112. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of domestic infant adoptions that took place here in 2012 and 2013. [20870/14]View answer
Written Answers Nos. 112-126
112. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of domestic infant adoptions that took place here in 2012 and 2013. [20870/14]View answer
The Adoption Authority of Ireland has advised that in 2012 there were no domestic infant adoptions in Ireland and in 2013 there were 3. For the purposes of this question the Authority has defined infants as children under 2 years of age.
These relatively low figures for domestic adoption of Irish children reflect the development of social attitudes which have seen historically high rates of domestic adoption, particularly in respect of children of single mothers, diminish as greater public and social support for natural mothers has developed in recent decades.
However, current restrictions on children who can be subject to domestic adoption are also considered to inappropriately limit access by some children in the long term care of the Child and Family Agency to the opportunity provided by adoption. This was amongst the issues which the proposed wording of the Constitutional Amendment on Children sought to resolve. The wording sought to explicitly provide in certain circumstances for the adoption of any child either by way of voluntary placement by parents or where parents have failed in their duties for such a period of time as may be prescribed by law.
To coincide with the holding of the Children's Referendum the Government published a draft Adoption ( Amendment) Bill 2012 so as to outline its legislative proposals in the event of the proposed Constitutional Amendment being introduced.
The Adoption (Amendment) Bill aims to provide, in a more effective and appropriate way, for the adoption of children of marriage. The Adoption (Amendment) Bill proposes to make important changes to adoption law to provide the option of adoption for a child who has been placed in long term foster care because his or her parents are unable to provide, or resume, care for that child. The provisions of the proposed Adoption (Amendment) Bill would amend the Adoption Act 2010 to provide for the non-voluntary adoption of a child where his or her parents have failed in their duty towards that child.
The proposed legislation is not intended to provide that a child, who has contact with and a strong beneficial relationship with his or her birth parents and wider family, may be adopted unless that child's parents have voluntarily placed the child for adoption and have consented to the adoption order being made in respect of the child. The draft Bill will also provide for the voluntary placement for adoption of any child irrespective of the marital status of his or her parents. In the case of a child of married parents, both parents must place the child for adoption and before doing so, will be counselled and given information in accordance with the provisions of section 14 of the Adoption Act 2010.
It is my intention to bring the Bill before the Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as possible, following conclusion of all proceedings and processes relevant to the Children’s Referendum.
113. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to previous parliamentary question replies relating to the monitoring of the young people's facilities and services fund, if he will provide a follow up based on the previous reply; if a date has been set for a meeting of the national assessment committee, NAC; if he agrees there is a need for NAC to monitor the funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21010/14]View answer
The Young People’s Facilities and Services Fund was set up in 1998 to assist in the development of preventative strategies in a targeted manner through the development of youth facilities, including sports and recreational facilities, and services in disadvantaged areas where a significant drug problem exists or has the potential to develop. The role of the National Assessment Committee, set up at that time, was to assess applications for initiatives to be funded. The Young People's Facilities and Services Fund transferred to my Department on its establishment in 2011 and the Fund along with the Special Projects for Youth scheme, which also targets young people who are vulnerable and at risk of disadvantage, is now the subject of a comprehensive Value for Money and Policy Review which is nearing completion in my Department.
In 2014, almost €18.4m will be made available under the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund to over 230 established youth projects. The National Assessment Committee last met in June 2011. A further meeting of the Committee has not been arranged as there have been no new proposals for funding initiatives for assessment.
Oversight and monitoring arrangements in respect of the youth services funded by my Department under the various schemes are an important priority for my Department in line with its reporting and accountability responsibilities for the provision of quality services that are publicly funded. All youth projects are required to report to my Department on their activities, use of funding, and their implementation of quality standards in their service provision. These responsibilities include the provision of a progress report with quantitative and qualitative data, details of income and expenditure and the provision, on an annual basis, of audited accounts. Youth projects are now implementing the National Quality Standards Framework in the design and delivery of their services for young people and provide an annual report to my Department.
The statutory Education and Training Boards (ETBs) that administer funding on behalf of my Department have an important role in these processes and youth officers of the ETBs liaise with projects at local level to support compliance and implementation of progressive quality standards in services for young people.
The role of the National Assessment Committee will be examined in the context of the recommendations of the Value for Money and Policy Review of youth funding programmes which, it is anticipated, will be available in the mid-Summer. The findings will inform the development of a new youth strategy, which is at preliminary stage in the Department and they will shape the development of appropriate structures for the administration and monitoring of funding for youth services in the future, to ensure quality and outcomes-focused youth services provision for young people. As soon as the review is available, my Department will convene a meeting of the National Assessment Committee to discuss the review’s findings and the considerations it raises for the monitoring and governance of funding programmes in the future to ensure best outcomes for vulnerable young people.
My Department is represented on the Oversight Forum for Drugs and arrangements have been made to keep the Forum updated on the progress made in finalising the Value for Money and Policy Review.
114. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs his plans to progress any new bilateral agreements on inter-country adoptions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21046/14]View answer
Under the Adoption Act, 2010, adoptions may take place with countries who are party to the Hague Convention or following the negotiation of a bilateral agreement with non-Hague countries.
Efforts are ongoing in my Department in relation to a bilateral agreement on intercountry adoption between Ireland and the Russian Federation. A delegation of Russian officials travelled to Ireland in October 2013 for further discussions on a bilateral agreement on intercountry adoption between Ireland and the Russian Federation. The meeting was very positive and detailed discussions took place between the Russian officials and officials from my Department, the Adoption Authority of Ireland, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Health Service Executive. My Department prepared revised draft wording on a number of specific points which were forwarded to the Russian Authorities in February of this year. In transmitting these revisions it was suggested that should these revisions be acceptable to the Russian Federation, it would be useful for both sides to meet again for further discussions.
The Ministry of Education and Science have advised the Irish Embassy in Moscow that all proposed adoption agreements are currently on hold while the Russian Government considers proposals in relation to how they deal with adoption agreements in general. The Embassy has been informed that the Russian Government is still considering the matter, following a decision on this they will be in a position to examine the Irish proposals.
The Adoption Authority delegation visit to Ethiopia in April of 2012 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 has also sought and received advice on the legal compatibility of Irish adoption law with that of Ethiopia. The Authority's legal advisors have considered this advice and certain clarifications are being sought. The Authority is also trying to establish the position of the Ministry of Women's Affairs in Ethiopia with regard to the desire of the Ethiopian authorities to entering into talks in relation to a bilateral agreement with Ireland. The Authority will advise me of the position when all the information is available. It is not possible to provide a timeframe for when the Authority's deliberations will be finished.
115. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in view of the fact that more than one third of all asylum seekers living in direct provision are children, if he has been in contact with the Department of Justice and Equality to review and update the existing child protection safeguards in direct provision centres; his views on whether the remit of the Health Information and Quality Authority should be extended to inspect the direct provision accommodation centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21049/14]View answer
As the Deputy is aware, direct provision centres and the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) are under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality. His Department has responsibility for the welfare of children in those centres but I would like to assure the Deputy that I have had ongoing contact with my colleague on this topic and that senior officials within my Department have engaged with the Child and Family Agency to ensure that children who are living in Direct Provision are afforded the same levels of welfare and protection as their peers in the wider community.
I understand that children are protected in a number of ways in the Direct Provision system - primarily through the Reception and Integration Agency's child protection policy, its house rules and its requirements that all centre staff are Garda vetted. I also understand that any concerns about the welfare, safety or wellbeing of a child in Direct Provision are reported to the Child and Family Agency in line with Children First. Referrals include welfare concerns such as a parent being hospitalised, parental illness, a child being left unsupervised by an adult or mental health concerns regarding the parent, while a smaller number would relate to child protection concerns. There is a specific unit within the Reception and Integration Agency - the Child and Family Services Unit- whose role is to manage, deliver, coordinate, monitor and plan matters relating to child and family services for all asylum seekers living in the Direct Provision system. Where necessary this Unit also links directly with An Garda Síochána.
The Children First Bill 2013 which is currently before the House further provides that managers of centres providing Direct Provision services are on the schedule of mandated reporters. Under the Bill such centres are also required to develop and make publicly available a Child Safeguarding Statement.
In relation to the Deputy’s question about extending the Health Information and Quality Authority's remit to inspect direct provision centres, I am advised that the current arrangements is that direct provision centres are monitored three times a year, twice by Department of Justice and Equality staff and once by an external company. Any decision to change this would be a matter for the Minister for Justice and Equality.
116. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the serious and worsening child welfare issue being caused by the large number of families who have been made homeless in the past year and who continue to be made homeless; his Department's responsibilities with regard to ensuring children are not placed at risk by being forced to seek accommodation in extremely unsafe and inadequate environments; the plans he has devised with the Departments of Social Protection and the Environment, Community and Local Government to ensure no child will be forced into a risky situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21008/14]View answer
124. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he has any role in ensuring the welfare of children in homeless situations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21041/14]View answer
I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 124 together.
I understand that the Deputies are referring to particular cases where children and their families find themselves without a home. In cases where families with children find themselves without a home, the primary need is for accommodation and responsibility for this lies with local authorities and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.
In February 2013, the Minister for Housing and Planning published the Government's Homelessness Policy Statement in which the aim to end long term homelessness by the end of 2016 was outlined. The statement emphasises a housing led approach which is about accessing permanent housing as the primary response to all forms of homelessness. The availability and supply of secure, affordable and adequate housing is essential in ensuring sustainable tenancies and ending long term homelessness. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has established a Homelessness Oversight Group for the purposes of reviewing the progress of the approach being advocated, identifying obstacles and proposing solutions. An official from my Department is a member of the Interdepartmental Group dealing with homelessness.
However, if the concern is a child protection one the Child and Family Agency, as the statutory agency with responsibility for child protection and welfare, will intervene. When concerns are raised about children, the Agency provides assessments and services and this includes children under 18 who may be without a home. In the first instance, a social worker will establish the reason the young person has left home and if they can return. The assessment will also identify any needs including whether the child needs to be taken into care. If that happens, they will be placed in foster or residential care.
The Deputies may be aware that my Department published a report last year on the implementation of the Youth Homelessness Strategy. This strategy was published by the Department of Health and Children in 2001. The Centre for Effective Services undertook the review at my Department’s request. The report called Every Child a Home: A Review of the Implementation of the Youth Homelessness Strategy was published in July 2013. It found that there has been significant improvement in service responses to children presenting as homeless in the last decade. Consequently, the number of children and young people accessing services through the homeless sector has decreased. In the first instance, children and young people who present to the Child and Family Agency are assessed to rule out any care and protection issues and some family work may take place to facilitate a young person’s return home.
My Department has engaged with relevant departments including Environment, Community and Local Government; Education and Skills; Social Protection and Health as well as the Child and Family Agency seeking their views on how the recommendations of Every Child a Home relevant to each sector might be progressed.
117. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the action he has taken to ban child beauty pageants here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21044/14]View answer
As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I share the deep distaste of colleagues for events such as child beauty pageants which are not at all appropriate for children.
I have asked my Department to examine options which can be taken.
The answer, however, is not always legislative. I note that legislative proposals in France on banning pageants ran into difficulties in light of criticisms regarding the vagueness around the specifics of what types of events were addressed. Pageants can be labelled as ‘talent’ contests for example.
My Department has commissioned an international review of other countries' responses to these issues in order to inform the Government's response, and future actions; and the Centre for Effective Services is to undertake this review in 2014.
This research project will build on another current research project being conducted by University College Cork; commissioned and funded by my Department through its funded research programme which is looking at the impact of commercialisation and sexualisation of children in Ireland. This important research is currently undergoing peer review and is expected to be published in the coming months.
In 2012, I extended an invitation to the Irish retail sector to respond to increasing concerns about the sexualisation of childrenswear. Retail Ireland, responded to my call and accepted my invitation to bring forward Ireland’s first ever guidelines on the ‘responsible retailing of childrenswear’.
These guidelines are not just about restricting what retailers can sell, but instead provide a more constructive guidance on best practice on a range of issues such as styling, slogans, age-appropriateness, size, labelling and marketing.
I believe this code is now playing an important and constructive role in informing future decision-making by retailers and I am happy to report that the number of complaints regarding inappropriate childrenswear have fallen. However I would urge parents to continue to feedback any concerns or complaints, either in-store or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
An Coimisium le Rinci Gaelacha, The Irish Dancing Commission, is also to be commended for their introduction of additional rules prohibiting the use of make-up including false eye lashes and artificial tanning products for the face. Dancers who are ten years of age or younger may no longer compete using any of these.
It is so encouraging and praiseworthy that each of the hotels approached by Universal Royalty, the company promoting a child beauty pageant, back in September of last year declined the opportunity to host the contest. In the interests of children, they turned down the opportunity to make money. They have to be congratulated for that, as does the Irish Hotels Federation for opposing child beauty pageants in Ireland. This is yet another demonstration of the role of public opinion and awareness in avoiding inappropriate interference with childhood.
118. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the changes that have been made to adoption legislation during the course of this Government’s lifespan. [20868/14]View answer
In order to resolve the difficulties that Irish families who were in the process of adopting from Russia experienced due to changes in Russian adoption legislation that took place in July 2013, the Government introduced, and the Oireachtas approved, the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2013. The Adoption (Amendment) Act 2013 extends the period of declarations of eligibility and suitability which apply to the Russian Federation for one year to 31 October 2014 for those prospective adoptive parents who held such declarations on 31 October 2013.
Work is also continuing in relation to the preparation of the Heads of Bill of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill. My view is that persons affected by adoption should be provided with a statutory right to as much information as possible within permissible Constitutional boundaries. I hope to be in a position to seek Government approval to publish the Heads of Bill as soon as possible. Subsequent consideration by the Oireachtas Health and Children Committee will provide an opportunity to tease out the relevant considerations in detail and to hear the views of interested parties.
In addition, I am conscious that issues have arisen in relation to the operation of the Adoption Act, 2010, since its enactment. There are a number of general policy questions around the nature of our adoption regime and I consider it timely to consider a review of adoption. Given the range and complexity of the issues this will require scoping and preliminary examination after which decisions will be made on the extent and time scale for the review to see if proposals for legislative change emerge from this review or the nature of such proposals. Based upon the many domestic and international legal aspects to adoption the issue of further legislative development will certainly be considered. This review will inform future operational and legislative considerations regarding the Adoption Act, 2010. For the present, however, my legislative priority in the area of adoption is the preparation of information and tracing legislation.
Subject to finalisation of matters related to the Children’s Referendum, I intend to introduce the Adoption (Amendment) Bill to the House. This will be along the lines of the General Scheme of Adoption (Amendment) Bill which I published in order to inform consideration of the proposed Constitutional amendment on children.
119. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the contact he has had with the Department of Justice and Equality regarding the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill; his views on whether this legislation should be proofed against Ireland's obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21050/14]View answer
Correspondence from the Department of Justice and Equality regarding the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill was recently received by my Department and officials are currently considering the submission.
I understand that work is ongoing between the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and officials in the Department of Justice and Equality in relation to the Bill and that it will come before Government again later this year. At such time, my Department will have the opportunity to provide observations on the Bill as part of the normal process of interdepartmental consultation on legislation.
Ireland’s obligations as a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child are among the considerations that inform a sponsoring department’s preparation of proposed legislation impacting on children. Consideration of the provisions of the Convention in the case of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill is a matter for the Department of Justice and Equality.
120. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he will provide a progress update report on the expansion project at Oberstown House; and if he is satisfied with the interim arrangements in place for 16, 17 and 18 year olds detained in Wheatfield Prison and the limited number of children under 18 years old on remand who are being detained in St. Patrick’s Institution. [21029/14]View answer
There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to end the practice of detaining children in adult prison facilities, which under the Children Act 2001 means all young people up to the age of 18 years. I wish to assure the House that this will be at the top of my agenda, as it was for my predecessor. The transfer of responsibility for 16 year old boys has already taken place and this Programme for Government commitment will be met in full later this year when the extension of the Oberstown campus results in the transfer of responsibility for 17 year old boys from the adult prison system to the children detention schools.
Following the appointment of a main contractor and a number of sub-contractors, construction on the Oberstown development project started on site on 23 September 2013. The project will increase the number of children detention places available on the Oberstown campus to a total of 90 places and will enable the extension of the child care model of detention to all under 18 year olds ordered to be remanded or committed by the courts on criminal justice charges. The first 3 units of residential accommodation are scheduled to be delivered in the third quarter of this year, in order to facilitate the transfer of responsibility for 17 year old boys from the adult prison system. A further 3 residential units, to be delivered in 2015, will replace existing detention buildings used by Oberstown Boys School which have reached the end of their useful life. The Office of Public Works (OPW) is overseeing the delivery of the project with the contractor involved, BAM Building Ltd. I understand some weeks delay has been encountered in the construction programme due to weather and other issues but the OPW and my Department continue to emphasise the need to make up any time possible in order to meet the agreed project timeline for delivery of the first 3 units later this year.
While the operation of the adult prison system is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, there is of course a need for policy cooperation between our respective Departments in relation to issues affecting young offenders. In advance of the opening of the expanded Oberstown development, in December 2013 all sentenced 17 year old boys were transferred from St Patrick's Institution to a dedicated unit in Wheatfield on an interim basis. To facilitate this transfer, Wheatfield was re - designated as a Place of Detention. I understand that for legal reasons, all 17 year old remand prisoners continue to be detained at St Patrick's Institution. My predecessor visited the Wheatfield facility in February 2013 and while I do of course share the view that no child should be detained in the adult prison system, I am advised that to date, the transfer to Wheatfield has operated in a satisfactory manner.
In October 2013 a Working Group was established comprising representatives from my Department, the Department of Justice and Equality, the Irish Prison Service, the Children Detentions Schools, the Child and Family Agency and the Probation Service. The Working Group was asked to compile a report on all issues arising from the planned transfer of responsibility for detention of 17 year old males from the prison system to the Oberstown children detention school (CDS) campus. The position of 17 year olds on remand in St. Patrick's Institution and any options that should be considered in advance of the opening of the expanded Oberstown campus is currently one of the issues under review by the group. Legal advices sought by my Department on this issue are being considered at the moment. I expect the report from the Working Group with recommendations on how to proceed with the full transition of 17 year olds to the Oberstown Campus in the coming weeks.
121. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he will provide an update on the development of the early years strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21040/14]View answer
The Early Years Strategy is one of a number of detailed strategies being developed under the National Children and Young People’s Policy Framework 2014-2018. This Framework, which was published recently, sets out the overall principles, vision and outcomes for children and young people and will guide actions across Government over the period 2014 to 2018.
I expect that the Early Years Strategy will be finalised and published before the end of the year.
122. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if, following the establishment of the Child and Family Agency, he will report on the regional presence, including office locations, numbers of staff; designated roles and functions of the Child and Family Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21027/14]View answer
The Child and Family Agency was established on 1 January, 2014. It has involved the bringing together of almost 3,800 staff from three organisations, the HSE, the Family Support Agency and the National Educational Welfare Board. The establishment of the new Agency with a budget of over €600m represents one of the most ambitious and far reaching public sector reforms undertaken by the Government.
The functions of the Agency are set out in detail in Part 2 Section 8 of the Child and Family Agency Act, 2013.
Among the key functions of the Agency are:
- To support and promote the development, welfare and protection of children, including the provision of care and protection for children in circumstances where their parents have not been able to, or are unlikely to, provide the care that a child needs;
- To support and encourage the effective functioning of families, to include the provision of preventative family support services aimed at promoting the welfare of children; care and protection for victims of domestic, sexual or gender based violence, whether in the context of the family or otherwise; and services relating to the psychological welfare of children and their families;
- To ensure that every child in the State attends school or otherwise receives an education and provide educational welfare services to support and monitor children’s attendance, participation and retention in education;
- To have regard to the best interests of the child in all matters and in performing its functions in respect of an individual child under the Child Care Act, 1991 or the Adoption Act, 2010, to regard the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration;
- To maintain and develop support services, including in local communities;
- To undertake or commission research;
- To facilitate and promote enhanced inter agency co-operation to ensure that services for children are co-ordinated and provide an integrated response to the needs of children and their families;
- To ensure robust and transparent inspection arrangements for pre-school services;
- To provide national oversight of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services;
The work of the Agency is led by a nine person Board, headed by Ms Norah Gibbons, Chairperson. The senior executive management team is headed by Mr Gordon Jeyes, Chief Executive and is located in Dublin. It is supported by a regional and local area structure consisting of four regions and seventeen integrated service areas.
I will be happy to provide any additional detail to the Deputy should he require further information.
Question No. 124 answered with Question No. 116.
123. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if it is his policy to develop an interdepartmental policy with the Department of Health in the area of mental health services provision for children in care; and if he will report on the work being carried out by the National Assessment Consultation and Therapy Service. [21030/14]View answer
A key policy objective of the Child and Family Agency is to ensure that the fundamental principles of co-operation and co-ordination in the development and delivery of services are in place.
This objective is reflected and underpinned through formal agreements between the Child and Family Agency and the Health Service Executive, most notably by way of a Joint Protocol for Inter-Agency collaboration. This protocol aims to ensure a consistent national approach to service delivery where the delivery of two or more services is involved in the same case.
The Assessment, Consultation & Therapy Service (ACTS) is a national specialised clinical service which has been developed in order to provide multidisciplinary consultation, assessment and focused interventions to young people who have high risk behaviours associated with complex clinical needs. ACTS also supports other professionals in their ongoing work with young people and their families.
- on-site therapeutic services to young people in secure settings in Ireland (Special Care and the Children Detention Schools)
- support when young people return to community settings to help them to re-engage with mainstream services as appropriate
- assessment, consultation and/or intervention services in the community for children at significant risk of placement in secure settings.
The ACTS model is flexible and focused on complex needs which are often based on the interplay of trauma, dysregulation, developmental and attachment issues. One way that ACTS is different to existing services is that its flexible model allows clinicians to continue working with children when they move from special care placements and detention. This fits with the vision for the new Child and Family Support Agency articulated in the Task Force Report published in July 2012. ACTS also meets the often repeated recommendation in child abuse inquiries for improved interagency working.
ACTS is a multidisciplinary service where clinicians from various disciplines work together and inform collective practice. This includes psychology, social work, speech and language therapy, addiction counselling and social care. ACTS is led by a management team consisting of the national manager and three heads of discipline whose central responsibility is the implementation of systems of clinical governance. This is done through effective planning, implementation and evaluation of treatment programs and protocol driven interventions. It also involves the provision of high quality clinical supervision and monitoring of professional development needs of staff.
ACTS provides multidisciplinary interventions based on evidence, best international practice and in accordance with relevant legislation, policy and guidelines in order to facilitate the provision of more therapeutic environments in the national special care units and children detention schools and to improve outcomes for our most vulnerable young people.
ACTS began operating as a service on the appointment of the national manager in September 2012. Currently the service is led by a management team consisting of the national manager and two heads of discipline. In addition there are now twenty one clinicians in post, where the majority are based in Dublin with two regional teams (of four/five clinicians) in Cork and Limerick. Two further posts have been approved and referred to the national recruitment service to be filled (the principal social work post and an additional speech and language therapy post).
125. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the funding or supports available to facilities that cater for the child care needs of native Irish speakers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21028/14]View answer
A number of childcare support programmes are implemented by my Department to support parents with the cost of childcare. These include the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme, the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme and the new After-school Childcare programme. These programmes represent an annual investment of approximately €260 million in childcare supports and provides supports to more than 100,000 children.
The ECCE programme provides funding to make one free pre-school year available to all eligible children before they commence primary school. There are approximately 4,300 childcare facilities providing the free pre-school year with 234 of these facilities using the term Naíonra in the title of the service. While this suggests that these services are operated through the medium of Irish, only 60 services this year submitted their electronic returns using the Irish version of the electronic returns form.
The Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme provides funding to community not-for-profit childcare services to enable them to provide childcare at reduced rates to lower income and disadvantaged families. This programme also supports childcare facilities that choose to use the medium of Irish to deliver their services and all necessary documentation is available through Irish. In the current school year, 8 community childcare services submitted their returns through the medium of Irish. The CCS programme is presently closed to new entrants and new community childcare services seeking to enter the programme can only do so if they are in a position to replace an existing community services that has opted out of the programme and support the parents who previously used that service.
The Childhood Education and Training Support (CETS) programme provides funding to support parents who are returning to the workforce or are participating in Solas or Education and Training Boards education and training programmes. This programme also supports parents participating in Community Employment programmes.
An After-school Childcare programme was recently introduced and is targeted to support low-income parents returning to the workforce. The aim of this initiative is to ensure that affordable and quality childcare is available to disadvantaged families when work opportunities are offered. The CETS and After-school programmes are provided by both community and commercial childcare services and the funding provided is used by the services to reduce the weekly fees charged to qualifying parents.
Capital funding totalling €2.5 million is being made available in 2014 for the maintenance and upgrade of community/not-for-profit childcare services to ensure that community facilities that were established with the support of significant childcare capital funding remain fit-for-purpose and in a position to deliver quality services. All community services that meet the qualifying criteria were eligible to apply for support under the programme.
All of the funding provided under the childcare programmes is provided to participating childcare services that provide child care and education through the medium of Irish and/or English.
126. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the attitude of the Child and Family Agency to the court proceedings which had been initiated by the Health Service Executive and then subsequently withdrawn in relation to limiting the ability of parents to select a solicitor of their choice where their children were being potentially taken from them; and the steps he will take to protect parents and children in this regard. [20867/14]View answer
I have asked the Child and Family Agency to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the court proceedings in question.
As the Deputy is aware, matters in relation to the Legal Aid Board are the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality.
I understand that any parent whose child is the subject of care proceedings by the Child and Family Agency may apply to the Legal Aid Board for representation and will receive legal aid if found eligible. The applicant may apply at any of the Board's law centres but in practice applications are made at the most convenient law centre for the applicant. In accordance with section 31 of the Civil Legal Aid Act, the Board will nominate a solicitor to represent that person in the proceedings.There is, however, nothing preventing a person who may be eligible for legal aid from engaging a solicitor privately for representation in child care proceedings.