Affordable Childcare Scheme Implementation

Questions (1)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

1. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of the implementation of the affordable childcare scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14606/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Children)

I wish to ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs about the status of the implementation of the affordable childcare scheme and if she will make a statement on the matter.

On 11 March, I announced the launch of the national childcare scheme, our pathway to truly accessible and affordable quality childcare. The scheme will open to applications this October and good progress continues to be made as we work towards that timeframe.

Following the enactment of the Childcare Support Act last July, detailed secondary legislation and policy guidelines are now being finalised. An IT development contractor, Codec, is working with officials from my Department and Pobal to develop the scheme's supporting IT system so that it will be available on schedule.

Since 18 February, school-age childcare services can register with Tusla and will be able to participate in the scheme from the outset. A national communications campaign is also underway. This involves a sequenced programme of information, training and supports to allow everyone - parents, providers and representative groups - to prepare for the scheme. Key elements of the campaign in March included the launch of a new website, wwv.ncs.gov.ie, as well as a major nationwide training programme for providers offering over 12,500 training places across 600 venues. I am happy to report that there is very strong interest in both the website and the training.

By raising the thresholds for income-related subsidies in budget 2019, I have poverty proofed the scheme for families on lower incomes and enabled more families with higher incomes to access support. Families with a net household income of under €26,000 will benefit from the maximum subsidies while families of a net household income of up to €60,000 will also benefit.

I will continue to work intensively to deliver this landmark scheme, which will alter the landscape of childcare in Ireland, support families, provide a sustainable platform for investment and, crucially, allow us to continue to invest in giving our children the best start in life.

I thank the Minister for her comprehensive response. I know that Codec is the name of the company involved in the ICT side of the scheme. Is the ICT on target or up and running? Are there any flaws that will prohibit it being fully rolled out in September? Regarding the communication teams and training and support, will there be adequate time and training for the various providers? I am delighted to hear about 600 different locations around the country so I am sure there are adequate opportunities for people to attend. Is an allowance to enable them to attend this training available? Has extra time been allocated to their facility because it must take in somebody to enable another person to go or are events scheduled for the evening? Is it being delivered through the city and county childcare committees? Could the Minister repeat the name of the website?

Regarding the development of the IT system, and it is important that the Deputy asks these questions in an ongoing way because I know she does and has a particular interest, my information is that it is on target. As the Deputy is aware, an oversight group was established at the very beginning and continues to monitor the development of it. Part of that involves ongoing risk assessment relating to the timing. It is not to say that it is completely without risk regarding being delivered on time. I must be honest about that. However, with regard to having that kind of risk approach to assessing the development of it, I am assured that it will be delivered on time and we will have an opportunity to pilot it before it goes fully live.

We have launched an initial communications approach and programme. There will be a couple of others particularly geared towards parents. We are offering training for providers. I will have to revert to the Deputy regarding her questions about the details of the training.

What about broadband in counties like Leitrim where broadband is very poor? Has the Department carried out a risk assessment regarding the uploading of documents, particularly from the childcare providers? It is my understanding that more than half of the premises in Leitrim do not have access to broadband. Perhaps the Department needs to do this as part of its risk assessment. It is a very valuable piece of it, particularly with regard to Leitrim, based on the feedback I am getting. What will the Minister do regarding the upcoming budget negotiations? Does she plan to see the expansion of the net household income threshold as part of budgetary negotiations?

I thank the Deputy for those questions and for alerting me to information she is receiving on not having access to broadband in County Leitrim. I will feed that in and get back to her in terms of looking at and assessing that issue. The ultimate success of the national child care scheme is rooted in that. It is also important to say that there is still the possibility of parents making applications on paper to the service provider. It is not the case that it is totally dependent on online facilities. It is worrying nonetheless and I will ask my officials to look at that and see how we can assess risk in that regard.

On the Deputy's second question, the investment in the national childcare scheme and that we will finally have it provides us with a much easier way to increase investment, both at the lower as well as the higher end. It will be my ambition to look for increases on both sides.

Domestic Violence

Questions (2)

Denise Mitchell

Question:

2. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to increase capacity for the number of refuges providing services to victims of domestic violence; the steps being taken to improve geographic access to these services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14528/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Children)

What are the Minister for Children and Youth Affair's plans to increase capacity for the number of refuges providing services to victims of domestic violence? Will she outline the steps being taken the steps be taken to improve geographic access to these services and will she make a statement on this matter?

Tusla, the child and family agency, provides funding and co-ordination supports to 59 organisations that deliver a range of services to victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence throughout the country. In 2018, as part of the planning processes to develop services for victims of domestic violence, Tusla began the process of reviewing emergency domestic violence accommodation provision in the Dublin region. The findings of this review will inform decision-making on the funding. It will also inform Tusla’s project to review specialist domestic violence accommodation nationally, which will be completed by the end of 2019. Importantly, it will also inform the Estimates process for 2020. I am pleased to confirm that a new refuge is due to open in south Dublin by the end of the third quarter of 2019. This refuge will have five family units and accommodate five adults and up to 15 children.

We need to improve geographic access. It is already difficult for women and children to leave the family home, but this becomes even more challenging when there is no safe place to go which is within a reasonable distance. This is also a key obligation to be met under the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, the Istanbul Convention, which Ireland ratified on 8 March of this year.

Currently there are challenges for Tusla in ensuring that we have the right number of refuge places in the right place for those who need them. Tusla will continue to work with service providers to plan for additional refuge developments where they are needed. Currently, 22 of the 59 organisations funded by Tusla provide emergency refuge and emergency non-refuge accommodation to victims of domestic violence and their children, with a total of 155 family units of emergency accommodation.

We are all aware of the detrimental effects that domestic violence has on victims and their children. This is why I have prioritised the development of these services.

I thank the Minister for her reply. There has been no increase in the number of spaces available in recent years. On 22 February 2018, the Minister told the House that Ireland was exceeding the recommendations for the minimum refuge provision for domestic violence spaces, because there were 155 family units comprising 147 emergency refuge family units and eight emergency non-refuge family units. She based this on the fact that she claimed that the Council of Europe recommend one place per 10,000 women. In fact, the Council of Europe recommends that provision be set at one place or family place per 7,500 to 10,000 members of the population. On that basis, it would appear that our domestic violence refuge spaces are 70% less than the recommended amount. To reach these European guidelines, we would in fact need 331 more spaces. Does the Minister accept these figures and will we see any significant increase in capacity over the coming years?

I thank the Deputy. Those are very important issues that she has pointed out. In terms of the calculation of her figures, I would have to do them myself but let us assume that she has done her maths right. The most important thing that the Deputy is identifying is what guidelines Ireland ought to follow to determine the number of refuge places that we have available. Indeed, as the Deputy indicated, we have a Council of Europe document which indicates the minimum standards to help us identify the appropriate number. The first issue then is what this number should be. The Deputy may be aware that the document offers two standards relating to fulfilling our obligations under the Council of Europe recommendations, one which is being followed, and the other on which the Deputy has just commented. In light of the Deputy's questions but also my ongoing interest in prioritising this issue, it is worth looking again at the most appropriate standard to follow in light of the evidence that is coming to bear on these issues.

These Council of Europe recommendations were made in 1998. It is 20 years on and we are still not reaching the targets. I have asked before and it seems very difficult to get answers as to how full these centres are. This information is very important to us to understand the demand that exists.

In responses I received recently to questions, I was told Cork as a whole has only five domestic violence refuge spaces. That is incredible. There are other counties such as Carlow, Cavan, Laois, Leitrim, Monaghan, Offaly and Roscommon where there are no places whatsoever. In these counties with no places, we are seeing mothers and children having to move to other counties to get services. That is not acceptable and I hope we look at this, going forward.

The Minister made a comment about the Rathmines centre that is due to be opened soon. My understanding is that this centre has been taken over by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive. Even though we have problem in homelessness, which I understand, it seems that we are taking from one to give to the other. Women who are fleeing domestic violence need specialist services.

Three matters arise here. First, on the numbers that we ought to have according to the Council of Europe, Tusla is applying a standard of shelter space per 10,000 head of female population. There is another standard of shelter space per 7,500 head of adult population. That is what the Deputy is arguing we should have instead, which means we need to increase provision. I am saying in response that we need to look at that again.

Second, there is a very important piece of research, a national survey, that Tusla is conducting now to identify, by working with stakeholders and service providers throughout the country, where the needs are and where the services ought to be. The Deputy is correct that there are nine counties where we do not have domestic violence refuges. This is important research and it is not just a case of putting them anywhere in each of those counties. Instead, it is done on an evidence basis, with research being done as to where they should be located and what kind of services should be provided. There are obviously different models.

The final point was on the Rathmines refuge shelter. It is a very important shelter for me. Some of my closest colleagues founded it many years ago. I have been there myself and it will be opened, if a little bit later than anticipated. While they are waiting to sort out some other outstanding issues - not building issues - the building has been offered for homeless people, some of whom are fleeing domestic violence.

Foster Care Supports

Questions (3)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

3. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the lack of consistency that exists in terms of children in foster care receiving aftercare plans and aftercare workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14607/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Children)

Has the attention of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs been drawn to the lack of consistency that exists as to children in foster care receiving aftercare plans and aftercare workers, and if she will make a statement on the matter?

This is an important question and the Deputy is correct in saying that some areas in the country have access to a greater level of aftercare workers. The need for greater consistency in the provision of aftercare planning and services has been identified in Tusla's 2019 business plan.

The budget I have secured for Tusla for 2019 will enable it to progress these plans. Individual children in care have very different needs as they approach the age of 18, as the Deputy is aware. Many children will have lived for significant periods in stable foster care and when they leave school they will have similar ambitions and supports available to them as to their peers. Other children will have experienced a fractured and traumatic childhood and will need a range of supports to manage the transition to adulthood. It is for this reason that children who are in residential care and those with identified additional needs are prioritised for an aftercare worker. Aftercare support builds on the work already undertaken by foster carers, social workers and residential care staff and is dependent on the full participation and consent of the young person. We also rely on partnership with agencies such as the HSE, housing agencies and Student Universal Support Ireland, SUSI. While all young people in care should have an aftercare plan with identified supports, not all will have an aftercare worker allocated to them. This decision is based on the assessment of the young person’s need.

Almost half of young people leaving foster care continue to live with their former carers. Some of these young people will be completing secondary school and undertaking further education, while a smaller number may have ongoing dependencies and disabilities. The carers of young people who have been in a stable long-term foster care placement will remain their main support. The majority of aftercare planning is likely to focus on the ongoing financial support provided by Tusla. There are other young people whose situation is less straightforward when they reach 18 and are leaving care. In recognition of this I have succeeded in having young people leaving care included as a separate category for funding under the capital assistance scheme.

I thank the Minister. At the outset I must acknowledge the fantastic work that foster parents and social care workers do to provide support. I would not be asking this question if foster carers, care leavers and Empowering People In Care, EPIC, had not come to me and said that they had a problem, so much so that they are planning to march through the streets of Dublin in May to highlight the disparity in support. I do not know if the Minister is aware of this. A lot of the disparity comes down to geography. Normally I am not one for advocating marches or anything like that. However, the Minister and I, and anyone else who engages with children's issues and youth affairs, understand that geography plays a huge part in this. There is a huge lack of social care workers or access to them. Moreover, if a young person loses a parent and finds himself or herself in foster care 11 months before his or her 18th birthday, he or she does not get the aftercare plan or the supports others benefit from.

My biggest question is this. The Minister talked about the Tusla business plan. Have other plans been put in place to prevent children falling between the cracks?

I thank the Deputy. I think marches are great. Having said that, being a Minister I need to know what the issues are before they happen. We will have those engagements. In my initial answer I noted that Tusla informs me that there is a really deep assessment of the needs of the individual child or young person. While all of them are entitled to an aftercare plan, some of them will not necessarily need an aftercare worker given the stability of their background. Children may be staying with their foster carers etc. As such, it is not necessarily a bad thing if they do not have one. However, we need an aftercare plan.

I have a list of the number of available aftercare workers per county etc. If there is a geographic disparity in how young people's needs for aftercare workers are met, this absolutely must be looked at. I will ask Tusla to ensure that we examine that.

I am wondering if the Minister has ever considered establishing a young people's foster care panel to advise the Department and Tusla. Young people are living this experience and they are the best people to describe it. The Minister is right. Not everybody will require the assistance of a social care worker. However, these children should all be entitled to an aftercare plan. The Minister has heard me say before that every child needs a second chance. I talk about that where education is concerned. We know that a lot of these young people's peers might go into first year in college and find the course is not for them. Children in aftercare should also be given a second chance. However, if the course does not suit them the funding stops and they are left to the wide world without any supports. This is a huge reason for the Minister to consider bringing the children to the table with the Department or Tusla to tell us how we can progress these issues.

I thank the Deputy. I wish to say two things in response to her questions. Regarding the number of aftercare workers, I would like to put on record that we need to fill some more posts. Tusla now has 111 posts in aftercare. Some 89 of them are filled by aftercare workers. There are 11 vacancies at aftercare worker grade. Tusla recently held a competition for 11 management posts. An additional 18 aftercare workers are employed by other organisations such as Focus Ireland and Don Bosco Care. I wish to put that on the record.

In response to the Deputy's second point, I am very much in favour of hearing from the people who experience the issues themselves, in this case the young people who have been in care. The Deputy may be aware that EPIC has an advisory council of young people which effectively does that kind of work. I have met with and listened to its members. They have developed materials. I was recently in Tallaght at one of EPIC's awareness-raising events highlighting the needs of young people in aftercare. I will raise that issue with EPIC. In other words, such a group already exists. The Deputy may be suggesting that we need to widen it and provide the opportunity for others to come forward. We will look at that. I thank the Deputy.

Homeless Persons Supports

Questions (4)

Ruth Coppinger

Question:

4. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the measures being taken to protect the welfare of homeless children by her Department and agencies reporting to her; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14604/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Children)

It is the morning after we learned that more than 10,000 men, women and children are now homeless in this country. Nearly 4,000 children are homeless in this country. What measures are being taken by the Minister's Department and the agencies reporting to her to protect the welfare of homeless children and will she make a statement on the matter?

We have a very serious problem concerning homeless children and families in our country. Where children are homeless as part of a family experiencing homelessness, my Department works closely with Tusla to provide supports to help them with the challenges they face. It is worth remembering that Tusla only intervenes in family life in exceptional circumstances. Children who are with their families in emergency accommodation remain in the care of their parents or guardians. Where Tusla has concerns regarding the welfare and development of any child, it will provide family supports to assist that family and child.

We now provide free childcare for the children of families experiencing homelessness, including a daily meal for each child. That is one thing my Department has done. Some 310 children have been registered under this scheme in the current programme year. Tusla also supports homeless families experiencing problems with school attendance through the school completion programme. Children whose families are homeless are prioritised for services such as homework clubs and breakfast clubs.

Tusla and the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, DRHE, have agreed a joint protocol to facilitate an interagency response to the many challenges posed by homelessness. As part of the protocol, Tusla provides support to the DHRE’s "one-stop shop" assessment centres. Here, Tusla staff deal with matters of child protection and welfare, educational welfare and domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services. Tusla’s homelessness liaison officer also supports these centres. Family resource centres provide facilities where homeless children and families can avail of a safe, warm environment for homework, relaxation and nutritious food. Tusla is engaging with the centres to offer further enhanced services across the greater Dublin area in 2019.

A minority of young people leaving care can have particularly complex needs. Following a suggestion from Fr. Peter McVerry I have succeeded in having them included for the first time as a separate category for funding under the capital assistance scheme.

That provides targeted assistance to the most vulnerable care leavers by enabling approved housing bodies to acquire residential units to accommodate them. I may come back to that.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

It has been a complex and arduous process to initiate. My Department and Tusla have developed principles and criteria relating to funding proposals under CAS. Where accommodation is provided under CAS, Tusla will provide and where necessary advocate for additional independent living supports, in particular for the most vulnerable care leavers, in accordance with the individual’s pre-agreed aftercare plan.

I am pleased to be able to confirm that as of 31 December 2018 ten care leavers were in occupancy of secure accommodation under the scheme while an additional 40 units, consisting of a mix of one and two bed units across the State, have been purchased or are sale agreed. These should be available for other young people leaving care in the near future. The security provided by a tenancy in CAS accommodation, combined with the aftercare supports identified by Tusla as part of the aftercare planning process, can help ensure that these young people have a safe base from which to begin their transition to independent adult life.

Our response to homelessness overall is a test of our compassion as a society. We need to eliminate child and family homelessness. While we work towards this we must provide the supports necessary to help them live in a way that goes some way to addressing the challenges of the situation.

I put it to the Minister that a Government that allows 3,784 children to be homeless and allows more than 10,000 men, women and children to be homeless overall, does not deserve to remain in power. I put it to the Minster that the Government parties, and Fianna Fáil which props it up, deserve to be hammered at the ballot box in May for failures in housing and homelessness. The Minister stated she thinks marches are great. I put it to her that the "Raise the Roof" national housing demonstration on 18 May should now be built into a massive anti-Government protest. I also put it to the Minister that the Government now has no excuse not to allow Solidarity's Anti-Evictions Bill 2018 pass all Stages in the Oireachtas and become part of the law of the land.

I am aware of the numbers. I find it distressing that there has been such a rise in homelessness and especially that it includes more than 160 children. I am certainly with the Deputy in respect of that. In light of the changes in the numbers, and the increase in numbers that we have in the headlines of the front pages of the newspapers today, a rethink on some of the things the Government is doing is required. We need to do more. Having reflected on this, and also on the recent report from the United Nations special rapporteur, that is particularly the case in respect of the private rental sector. There is a need to examine this issue again in the context of some of the legislation currently going through this House, such as the Residential Tenancies (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is doing that.

I refer to examining what else can be done to ensure security of tenure for those who in the private rental sector and especially those most vulnerable. I have been raising my own concerns and questions in respect of that debate and I will continue to do so. It is also true, however, that some of the things the Government has been doing appear to be working on the basis of evidence and numbers. I refer to the example of the rent pressure zones, RPZs, that from December of 2017 have been having a positive affect. That is shown in the data presented by the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, today. We do, however, as I have indicated, need to tighten up the regulations further in that sector. I expect the Minster for Housing, Planning and Local Government will be making further changes in that regard in the coming week.

Some 18 months ago, in September 2017, we woke up to find that there were 2,432 children living in emergency accommodation. The Minister, Deputy Zappone, was asked for a comment. She stated that should be a "wake up call". We found out yesterday that the numbers are 50% higher than that. Has she woken up yet? Has the Government woken up yet? We all know the number one cause of homelessness in this country is eviction from the private rental sector. Solidarity's Anti-Evictions Bill 2018 provides a number of practical remedies for staunching the flow. It aims to ban the sale of property as grounds for eviction. That is law in The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. It is supported by Threshold.

Does the Minister, Deputy Zappone, support that? I am asking her a direct question. The Bill would also ban renovation as grounds for eviction. I refer to so-called "renovictions". If these measures had been implemented when the Minister stated we needed to wake up, a year and a half ago, then we would be nowhere near 10,000 homeless at this stage. That is because many of those evictions would have been banned. Does the Minister support this Bill and does she support the practical remedies, such as banning the sale of property as grounds for eviction as supported by Threshold?

I support the objective and the ambition contained in the context of the Bill. My view as an Independent Member of Government is that it is very helpful to have the Anti-Evictions Bill 2018. It adds to the debate in respect of what is required in order to ensure we have additional security of tenure in our private rental sector. That is what I will support. Deputy Barry quoted me and, yes, it was a wake up call. It is exceptionally distressing to know today that even with that wake up call the numbers of people in homelessness are continuing to rise. I am also stating, therefore, that we need to do more and perhaps to do some things differently.

I refer to the rental issue in the private sector especially. One of the things the Government has pursued, however, is to develop a new model of cost rental options for low income families. That is on the basis of my commitment to it and putting it into A Programme for a Partnership Government. In the Land Development Agency scheme in the Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown area, which was announced yesterday, half of the 600 units will be rented at a substantially discounted price. That is one action that will make a difference in that area and that action is ongoing.

Child Protection

Questions (5)

Clare Daly

Question:

5. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the actions she will take to act on the recommendations of the UN special rapporteur regarding the sale and exploitation of children and the culture of silence here in relation to issues of childhood sexual abuse and exploitation in particular the recommendation for a dedicated and integrated strategy to respond to sexual violence against children. [14608/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Children)

My question relates to the damning recommendations of the United Nations special rapporteur regarding the sale and exploitation of children. I refer in particular to the whole area of the culture of silence around these issues. I am thinking particularly about the recommendation for a dedicated and integrated strategy to respond to sexual violence. I have asked the Minister a number of questions on these issues previously. How we deal with the past and legacy issues, however, actually informs how we deal with the future. What are the Minister's plans to deal with those recommendations?

The special rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography visited Ireland, at the invitation of the Government, from 14 to 21 May 2018. The special rapporteur met with representatives of a number of Departments and agencies during her visit. I met with her at the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Her report assesses the situation in Ireland and makes a range of recommendations relevant to a number of Departments. I welcome the report. I have already taken steps to address a number of the recommendations relevant to my Department. For example, a submission will shortly be made to the Attorney General on the ratification of the second optional protocol on the sale and sexual exploitation of children. We will shortly be opening a pilot "one house" centre for victims of child abuse. This will bring together the supports from Tusla, the Health Service Executive, HSE, and An Garda Síochána under one roof in one house.

The development of a national strategy covering child sexual abuse and exploitation was among the recommendations of the December 2017 Garda Inspectorate report, Responding to Child Sexual Abuse - a Follow Up Review. An independently-chaired inter-agency implementation group, comprising representatives from the Departments of Justice and Equality, Children and Youth Affairs, Public Expenditure and Reform, An Garda Síochána and Tusla, has been established to examine the recommendations in that report, including in relation to the desirability of a national strategy or other overarching whole of Government framework that would coherently draw together the existing actions and key stakeholders.

Regarding the culture of silence in respect of issues of child abuse, I believe this exists too. I do, however, genuinely believe that we are making progress in acknowledging and confronting the dark, shameful unspoken secrets that exist in our communities. The Children First Act 2015, which I fully commenced in December 2017, provides for a number of key child protection measures, including raising awareness of child abuse and neglect, mandatory reporting of child protection concerns and improving child protection arrangements in organisations providing services to children. There has been an increase in reports of concerns about children who may be at risk. I think this is some evidence towards moving through that culture of silence.

In fairness, it was an excellent report and perhaps we should be looking for more time in the Chamber to discuss some of these issues. I acknowledge, as the special rapporteur does also, that there have been measures implemented, particularly in respect of preventing and responding to abuse now. Progress has been made in this area and that is a fact. I am glad to see the Minister has announced other measures which are also going to be implemented. I would really like to focus, however, on some of the historical points as well. How we deal with the past does inform how we deal with the future.

The special rapporteur was particularly critical on some of these issues. I refer in particular to her call for a "comprehensive national examination of forced and illegal adoptions, including audits of the records in the hands of the State while ensuring that individuals whose records were falsified have access to information and redress". The special rapporteur also called for a full investigation into the human rights abuses in the Magdalene laundries and was very concerned that we do not have enough proper information with regard to abuse now and the lack of records.

Are there plans in those areas to address some of the recommendations made?

I can certainly speak about the issue of illegal registrations in the context of the recommendations made. The Deputy will be aware that a review of sample files within the custody of the State is taking place. The process is being overseen by an independent reviewer, Marion Reynolds, the former deputy director of social services in Northern Ireland. The findings of the review will assist me in reaching a decision on what, if any, subsequent action might be deemed to be necessary to identify more fully the scale of illegal birth registrations. As I expect to receive the report in the Easter period, it is imminent. Some of the other issues raised by the Deputy could form part of it. She made a point about developing a new strategy. We are examining its desirability. One thing at which the group is looking is a way to keep it as a possibility. However, what is most important is following through on implementing actions identified in other settings and frameworks.

The problem is urgency. The point was made. Those involved were critical of the remit of the mother and baby homes commission not being broad enough to deal with the illegal adoption issue. While it is welcome that the Minister might have the report in April, we need to be moving to implement its findings. The probe was clear in respect of the culture of silence and the prevention of survivors from being able to talk and about how it constituted further abuse. It is regrettable that we keep having piecemeal investigations, rather than doing the job comprehensively. To me, in some ways it is part of the same process of denial. Are we to be dragged kicking and screaming to deal with the matter eventually, come clean and have a full acknowledgement as a society of how the people concerned were wronged? Tragically, the longer we delay, the more the number of actual survivors will dwindle. We need to dig deeper into some of the points made about the culture of silence and undertake a comprehensive review. Again, I am keen to emphasise the urgency, particularly in dealing with the issue of illegal adoptions.

I appreciate the Deputy highlighting the need for urgency. I feel it too, especially when I meet those involved. I met some of them two evenings ago at the extraordinary exhibition at the National Museum that I launched. It was called "(A)ddressing our Hidden Truths" by Alison Lowry.

The Deputy made one point about how the commission should have had broader terms of reference to consider illegal registrations or adoptions. The commission is looking at the issue of adoptions to the extent that it has to do with what happened in the mother and baby homes. We are doing another block of work at the same time in the light of what Tusla has found. In some ways, it is good that it is happening in parallel, as distinct from widening the terms of the commission. Already it has so much to do that it has had to delay. Things are happening in parallel, which is good, especially in the context of the need for urgency and the questions to be answered. I hope the Deputy agrees with me on the process in approaching the matter of illegal registrations first through the use of sample methodology, etc. and then reviewing what has been found. That is a reasonable way to look at the wider issues involved. That is what I am hoping to do.