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Wednesday, 1 Feb 2017

Written Answers Nos. 334-344

Child Care Services

Questions (334, 335, 336, 337, 338)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

334. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the affordable child care scheme; her proposals for including alternative forms of child care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4749/17]

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Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

335. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the affordable child care scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4787/17]

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Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

336. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the affordable child care scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4788/17]

View answer

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

337. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the affordable child care scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4789/17]

View answer

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

338. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the affordable child care scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4790/17]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 334 to 338, inclusive, together.

I am committed to the provision of childcare options for families that respect parental choice and reflect international evidence on how to attain the best outcomes for children. While operational responsibility for these do not fall within my policy remit as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I support the extension of parental leave for parents; particularly in the crucial first year. The Government has provided additional support for stay-at-home parents through the home carer tax credit, which has been increased to €1,100 per year. I support an increase in the earnings threshold for this, and have raised this with the Minister for Finance.

It is important to recognise that the Affordable Childcare Scheme is only one element of a broader set of commitments and supports aimed at parents and children. The provision of improved services for centre-based care is very important, but I will not lose sight of the needs of children who do not attend them. In this regard, Better Outcomes Brighter Futures: The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People contains a commitment to produce Ireland's first-ever National Early Years Strategy. The intention is to deliver a cross-cutting strategy which will take a joined-up, whole of Government approach to the issue of supporting children and their families during the early years (0-6 years). The drafting of the National Early Years Strategy is well advanced. In December I hosted an Open Policy Debate on the strategy with a view to completion of the strategy this year.

My Department also provides a number of childcare schemes which are available to all families, both working parents and parents who choose to stay at home to care for their children. The ECCE free pre-school programme has been extended from September 2016 - children's eligibility for ECCE has increased from 38 weeks for all children, to an average of 61 weeks (ranging from 51 to 88 weeks depending on date of birth and age starting school). The Affordable Childcare Scheme will also be open for all families, whether or not they are in employment.

The Affordable Childcare Scheme responds to a specific need to increase the affordability, quality and supply of early years and school-age care and education services in Ireland. It also reflects a core recommendation of the 2015 Inter-Departmental Group on Future Investment in Childcare in Ireland to replace the existing targeted childcare schemes, which are administratively complex and inadequate in terms of accessibility, with a single, streamlined and more user-friendly scheme. The Scheme also responds specifically to the high cost of childcare in Ireland, which has been criticised by the European Commission and Irish families.

Quality assurance will be an absolute prerequisite for participation in the Affordable Childcare Scheme and the Scheme will not be limited to centre-based providers. The Scheme will be open to all Tusla-registered childcare providers, including Tusla-registered child minders. Child minders who mind three or fewer pre-school children in the child minder's own home are exempt from the Child Care Regulations, and are thus not subject to inspection by Tusla. In order to meet the needs of parents whose preference is to use a child minder under the Affordable Childcare Scheme, and to build capacity to cater for increased demand in future years, the Department has commenced talks with Childminding Ireland (CMI) in recent months to explore a number of options around how quality can be assured within the child minding sector.

A Working Group has been established, chaired by CMI, and including officials from Tusla and the DCYA, to make recommendations on reforms and supports for the sector in the short, medium and long term, and the feasibility and implications of the migration from voluntary to mandatory regulation. These will include recommendations in relation to child minders who are not currently eligible to apply for registration with Tusla (those minding three or fewer pre-school children, or those minding school age children only).

European Fund for Strategic Investments

Questions (339)

Barry Cowen

Question:

339. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the potential investment projects her Department put forward to the Department of Finance task force report for the European Fund for Strategic Investments. [4862/17]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Deputy might note that my Department did not submit any investment project proposals for consideration under the European Fund for Strategic Investments.

Commissions of Investigation

Questions (340)

Robert Troy

Question:

340. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the final costs to the Exchequer of each commission of investigation that has been completed to date in her Department, in addition to the estimated costs to date of ongoing commissions of investigation. [5301/17]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) is the only Commission within the remit of my Department. It was established by Government on 17th February (S.I. No. 57 of 2015) and has offices on Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 4. The investigation is ongoing and the Commission is expected to submit three reports by February 2018.

Since its establishment costs of approximately €3.62m have been incurred to support salaries, fees and other operational costs relating to the work of the independent Commission. In addition, my Department has also incurred additional costs of approximately €0.447m to date in supporting the establishment and operation of the Commission.

Defence Forces Properties

Questions (341)

Martin Heydon

Question:

341. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans for investment in infrastructure on the Curragh camp for 2017; if he will provide a breakdown of this investment between projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4835/17]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

The Department is engaged in an ongoing building programme designed to modernise and enhance the training, operational and accommodation facilities available to members of the Defence Forces.  The projected spend on infrastructure projects during 2017 at the Curragh Camp is set out in the following table.

Curragh Camp

Infrastructure Projects - 2017

Estimated spend 2017

Secure Storage Facility - Phase 2 (Enabling Works)  

€121,000

Secure Storage Facility - Phase 2 (Stores Buildings)

€5,500,000

Pearse - B & D Blocks - Accommodation upgrade

€1,584,000

Plunkett Bks - Block 1 - Locker Facility

€90,000

Camp East side - Gas conversion programme

€603,000

Plunkett Bks - Block 6 - Refurbish ablutions

€56,000

European Fund for Strategic Investments

Questions (342)

Barry Cowen

Question:

342. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the potential investment projects his Department put forward to the Department of Finance task force report for the European Fund for Strategic Investments. [4864/17]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

No projects were identified by my Department to be put forward as potential investment projects to the Department of Finance task force report for the European Fund for Strategic Investment.

Defence Forces Personnel

Questions (343)

Brendan Smith

Question:

343. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his proposals to compensate members of the Permanent Defence Forces that have been transferred to other military installations and that incur substantial costs in travelling to work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4912/17]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

The re-organisation of the Defence Forces, finalised in October 2012, resulted in a fundamental re-structuring of Army Formations and Units across the country including the closure of a number of operational posts. This was undertaken in order to enhance operational readiness and deployability, while reducing the number of personnel involved in administration. This re-organisation led to a re-configuration of the Defence Forces operational processes, from a garrison-based system to a more flexible, deployable system that makes more efficient use of all resources, including personnel.

All members of the Defence Forces reassigned under the Defence Forces Reorganisation Plan 2012 were entitled to Change of Station Allowance in circumstances where they meet the qualifying criteria. The Defence Forces Personnel Support Service had a representative in every Barrack or Installation to which personnel were being reassigned and these individuals are in a position, using both internal and external resources to provide the necessary supports to the redeploying personnel and their families if applicable, as was previously provided during Barrack closures and redeployments.

While functions moved between locations under the reorganisation, every effort was made to limit to relocation of personnel from their existing locations, insofar as was practicable. The movement and transfer of Officers across locations throughout the country has always been and will continue to be a feature of an Officer's career, which is essential to their career and experiential development within the Defence Forces. I am advised by the military authorities that every effort is made to limit the disruption to personnel and to relocate personnel closer to home as opportunities arise. I understand that the military authority authorities take due consideration of personnel circumstances where possible.

Commissions of Investigation

Questions (344)

Robert Troy

Question:

344. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the final costs to the Exchequer of each commission of investigation that has been completed to date in his Department, in addition to the estimated costs to date of ongoing commissions of investigation. [5303/17]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

My Department has not established a Commission of Investigation under the Commission of Investigations Act 2004. As set out in my reply to Parliamentary Question 253 of 18 January 2017, professional assistance has been engaged in relation to personnel investigations pertaining to the Defence Forces.

My Department paid a total of €23,954 for services in respect of one such matter while services in respect of a second investigation have not yet been the subject of an invoice or payment.

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