Railway Stations Upgrade

Questions (1329)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

1329. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if there are plans by Irish Rail to carry out works on a railway station (details supplied) in County Limerick. [19960/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding of public transport;  the operation of the rail network and stations on the network is a matter for Iarnród Éireann in the first instance.

In view of Iarnród Éireann's responsibility in these matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply.  Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Hedge Cutting Season

Question No. 1331 answered with Question No. 1325.

Questions (1330)

Joan Burton

Question:

1330. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to reports of hedgerow destruction on the part of Irish Rail, including severe hedge trimming and hedge removal (details supplied); if he has raised the matter with Irish Rail; his plans to carry out an investigation in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20007/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I am responsible for policy, legislation and overall funding for public transport. The maintenance of hedgerows along the rail network is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann, and is carried out by the company in accordance with its statutory remit.

As the Deputy may be aware, Iarnród Éireann has certain specific statutory exemptions from the general legislative ban on tree and hedge trimming during the March to October bird-nesting season. I understand from the company that, notwithstanding these exemptions, its normal practice is to plan such works outside that period, except in exceptional circumstances. With regard to the recent work on the Portarlington to Athlone section of the railway, I am informed that the availability of contractor resources to undertake the works resulted in hedges and trees being cut a number of weeks into the nesting season. The company determined that the safety of the line necessitated the continuation of the works, even though this meant that they were undertaken later than originally intended.

Whilst the decision to complete the recent work was taken in the best interest of railway safety and in compliance with the law, the company has updated its approach to vegetation management. From now on, Iarnród Éireann will require a specific site risk assessment to be carried out if such works are being considered during the nesting season; this will enable the company to assess whether the works can be delayed until after the nesting season, and to consider whether less intrusive mitigation works might be carried out in the short term to keep the railway safe until after the bird-nesting season.

Question No. 1331 answered with Question No. 1325.

Road Safety

Questions (1332)

Imelda Munster

Question:

1332. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to introduce legislation or regulations to make it mandatory for motorists to have headlights on at all times while driving; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20043/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The mandatory use of Daytime Running Lights (DRL) is already in effect for all new cars type-approved within the EU since 7th February 2011.  DRL is a lighting system that automatically switches on when a vehicle is started and emits white light to the front of the vehicle in order to increase the visibility of the vehicle on the road during daytime.  DLR requirements were introduced via European Directive 2008/89/EC (updating Council Directive 76/756/EEC).  My Department has no plans at present to make the daytime use of headlights mandatory for any vehicles other than those already featured in EU legislation.

Sports Capital Programme

Questions (1333)

Michael McGrath

Question:

1333. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he plans to announce the allocation of grants under the sports capital programme in respect of the applications already submitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20048/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The 2018 round of the Sports Capital Programme closed for applications on Friday 19th October last. By that deadline, a record 2,337 applications were submitted seeking a total of €162m in funding.

186 of these applications were for projects that were deemed invalid under the 2017 round of the programme that subsequently submitted corrected documents. These applications were assessed first and approximately €7m in allocations to 170 projects were announced on the 17th January.

Work is now underway in assessing the new 2018 applications and allocations in respect of approx. 635 equipment only applications are expected to be announced shortly. For the first time, applicants who have submitted incorrect documentation under this round are being given the opportunity to correct their application during the assessment period. While there will be no undue delay in completing the assessment process, in view of the opportunity to correct documentation, the record number of applications received and the detailed information contained in each application, it is likely to take a number of months to have all applications assessed. Accordingly, I expect that it may be the third quarter of this year before the full set of allocations under this current round of the programme are announced.

National Transport Authority

Questions (1334)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

1334. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if consideration has been give to a report (details supplied) commissioned by his Department; if he has requested the National Transport Authority, NTA, and relevant public transport and local authorities to adopt shared mobility solutions as a way of improving access to public transport and public services for all; if priority will be given to pilot shared mobility schemes in Dublin and a suitable rural county such as County Donegal as per the recommendations of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20122/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for securing the provision of public passenger transport services nationally. It also has national responsibility for integrated local and rural transport.

The Report to which the Deputy refers to was conducted with a local project team from the NTA.

Accordingly, I have forward the Deputy's Question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Child and Family Agency

Questions (1335)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

1335. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the electrical upgrading and other remediation works carried out on the Tusla refuge in Rathmines, Dublin 6; the reason for the long closure period for the works; the reopening date for the refuge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18444/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As the Deputy's question relates to operational matters for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, I have requested Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.

I would like to inform the Deputy that I was recently informed by the Chairperson of the Tusla Board, Mr Pat Rabbitte that the reopening of the refuge is now delayed to Quarter 3, 2019 as there are important staffing and governance matters to be resolved.

Childcare Qualifications

Questions (1336)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1336. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if a plan that regularises the teaching and education status of persons who provide early childcare education will be formalised to include staffing grants, recognition of education status and terms and conditions including salary, in order that the value of the early childcare teacher is properly recognised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18602/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

My support for improved pay and conditions for ELC practitioners has been explicit given their critical role in supporting children’s development and supporting families. Over the last 4 budgets an increase of 117% in investment has been provided towards this sector and First 5 commits includes a commitment to doubling that again over the next 10 years.

It needs to be noted however that Early Learning and Care services in Ireland are either privately run or are operated by community/not for profit services. The DCYA is not the operator of the service and is not the employer of the staff, but through a contractual arrangement provides a range of funding supports through capitation payments and other initiatives to support the sector. DCYA cannot set terms and conditions for staff.

This is why, I have actively encouraged the sector to seek a Sectoral Employment Order (SEO) to introduce better terms and conditions. This process must however be initiated by a grouping representing the sector. I understand that organisations requesting the commencement of such a process must show they have significant membership, but the relevant Trade Unions have not yet reached the thresholds required.

Building a skilled and sustainable Early Learning and Care (ELC) workforce is a key component of First 5, the Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families, which was led by DCYA and launched on the 19th of November 2018. First 5 highlights the valuable role of the early learning and care workforce and makes a number of commitments to develop it further. For example, it commits to publishing a Workforce Development Plan and the steering group to drive this work will hold its first meeting this month. Included on its agenda will be a grading structure for the sector, agreement of titles, and the establishment of a professional regulator. The Steering Group will be advised by a Stakeholder Group and via a national consultation with the sector and other stakeholders.

First 5 also includes a commitment to review the funding model for the ELC sector, under which employers would be supported to provide more favourable working conditions to attract and retain staff. The new funding model would complement a Sectoral Employment Order and existing Government funded early learning and care schemes by leveraging additional investment for certain criteria, for example, employers introducing better pay would receive greater investment.

Preschool Services

Questions (1337)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1337. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of an application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18760/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department has no record of an application for another preschool year in respect of the child named. I would urge the child's parents to submit an application as soon as possible which will be reviewed by officials within my Department .

Current policy requires that any request for an exemption from ECCE eligibility must be supported by a letter from a medical specialist (not a GP/PHN) specifically recommending an exemption from the upper age limit to the ECCE programme for the child.

Examples of the type of specialist recommendations accepted are as follows:

Speech & Language Therapist; Occupational Therapist; Senior Psychologist; Physiotherapist; Paediatrician/developmental; Neurologist; Psychiatrist; Psychotherapist; Cardiologist; Oncologist; Ophthalmologist; Otolaryngologist (ENT specialist); Gastroenterologist.

This is not an exhaustive list; however it provides an example of what is accepted.

Applications for exemptions from ECCE eligibility can be made to EYqueries@dcya.gov.ie or by posting all relevant documentation to the following address: Early Years Division, Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Block 1 - Floor 2, Miesian Plaza, 50-58 Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2, D02 XW14.

It must be noted, however, that the overage exemption process has recently been the subject of a consultation process and report by the National Disability Authority (NDA). Officials from my Department are now considering policy options following on from this report. The new policy will consider the future of the system of exemptions and how best to support parents and children in the important transition from pre-school to primary school. It is worth stressing that the only rationale underpinning these considerations is what is in the best interests of the child. I would also note that research shows broad agreement that it is in the best interest of the child to start school with their peers.Until such time as any new policy proposals are in place, I have stated that the current system will continue. Overage Exemptions currently provided by my Department are governed by three guiding principles as follows:

· A Letter of Recommendation supplied from a specialist (NB: Not a GP/PHN)· Child's age - not being over 6 years of age during the exemption year (as per Educational Welfare Act, 2000)· ECCE Allocation taken - if a child has had the full 2 years they will not be eligible.

I would stress that each application for an exemption is considered on its own merits and never in the context of the outcome of any other case.

Childcare Services Funding

Questions (1338)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

1338. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the way in which the new childcare scheme which will commence in June 2019 will affect funding for community run childcare facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19063/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The National Childcare Scheme is a new, national scheme of financial support to help parents with the cost of quality childcare. It will ultimately replace all previous targeted childcare programmes with a single, streamlined and user-friendly scheme, providing both universal and targeted childcare subsidies. The development of this scheme is a significant move forward in delivering quality, accessible, affordable Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare to families throughout Ireland. It will be introduced this October, with payments flowing from November.

When the Scheme is introduced, many working families will become eligible for childcare subsidies for the first time and many more families will qualify for increased levels of subsidy. This should have corresponding benefits for childcare providers by increasing affordability and reducing bad debt. The National Childcare Scheme is also expected to increase demand for services, thereby supporting community services to operate efficiently and at full capacity.

The Scheme entails a fundamental shift away from subsidies grounded in medical card and social protection entitlements, and towards a comprehensive and progressive system of universal and income-based subsidies. By making this shift and by tangibly reducing the cost of quality childcare for thousands of families across Ireland, the Scheme aims to increase access. improve children's outcomes, support lifelong learning, make work pay and reduce child poverty. The Scheme also provides a vital platform for future investment in the sector.

To make the transition to the new Scheme as smooth as possible, families can choose to make the switch to the new Scheme once it launches (targeted for October 2019) or can remain on their current childcare subsidy programme for the balance of the programme year. This provides assurance to both parents and providers that payments under the existing schemes will continue to flow as we make the transition to the National Childcare Scheme.

On 11th March, I launched a communications campaign for the National Childcare Scheme. The campaign encompasses a major nationwide training programme for providers. I would encourage all providers to sign up for a local training session on the new website- www.ncs.gov.ie so that they can learn more about the operation of the scheme, including the rules on payment. An Information Pack has also been sent to every childcare provider in the country and a comprehensive range of information resources can be found on our website- www.ncs.gov.ie.

Finally, for services that may be facing any issues with financial sustainability, my Department oversees an integrated Case Management system which is administered by Pobal. This Case Management service provides non-financial assistance or support in the first instance. Financial supports are also available for community services facing certain challenges. These may be accessed through Case Management following a financial assessment. I would encourage any service currently experiencing sustainability challenges, or which fears that the introduction of the National Childcare Scheme could potentially affect its sustainability, to contact their local Childcare Committee or Pobal.

Childcare Costs

Questions (1339)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

1339. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the measures being considered in order to assist middle income earners that do not qualify for State subsidies, payments or assistance with the rising cost of childcare (details supplied); her plans to address same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19124/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The National Childcare Scheme is a new, national scheme of financial support to help parents with the cost of quality childcare. It will ultimately replace all previous targeted early learning and care and school age childcare programmes with a single, streamlined and user-friendly scheme, providing both universal and targeted subsidies. The development of this scheme is a significant move forward in delivering quality, accessible, affordable Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare to families throughout Ireland. It will be introduced this October, with payments flowing from November.

Through the NCS and a range of other measures, I am committed to changing Ireland’s childcare system from one of the most expensive in the world to one of the very best. When the Scheme is introduced, many families will become eligible for early learning and care and school age childcare subsidies for the first time and many more families will qualify for increased levels of subsidy. The Scheme also provides a vital platform for future investment in the sector.

The Scheme entails a fundamental shift away from subsidies grounded in medical card and social protection entitlements, and towards a comprehensive and progressive system of universal and income-based subsidies. By making this shift and by tangibly reducing the cost of quality childcare for thousands of families across Ireland, the Scheme aims to radically improve access to quality childcare, improve children's outcomes, support lifelong learning, make work pay and reduce child poverty.

Targeted subsidies will be available for families with NET annual incomes up to €60,000 whose children are between 6 months and 15 years old and who are availing of registered childcare. A net income of €60,000 could mean a gross household income of up to €100,000 per annum and hence the NCS will capture families that might be considered middle income earners. This maximum net income threshold was significantly increased in Budget 2019 from €47,000 to €60,000 per annum, meaning that an estimated 7,500 more children will benefit from the scheme relative to the original proposals. Over 40,000 other children, already eligible for the scheme, will see increases to their subsidies. This is a significant positive change which will benefit middle-income families.

Parents who do not qualify for an income-related subsidy under the National Childcare Scheme may qualify for a universal subsidy instead. The universal subsidy is available to all families with children under three years, and to families with children over three years who have not yet qualified for the free preschool programme. This subsidy provides 50c per hour towards the cost of a registered childcare place for up to a maximum of 40 hours per week and equates to €1040 per annum for a child utilising full time registered early learning and care.

Importantly, the new Scheme has been designed flexibly with income thresholds and subsidy rates which can be adjusted incrementally over time as Government investment becomes available.

In September and October, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will run a large information campaign across a number of media channels to ensure there is full awareness amongst parents of their potential entitlements under the new Scheme. This campaign will advise parents how they can avail of the Scheme and the levels of subsidy to which they may be entitled.

The Deputy may also be aware that I have recently expanded the ECCE pre-school programme. When introduced in 2010, ECCE provided one academic year of pre-school free of charge to children. This has now been extended to two years. Estimates suggest that working parents availing of the full two years may save €5,700 approximately on their early learning and care costs.

Finally, First 5, the recently published Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families commits to doubling investment in early learning and care and school age childcare over the next 10 years. This is on top of the 117% increase in investment we have seen over the last 4 years. Both these facts demonstrate the commitment of this Government to making early learning and care and school age childcare more affordable for parents, including middle income earners.

Child and Family Agency

Questions (1340)

John Brady

Question:

1340. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if there is an appeals process in cases in which a family has been served with a school attendance notice from Tusla; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18419/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As the Deputy may be aware, Tusla Educational Welfare Services (EWS) is responsible for addressing issues in relation to participation, retention and attendance in recognised schools.

The EWS of Tusla has advised my Department that there is no appeals process prescribed in the legislation (Education (Welfare) Act, 2000) in cases where a family has been served with a School Attendance Notice . It is a last resort for Tusla Educational Welfare Service (EWS) to prosecute a family in relation to school attendance issues and every effort is made to ensure the child is in receipt of his or her constitutional right to an education prior to legal proceedings being initiated.

The School Attendance Notice is a final legal notice stating that legal proceedings may be initiated if the family is not in compliance with the notice and the child does not attend school on each school day that the notice is in force. Should the child attend school on each school day that the notice is in force, legal proceedings will not be initiated.

Section 25 of the Education (Welfare) Act outlines the procedures followed when issuing a School attendance notice.

Residential Institutions

Questions (1341)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

1341. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if a person (details supplied) has completed their examination into the legal and scientific considerations relating to the collection of DNA samples by the State for the purpose of returning human remains in Tuam, County Galway, to identifiable relatives for dignified burial; and if so, when the report will be published. [18442/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I received Prof. Shannon's report on the collection of DNA samples from Tuam survivors on 15 April. I am considering the implications of the report for a possible voluntary administrative scheme, and have also sought the advice of the Attorney General. I expect to bring a memo to government in the near future to seek government approval to publish the report.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Questions (1342, 1343)

Clare Daly

Question:

1342. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to investigate adoptions in circumstances in which the mother consenting was a minor. [18551/19]

View answer

Clare Daly

Question:

1343. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to examine other types of irregular adoptions such as those granted in the absence of birth certificates of any kind and in the case of children whose parents were married and instances of correct birth registrations which resulted in illegal adoptions. [18552/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1342 and 1343 together.

The Mother and Baby Home Commission is due to submit its final report to the Minister in February 2020. The scope of the Commission’s remit includes several specific areas of practice and procedure in the care, welfare, entry arrangements and exit pathways for the women and children who were in the named 14 institutions. The Commission's terms of reference include the examination of issues such as procedures related to consent that may have been in place within the named institutions, as set out below:

VII. For children who did not remain in the care of their parents, to examine exit pathways on leaving these institutions so as to establish patterns of referral or relevant relationships with other entities, and in particular to identify- (a) the extent to which the child’s welfare and protection were considered in practices relating to their placement in Ireland or abroad;(b) the extent of participation of mothers in relevant decisions, including(i) the procedures that were in place to obtain consent from mothers in respect of adoption, and(ii) whether these procedures were adequate for the purpose of ensuring such consent was full, free and informed; and(c) the practices and procedures for placement of children where there was cooperation with another person or persons in arranging this placement, this to include where an intermediary organisation arranged a subsequent placement.

The report and any findings or recommendations made therein cannot be pre-empted.

Accordingly, any decision around a broader examination of the issues referred to by the Deputy will be made in the context of the Commission's final report when it is received.

Registration of Births

Questions (1344)

Clare Daly

Question:

1344. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the circumstances of a third delay to the publication of the final report of the scoping exercise into incorrect birth registrations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18553/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I had expected that the final report of the review of a sample of adoption records being overseen by the Independent Reviewer Marion Reynolds would be submitted to me by Easter. A third interim report from Ms. Reynolds dated 1 April has since informed me that this will now be delayed to the end of May. I understand that the reason for the delay is that the fieldwork that has been carried out by both Tusla and the Adoption Authority of Ireland is complex, forensic and resource intensive, and has taken longer than anticipated.

The third interim report and the two previous interim reports from the Reviewer have been published on my Department's website. The purpose of this review, which I initiated following the discovery of cases of illegal registrations in the St. Patrick’s Guild records, is to determine if similar evidence of illegal birth registrations can be identified from the records of other former adoption agencies and other relevant bodies.

The final report and its findings will provide information to assist me in identifying any necessary next steps.

Child and Family Agency Staff

Questions (1345)

Robert Troy

Question:

1345. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the additional resources that will be made available to social workers in the HSE area of County Westmeath. [18568/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I wish to inform the Deputy that this is an operational matter for Tusla and my officials have requested Tusla to respond directly to you in relation to social work resources in Tusla and not the HSE area as stated.

Foster Care

Questions (1346)

Clare Daly

Question:

1346. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 94 of 4 April 2019, the reason three times as many children are put in foster care in Dundalk rather than Drogheda; and the reason one is twenty times more likely to have children placed in foster care in County Carlow than in County Kilkenny. [18636/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I wish to thank the Deputy for her question, and can confirm that I have referred the matter to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, for their direct reply.

Childcare Services Provision

Questions (1347)

Jack Chambers

Question:

1347. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the severe shortage of childcare places in the Dublin 15 area; the efforts under way to address these shortages; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18748/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department funds 30 City and County Childcare Committees across the country. Part of their role is to advise my Department on capacity issues. Officials in Fingal Childcare Committee are best placed to help any parent/guardian who are looking for a childcare place in the Dublin 15 area. I would encourage anyone having difficulty in securing a place to make contact with their local CCC. Contact details for all of the CCCs, in addition to other information about the services they provide, may be found on www.myccc.ie

As regards capacity issues more generally, each year Pobal conducts research on behalf of my Department to examine a number of factors related to childcare services in Ireland, including the monitoring of capacity. The Early Years Sector Profile report, which was published in November and relates to the 2017/2018 programme year, indicates that existing childcare provision nationally meets current needs nationwide in terms of capacity whilst recognising that small pockets of under supply may exist within this.

This report outlines a 4% vacancy rate as a percentage of children enrolled in Dublin - Fingal, ie. 11,149 children enrolled in registered services with 450 vacant childcare places. It also identifies waiting lists totalling 1,076 children. Pobal reports that nationally the trend for waiting lists suggests a reduction in waiting lists for older children and an increase for under twos. Pobal cautions that its data on waiting lists cannot by itself be used to inform capacity decisions as parents often place their children on more than one waiting list.

Further, I secured €8.86m in capital funding for childcare in 2019 and applications for funding are currently being processed by Pobal. The ultimate aim being to benefit parents and children through improving our childcare infrastructure and capacity. A particular focus will be to expand service provision for children under three years of age.

Under the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan published in 2018, I ensured that Childcare was identified as one of our nation's strategic priorities. I am delighted that €250 million in additional funding has been committed to for the expansion of high quality, early learning and care and school age childcare over the duration of the Plan.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Questions (1348)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

1348. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the case of a person (details supplied) will be reviewed; if funding is in place for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18776/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department does not currently provide additional supports for children with disabilities to attend school-age childcare services.

However, the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) provides both universal and targeted supports for the meaningful participation of children with disabilities in the ECCE pre-school programme, will complete its third year of implementation in June 2019. An evaluation of AIM will then commence, which is expected to be completed in 2020.

The Government has made a commitment in First 5 , the Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families, to consider enhancements to, and/or extension of, AIM to, for example, all early learning and care services, all school-age childcare services and/or to children with additional needs other than a disability. However, I must stress that any decisions on extension or reform of AIM are subject to the AIM evaluation findings and other relevant developments, and no decisions will be taken until after the AIM evaluation on what the next steps will be in the further development of AIM.

I also recently announced that my Department will shortly carry out a public consultation in relation to school-age childcare, focusing particularly on the development of comprehensive regulations and a national quality framework to support quality improvements in school-age childcare services.

Children in Care

Questions (1349)

Clare Daly

Question:

1349. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the length of time the 337 children missing from care in 2018 were missing. [18835/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I have written to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, for the information requested by the Deputy. A further reply will issue when I have their reply.

Tusla social workers develop an Absence Management Plan for children in care in conjunction with their foster carers, residential staff and family, where appropriate. These are used to assess the risk in the event of a child going missing and the appropriate action to be taken in each individual case. A child in care is considered to be missing when his or her whereabouts are unknown and the Absence Management Plan indicates concern for the child’s safety. It should be remembered that most children in care live in family settings in the community and, like all teenagers, will have curfews to return home.

As children and adolescent's needs differ, there will be an individual judgement made in relation to how late a child may be in returning to their foster carers or residential centre. The length of time alone cannot be used to determine whether a child qualifies as missing from care, rather it is a combination of the time period with all other circumstances of the case that must be considered. For example, if a child is not allowed unsupervised time outside the home and cannot be found in the home, this will be counted as an incident of a child missing from care, regardless of the period of time involved.

Family Support Services

Questions (1350)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

1350. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the family resource centres in each of the 17 Tusla geographical areas that will be allocated funding to employ a family support worker; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18968/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I secured an additional €1.5 million in funding for Family Resource Centres in 2019.As announced on 23 April, 2019, the additional €1.5 million in funding will be used to:

- Increase core funding to each of the 110 FRCs which existed pre-2018 by 5%.

- Employ an additional 17 Family Support Workers - one FRC in each of the 17 Tusla geographical areas will be allocated funding to employ a Family Support Worker.

- Fund the Family Resource Centre Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Promotion Programme.

The allocation of resources to Family Resource Centres is an operational matter for Tusla. I have requested Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Residential Institutions

Questions (1351)

Denise Mitchell

Question:

1351. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to consult with the broader survivor community in addition to the collaborative forum membership regarding the recommendation of the report of the collaborative forum to fund a series of memorialisation measures to remember and honour the mothers and children incarcerated in mother and baby homes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19006/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I recognise the value and importance of sensitively developed memorialisation to honour and remember the mothers and children who resided in these institutions.

When I recently published the recommendations of the First Report of the Collaborative Forum, I was pleased to announce Government approval for the development of a series of memorialisation measures to contribute to local and national commemoration.

The proposed measures include the establishment of a scheme to fund memorials in the locality of each former mother and baby institution. I also plan the provision of financial supports to assist survivor led groups in organising and running commemoration events. A working group will be established to develop innovative schemes, and to advance the proposal for a national memorial as recommended by the Forum.

These are significant tasks and we will work with stakeholders to build consensus in so far as practicable. I am open to artistic, creative and academic engagement as we examine the feasibility of developing active living memorials such as interactive multi-media experiences, educational activities and relevant artistic endeavours.

My Department will work with relevant Government departments and agencies, as well as members of the representative Collaborative Forum and the wider community in advancing these measures. I will be making further announcements on this process by the end of June.