditure under other early intervention programmes or by other Departments on early year’s programmes and services and therefore does not represent the full extent of State expenditure.

My Department supports the provision of early childhood care and education by providing annually in the region of €260 million to provide for three childcare support programmes that ensure that more than 100,000 children have access to quality and affordable childcare. I have succeeded in maintaining this funding despite the difficult budgetary situation.

As the Deputy may be aware my Department is currently developing Ireland's first Early Years Strategy which will address a range of issues affecting children in their first years of life. I expect the Early Years Strategy, which will be published shortly, to identify opportunities for more effective utilisation of existing resources and funding, as well as priority areas for further investment through funding availability over the life of the Strategy.

While it is my objective to incrementally develop the early child care and education programmes over the term of this Government as resources permit, it is the case that expenditure and funding requirements are generally considered as part of the annual estimates cycle and budgetary process. It is not possible for me at this time to determine what decisions may be taken by Government in the context of future budgets and how these decisions will impact on expenditure allocations for programmes and services falling within the Vote of my Department.

Departmental Staff Retirements

Questions (181)

Seán Fleming

Question:

181. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the reduction in public expenditure numbers that will be achieved in 2013 and 2014 from targeted redundancy and early retirement in her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43030/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Targeted Voluntary Redundancy Scheme was introduced for certain areas of the Public Service with identified staff surpluses. The Scheme is currently being rolled out in three areas - the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and specific parts of the Health and Education sectors.

My Department and its agencies do not form part of this Scheme.

Mobility Allowance Review

Questions (182)

Dara Calleary

Question:

182. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health if the review of the mobility allowance scheme and the motorised transport grant scheme has been completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42544/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government decided in June last that new statutory provisions should be established to provide individual payments to people with severe disabilities who require additional income to address the costs of their mobility needs. An inter-departmental group, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, is working to develop detailed proposals for the operation of a new statutory scheme and is due to report back to Government in October.

The Government also decided in June that payments should temporarily continue to be made by the Health Service Executive to those persons currently in receipt of the Mobility Allowance for a further number of months, pending the commencement of new statutory provisions, on the basis that this would prevent hardship, and, on an interim basis, alleviate stress, anxiety and uncertainty among a vulnerable group in society.

The Government is very conscious of the needs of people with a disability who have relied on the Mobility Allowance and Motorised Transport Grant to support their independence and will take all of this into consideration when making a decision on future arrangements.