Thursday, 22 February 2018

Questions (9)

Martin Heydon


9. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if applications from County Kildare for additional family resource centres will be considered in view of the shortage of centres in the county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8981/18]

View answer

Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Children)

I welcome the decision in the budget to allocate 11 new family resource centres around the country. In Kildare, we have two fantastic family resource centres, Newbridge and Curragh Pride. However, for a county with 220,000 people, Kildare only has the two centres. County Kerry, with a population of 147,000, has 12 centres while Donegal has nine and Mayo seven. When compared to these counties, one can see the necessity for two new family resource centres in Kildare.

On budget day, I was pleased to announce that I had secured additional resources of almost €3 million to support the work of existing family resource centres, and to facilitate the inclusion of an additional 11 community organisations to the family resource centre programme. I have increased the budget for these centres from €13.5 million in 2017 to just over €16.5 million this year.

Tusla administers the family resource centre programme. Applications to the programme opened on 23 October 2017. The final deadline for receipt of these applications was 20 December 2017. Tusla has confirmed that it has received a total of 43 applications, two of which are from County Kildare.

Tusla is currently assessing all applications. Applicants will be notified of the outcome of the assessment in March. In assessing the applications, Tusla has indicated its evaluation process will take account of a range of factors, including the size and population of the catchment area, the degree of economic disadvantage in the area, the existing distribution of services in the area and the ability of applicants to deliver good outcomes for children and families.

In addition to supporting the establishment of 11 new family resource centres, I am making additional funding of up to €10,000 available to each existing centre. This will take account of service needs in each area. Tusla local offices will be happy to work with each family resource centre in this regard.

Family resource centres play an important role in supporting children and families in local communities. I was pleased to be able to make additional resources available to support them in 2018. I look forward to the outcome of the process now under way which will lead to the provision of 11 extra family resource centres under budget 2018.

I thank the Minister for her response.

I welcome the funding that went to existing family resource centres, which is important. However, there are only two centres in County Kildare. Two excellent applications have been made for resource centres in Athy and Kildare Town. The Kildare town applicant, Teach Dara Community and Family Centre, exemplifies the grassroots response to local needs and encapsulates the spirit of the family resource centre programme. It has demonstrated commitment, innovation and the harnessing of available resources to operate a de facto family resource centre for several years. Sarah Shakespeare and her team are waiting for this opportunity to formally be accepted into the national programme.

The need for a properly funded family resource centre is undeniable in Athy, a town experiencing high levels of intergenerational disadvantage and isolation as well as being a designated RAPID area. The applicant, Athy Community and Family Centre, has proven community connectedness through John Delaney and his team. It has experience of operating a local community development programme and currently operates a community child care service. It has its own premises and already supports a range of existing local initiatives.

Both of these are family resource centres in everything but except name, funding and support.

Deputy Heydon is a worthy public representative for his constituency. The Deputy has put forward his arguments that these applications meet the criteria I have outlined. Ultimately, Tusla makes these decisions and recommendations to me.

From my ongoing work with Tusla’s executive and board, and as I look at the different issues in the programmes providing services for children and families, I note family resource centres are an integral aspect of the work of Tusla in the community. The way in which communities take the initiative and show leadership in this regard is also important. We want to utilise those resources more as we move into the future.

I thank the Minister for her response. I understand the role Tusla plays and she has highlighted the criteria it will use. The reason I feel passionately about this is because County Kildare is often misunderstood. As Deputy Durkan who is beside me knows, it suffers from a perception of affluence. That means the county's pockets of deprivation suffer from low levels of funding for mental health and youth services. When the Department gets a little more money coming out of the recession, it needs to raise every boat. We do not get many opportunities to redress this.

Kildare has two family resource centres. Other counties which have two family resource centres include Offaly, with a population of 77,000, Cavan, 76,000, Carlow, 50,000, Longford, 40,000, and Leitrim, 32,000. The two resource centres in question will provide the good outcomes which Tusla seeks. They are both in areas of economic disadvantage and need support. Will the Minister support me in this case?

From my own practice and experience, I have seen the effectiveness of community initiatives, leaders and innovators, which are what family resource centres are all about. Working in partnership with the State, they are the best way to move beyond economic and social disadvantage. That is why my heart, as well as my actions, are committed to family resource centres.

All I can say is that there were 43 applications and I was able to get money for 11 new family resource centres, which is the first time we have increased the number of family resource centres for quite some time, but I am committed to looking for additional investment for 2019-----

I support that.

-----as 11 from 43 leaves a few places that are not going to be able to get it this time.