Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, answered orally.

Children in Care

Question No. 8 answered orally.

Questions (7)

Clare Daly

Question:

7. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on whether €13,250 per week for a private residential placement for a child is an appropriate charge by private service providers for this service. [22241/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I understand that the cost of €13,250 quoted by the Deputy relates to one young person living on their own for a specified period of time.  This young person has an exceptionally high level of complex needs and behaviours. 

As a result, they need to be cared for in an environment without other young people present and with a high staff ratio.  The needs of this young person dictates that they need full time staff cover, twenty-four hours a day.

This is a case of a young person needing the State to pull out all the stops in order to care for them.  Yes, the cost of the care is high, but it is necessary. 

Private providers of children's residential services are contracted through a national procurement process.  The national weekly costs are set at €6000 per placement per week.  This figure is based on there being more than one child or young person in the centre. 

In many cases young people in residential placements also receive a range of specialist services and supports outside of those provided by the centre.  This can lead to additional costs.

When specialised, appropriate placements are successful, they can have a positive impact on the outcomes for this small number of very vulnerable children and young people.  I acknowledge that not all placements are not successful, but we owe it to these children and young people to make every effort on their behalf. 

Ultimately we must provide a safe, supportive setting for vulnerable children. When we get this right, the benefits for the child, and for us all, are considerable.

Question No. 8 answered orally.

Children in Care

Question No. 10 answered orally.

Questions (9)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

9. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps she has taken to address the concerns raised over staffing and other standards at private residential care homes used by Tusla. [22276/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I thank the Deputy for her important question. Maintaining consistent high standards in residential care is a challenge across many jurisdictions where the work involves caring for adolescents, many with traumatic histories, complex behaviour and ambivalence about their placement. 

Residential care is a small, but vital part of our care system and the basis for successful outcomes for the young people relies on the experience, quality and resilience of the management and staff group.

Approximately 6 % of children in care - 376 at the end of February - live in residential settings, and 238 of these children live in privately managed centres commissioned by Tusla. Included in this number are older teenage separated children seeking asylum or those received in care from the Irish Refugee Protection Programme. 

Residential settings care for a very small number of children, often two or three. Some are single occupancy, where the largest  centres for separated children have, on average, six young people. 

All centres are inspected against the relevant standards and regulations and additionally Tulsa registers private centres. Conditions are placed on the registration of centres who fall below the standards expected, for instance the number of children in the centre.  Centres that are struggling to meet standards do not survive in such a regulated environment.

The majority of inspections show evidence of positive relationships between staff and young people, and the needs of the young people being met.

The Deputy asks about staffing in residential centres. I have been concerned to learn that in some centres there is a high turnover of staff and a dependency on agency staff. I am also aware of injuries sustained by some staff in the course of their work and the impact this has on stability in the centre.

My officials have been engaged with Tusla on the challenges posed in residential care and work is ongoing to provide a greater level of assessment and therapeutic input to the centres from the ACTS Team (Assessment, Counselling, Therapy and Support Team).

I welcome CORU's upcoming accreditation of Social Care Courses and registration of Social Care Workers as I believe this will lead to the enhancement of professional social care as the lead profession in working with troubled young people. 

Tusla have developed a programme called Creative Community Alternatives that will support older adolescents  at home with proper supports, and prevent their coming into a care placement against their wishes.

Question No. 10 answered orally.

Childcare Services Provision

Questions Nos. 12 to 15, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions (11)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

11. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if options are being considered to increase childcare facilities nationally. [22604/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I have noted many times how, historically, there has been very low levels of investment in Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare in Ireland. Over the past four budgets however, we have increased investment substantially. It has risen from €260 to €575 million. This significant increase in investment has assisted with an unprecedented doubling of capacity in the sector from 103,000 places in 2014, to 214,000 places in 2018. The average service has grown from 33 places to 44 places.

A key priority for me as Minister has been to support the early learning and care and school age childcare sector through the provision of capital funding, where it is most needed. 

In 2019, I secured a Capital budget of €9.6m for the sector which enables a focus on increasing the number of places available, and supporting services to get ready for the forthcoming National Childcare Scheme.

This capital funding is expected to produce approximately 1,300 new 0-3 spaces and 2,300 new school age childcare places this year. Pobal and my officials are currently finalising the assessment of these applications and I expect to be announcing the successful applicants very shortly. This will enable building to begin over the summer and the places to be available before the end of the year.

Under the National Development Plan published in 2018, I ensured that Childcare was identified as a strategic priority and I secured €250 million in additional funding for the expansion of high quality services.

Finally, I want to expand opportunities in the childminding sector. I commissioned an Expert Group Report on childminding services in 2017. In the coming months, I will publish an Action Plan setting out how my Department will support more of these vitally important service providers  to become registered with Tusla. This means they will be able to access the National Childcare Scheme when introduced. This will further increase access to high quality childcare services. 

I am very conscious of the need to ensure we have sufficient capacity for all age groups. My Department, in conjunction with Pobal, will continue to monitor the situation closely, and to plan for future requirements.

Questions Nos. 12 to 15, inclusive, answered orally.

Child Protection

Question No. 17 answered orally.

Questions (16)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

16. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which adequate protection exists by way of legislation with particular reference to the way in which such protection can be provided throughout all the various organisations in the public or private sector offering care, support or protection to children in loco parentis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22251/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Children First Act 2015, which was fully commenced in December 2017, provides for a number of key child protection measures.  These include raising awareness of child abuse and neglect, providing for reporting and management of child protection concerns and improving child protection arrangements in organisations providing services to children.

The Act places a number of statutory obligations on organisations, both public and private, providing relevant services to children.

There is a requirement:

- to keep children safe from harm while they are availing of the service;

- to carry out a risk assessment; and,

- to prepare a child safeguarding statement which sets out the policies and procedures which are in place to mitigate these risks.

Services to children which must produce a Child Safeguarding Statement are set out in Schedule 1 of the Act. 

The Children First Act 2015 also places an obligation on defined categories of persons to report child abuse, at or above the level specified in the Act, to Tusla.  The list of categories of persons who are mandated reporters is set out in Schedule 2 of the Act. 

They are, in the main, professionals working with children or certain categories of adults and include teachers, many health professionals, gardaí, owners and staff of crèches, and trained youth workers.  The Act also includes a provision whereby mandated persons must, if reasonably requested to do so, assist Tusla in the assessment of a child protection risk. 

This assistance can take the form of verbal or written reports, attendance at meetings, or the provision of information or documents. 

The Act operates side-by-side with the non-statutory obligations provided for in the National Guidelines under Children First. The guidance sets out definitions of abuse, and signs for its recognition. It explains how reports about reasonable concerns of child abuse or neglect should be made by the general public and professionals to Tusla.

It sets out what organisations need to do to keep children safe. It also describes the obligations under the Children First Act 2015 and who they attach to. These guidelines have been in place since 1999 and were fully revised and published in October 2017 to include reference to the provisions of the Act.

Taken together, the Children First Act, the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 and the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012, represent a significant legislative framework to promote the welfare and protection of children, including in relation to organisations providing services to children.

Question No. 17 answered orally.

Legislative Process

Questions (18)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

18. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016. [22273/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016 has passed Second Stage in the Seanad. I am hoping that Committee Stage in the Seanad will be scheduled for June, and thereafter, I intend to proceed to enactment as quickly as possible

As I am sure the Deputy is aware, the Bill seeks to balance the rights to identity and to privacy, which sometimes conflict with one another.

Given the constitutional context, striking the balance between these rights is proving challenging, and has required significant engagement between my office and the Office of the Attorney General.

I am conscious of the delay with progressing the Bill.  It has been a long and arduous legislative journey but I continue to make sincere efforts to tilt the balance more strongly in favour of applicants' right to identity and access to birth information, while maintaining necessary protections for a small cohort of potentially vulnerable birth parents.

I hope I can rely on my Oireachtas colleagues support in relation to this very important piece of legislation.

Youth Services Data

Questions (19)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

19. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will provide the City of Dublin Youth Service Board organisational chart 2019. [22242/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The role of the City of Dublin Youth Service Board (CDYSB) is to support the provision, co-ordination, administration and assessment of youth services in their functional area and to provide such information as may be required by myself as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

As the Deputy is aware the CDYSB is a committee of the City of Dublin Education and Training Board.

As such, any organisational concerns in relation to the committee fall under the remit of the Department of Education and Skills and my colleague Minister McHugh.

I understand that my colleague Minister McHugh has informed you that he would be happy to facilitate a meeting with the Department of Education and Skills, my Department and yourself, in relation to youth services. 

While I am happy to discuss the value of youth services and youth work, I must stress that any review of CDYSB would be in the domain of the CEO of CDETB, which falls under the remit of the Department of Education and Skills.

The Department of Education and Skills has provided details of the organisational structure of CDYSB, which is set out below in tabular form. My officials have been advised that there was an error in the organisation chart provided to you on the 8th May and so an amended one is being given to you today.

Job Title:

Headcount

WTE:

Job Grade:

Director

1

1

Director

Head of Operations

1

1

Head of Operations

Development Officers

4

4

Development Officers

Liaison Officers

8

7.92

Liaison Officers

Senior Youth Worker

2

2

Senior Youthworker

Finance & Governance

2

2

Senior Youthworker

Head of Finance

1

1

Assistant Principal Officer

Administrative Officer

1

1

Administrative Officer

Staff Officer

2

2

Staff Officer

Assistant Staff Officer

1

0.58

Assistant Staff Officer

Clerical Officer

2

1.8

Clerical Officer

Assistant Porter

1

1

Assistant Porter

General Operative

1

0.57

General Operative

Youth Workers

5

5

4 in Stoneybatter, 1 in CDYSB

 

 

 

 

Co-located Staff:

 

 

 

Development Officer

1

1

Development Officer

Liaison Officers

2

2

Liaison Officers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seconded Staff:

 

 

 

Liaison Officer

1

0.60

Liaison Officer

 

 

 

 

Career Break:

 

 

We previously had one Liaison Officer on career break but they resumed on 1/5/19

Children in Care

Questions (20)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

20. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the details of the use of seclusion and restraint within Tusla funded care facilities; the frequency with which these methods are employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22274/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Young people in residential care have a placement plan which sets out how they will have their needs and preferences met, including family contacts, hobbies, education and health issues. Included in the plan is an individual Crisis Management Plan.

This is based on an assessment of the young person’s potential behaviour during a crisis and what are the most effective ways to help the young person manage their behaviour. The plan is drawn up in conjunction with the young person. 

The use of the Crisis Management Plan ensures that crisis behaviour is responded to appropriately and safely and that where a restrictive practice is needed it is  kept to a minimum. An important part of the plan is a review, including the young person, of what triggered the event, the young person's experience of the restrictive practice and learning for the future.  Young people in residential care centres are not subject to  seclusion as a restrictive practice. 

There are occasions where a child may be on their own or just with staff, but this does not mean that they are in seclusion.  There may be circumstances when a child is continuously with staff and separated from other children in the Unit. This will be for a time limited period and in response to a specific behaviour incident. 

Tulsa has a national policy on single separation for use in Special Care Units only. Special Care is where a child is detained by the High Court for their care and protection. Children in residential care are not detained.

This practice is used only when alternative interventions either have not worked, or are not suitable, and when single separation has been assessed as being the least harmful option to the child to avoid immediate risk or harm.

Tusla has provided me with the latest collated data available, which relates to March 2019. These data indicate that there were 14 children in Special Care and that 8 incidents of single separation or seclusion interventions were used in March.

Data on physical interventions or restraint for March 2019 show that there were 475 children in residential care, and that there were 69  interventions.

Physical interventions are used when all alternative procedures have been considered and every effort has been made to identify and alleviate the cause of the young person’s challenging behaviour.

The least restrictive procedure for the shortest duration necessary will always be  used.

Affordable Childcare Scheme Expenditure

Questions (21)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

21. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 563 of 9 April 2019, her plans to increase the scheme by €1 per hour for the under 3 age group in view of the costs of childcare on a comparable EU basis; and if her attention has been drawn to the overall benefits of such an increase for parents. [22244/19]

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.

The development of the Scheme is a significant move forward in delivering quality, accessible, affordable childcare to families throughout Ireland.

The Scheme provides a universal subsidy to all families with children under 3 years, as well as families with children over 3 years who have not yet qualified for the free pre-school programme.  The universal subsidy is not means-tested and provides 50c per hour towards the cost of a registered childcare place for up to 40 hours per week.  Increasing the universal subsidy for children under 3 remains an option that will be considered in future Budgets. 

The Scheme also provides income-related subsidies which, for the first time ever, will be differentiated based on age.  Providers will receive the highest subsidies for children under 3, making it more attractive to care for this age group. Subsidies of up to €5.10 per hour for babies will be available for up to 40 hours per week, for families using registered childcare.  This means that maximum subsidy for a child under 1 will be €204 per week (€10,600 per annum) - a significant increase on the current maximum targeted rate of €145 per week.

The National Childcare Scheme has been designed to be flexible, with income thresholds, maximum hours and subsidy rates which can be adjusted in line with Government decisions and as more investment becomes available.  As such, it establishes a sustainable platform for investment in early learning and care and school age childcare for years to come.

Over the last four budgets investment in early learning and care and school age childcare has risen by 117%.  However, I acknowledge that more investment will be needed to deliver the system that children and families deserve and First 5 commits to doubling investment over the next 10 years.

Child Abuse

Questions (22)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

22. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the levels of sexual abuse and abuse of children within emergency accommodation settings; the steps she has taken to address same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22277/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I understand the Deputy is referring to the number of mandatory reports in relation to sexual and other abuse  made about children living in emergency and homeless accommodation. Tusla, the Child and Family Agency respond to children who are reported to be at risk of harm. In some cases there are increased risks for children who experience homelessness. 

Since the introduction of mandatory reporting in December 2017, an average of 1% of mandated reports were from managers of homeless or emergency accommodation, a total of 127 reports in all. These reports relate to physical and emotional abuse, neglect and sexual abuse.

I can advise the Deputy that the figures published on mandated reports nationally reflect the overall number of referrals made by all mandated reporters.  Sexual abuse referrals made up 17% of mandated referrals in February 2019.  It is  important to note that multiple referrals may be made about the same child. 

Tusla collates data on all referrals received, including those coming from mandated reporters. This information is published on their website on a monthly basis.

I have been advised that a joint protocol has been agreed between the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DHRE) and Tusla.  The protocol restates, as matter of good practice, the duties to report abuse to Tusla and Gardaí, as per the requirements for mandatory reporting under the Children First Act 2015 and the 2017 Children First guidance.

The aim of the protocol is to ensure that appropriate responses to child protection and welfare issues are in place between the agencies.  The protocol outlines the responsibilities on service providers of homeless accommodation under Children First to notify the Child and Family Agency where concerns regarding possible abuse exist.  

Tusla examines all notifications and making a determination is made on whether the concerns refer to harm or welfare.  Following that determination a pathway is identified to ensure that there is an appropriate response. Managers of emergency homelessness accommodation are designated persons, with clear obligations to report concerns of abuse or neglect to Tusla.

Departmental Funding

Questions (23)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

23. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of funding for the provision of supports for special needs children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22250/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Officials in my Department were in contact with the Deputy's office, and I understand that the question specifically relates to supports for children with special needs to take part in school-age childcare.

My Department does not currently provide additional supports for children with disabilities or special needs to attend school-age childcare services. However, in First 5, the Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families, I have made a commitment to reviewing such needs in due course.  It is important however that in the first instance my Department completes the planned three year evaluation of the AIM programme and that we apply any learning from it to the development of new policy and service provision.

Deputies may be aware that AIM - the Access and Inclusion Model - provides both universal and targeted supports for the meaningful participation of children with disabilities in the ECCE pre-school programme. The third year of AIM's operation will end next month and  work on the 3-year evaluation will then commence. A one year evaluation conducted by external consultants was very positive and indeed AIM has won a number of national awards.

The Government made a commitment in First 5 to consider enhancements to, or extension of, AIM to other groups of children. Such an extension might involve younger children (such as under-3s) or children attending school-age childcare services, or it might involve children with additional needs other than a disability. However, I must stress that any decisions on extension or reform of AIM will be subject to the findings of the evaluation, other relevant developments and the securing of necessary resources.

The Deputy may also be interested to know that on 21 May I launched a public consultation on the future of school-age childcare. The consultation focuses on the development of comprehensive regulations and a national quality framework. Details on the online survey and a call for submissions can be found on my Department's website.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Questions (24)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

24. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the terms and conditions for the granting of an overage exemption for children within the ECCE scheme to apply for an additional year prior to commencing primary school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19799/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

In the first instance it should be highlighted that the Early Childhood Care and Education programme (ECCE) is a two year pre-school programme. There is no provision for a third year which may not be in the best interests of a child, and could have the capacity to lead to breaching the statutory school starting age.

Overage exemptions were introduced at the onset of the ECCE programme in 2010.  At that time ECCE operated for a 38 week period, or one programme year.  For some children with special/additional needs, attending preschool five days a week was not feasible and so therefore an allowance was made. Their one year ECCE place was split over two years, e.g. a child may have availed of three days ECCE provision in year one and two days in year two. In order to facilitate this, in the cases where the child would have been overage for ECCE in the latter year, an overage exemption was granted.  It is important to note that this provision of an overage exemption by my Department for the ECCE programme was never intended as a mechanism to delay a child’s entry to primary education or to address any issue of non-availability of a school place. In the past, the operation of the system of overage exemption has caused confusion where some parents and providers have mistakenly assumed that an overage exemption approval from the DCYA represented derogation from age requirements attaching to the statutory requirement that a child attend primary school before the age of 6 years.

The application process for an exemption from the upper age limit for the ECCE programme was introduced within a context where:

- The ECCE programme was for a year only; and

- The Access and Inclusions Model (AIM) did not exist.

Given the extension of the ECCE programme in 2016/2017, the further extension of the programme to two full years from September 2018, and the introduction of AIM in June 2016, the rationale underpinning the policy intent of the system of overage exemption came under review as the initial premise for the provision of an exemption might have been considered to be no longer valid, i.e. an overage exemption as originally designed allowed for a child to avail of one programme year of ECCE over two years, whereas the standard provision is now a full two programme years.

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.

A key finding of the recently published NDA report is that it is in children's best interests to enrol in primary school with their peers and to transition to becoming a teenager with their peers.  I would also note that associated 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 implemented, I have stated that the current system should continue. Overage Exemptions currently provided by my Department are governed by three guiding principles as follows:

- Letter of Recommendation from a specialist clinician

- 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 utilised their full 2 years of ECCE provision they will not be eligible for any further ECCE allocation.

My Department is working closely with the Department of Education and Skills and the National Council for Special Education to ensure that planning for a successful transition to primary school with the child's peers begins as early as possible, and that the necessary resources are in place in the school to enable the child settle in comfortably and optimise their learning experience.

Childcare Costs

Questions (25)

James Browne

Question:

25. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to develop targeted supports for parents and guardians in County Wexford paying for childcare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21740/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department funds a number of programmes and schemes in place to support parents and guardians with the cost of Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare. These are available on a national basis through thousands of registered providers across all counties, including Wexford. They include:

- The universal pre-school Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, which provides children with 15 hours per week of pre-school education over a 38-week programme year. Since September 2018 children qualify for two years of universal pre-school.

- The universal Community Childcare Subvention (CCSU) and the targeted Community Childhood Subvention (CCS), which provide weekly subsidies to offset fees charged by providers. CCS is available to families who hold a Medical Card or are in receipt of social welfare benefits.

- The Training and Employment Childcare (TEC) Schemes provide a weekly subsidy to offset fees charged by providers for parents on approved education or training courses, Community Employment schemes, or those returning to work who need school-age childcare.

- Specific supports are also in place for children in emergency accommodation, in accommodation centres provided by the State for persons in the protection process or programme refugee children in Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres.

Radical reforms to the targeted schemes, based on the principle of progressive universalism, are in train. The National Childcare Scheme (NCS), when introduced this October, will replace the CCS and TEC schemes with a single, streamlined scheme.

Under the NCS, parents will continue to have access to the universal subsidy towards the cost of Early Learning and Care. This stands at €1,040 per annum currently for a child under 3 in full time registered Early Learning and Care. Targeted subsidies for children from 6 months to 15 years of age will be provided, with the level of subsidy determined by net household income and the age of the child (children). Households with a net income of less than €26,000 will receive the maximum subsidy. This can be as high as €5.10 per hour, available for up to 40 hours per week, for a child under one. Households with net income up to €60,000 will also benefit, but on a sliding scale from the maximum subsidy level available for incomes under €26,000. Further information is available at www.ncs.gov.ie.

In addition to these universal and targeted subsidies, the NCS allows for additional support for families where there is an identified need for Early Learning and Care on grounds of child development or child welfare. Families with high levels of need, who require Early Learning and Care for child welfare, child protection or family support reasons, may be referred for support by a specified “sponsor” body.  Where such a referral is made, the family will automatically qualify for a subsidy for the number of hours considered appropriate by the sponsor without having to satisfy the scheme’s eligibility, income or enhanced hours requirements.

Recent analysis undertaken by the OECD has concluded that, when the NCS is introduced, the costs of Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare to parents will come closer to the OECD average. The NCS, in creating a flexible platform for future investment in funding, will allow subsidies to be expanded over time and further progress to be made.

Child and Family Agency Staff

Questions (26)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

26. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of the recruitment of social care workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22275/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Tusla’s Business Plan for 2019 has identified an initial gross recruitment target of 102 Social Care Workers to cover new posts and attrition. Tusla projects that this recruitment may eventually result in an increase in Tusla’s social care workers of 57 once attrition and backfilling is taken into account.

Tusla has informed me that it has a rolling campaign for social care workers. In addition, Tusla has developed other initiatives, such as bespoke campaigns for social care workers, to support its on-going recruitment drive in the more difficult to fill Special Care settings.

Tusla has advised that at 31 March, 2019 there were 1,152 Whole Time Equivalent (WTE) social care workers in Tusla, which represents 29% of its overall workforce (3955 WTE). In addition, Tusla currently engages 210 agency social care workers to ensure continuity of service.

Recruitment of social care workers is particularly challenging in Special Care settings. For example, at the end of 2018, Tusla had appointed 131 new social care workers however, 70 social care workers either left or retired from the organisation during the same period. Tusla has identified that there are approximately 1,000 social care graduates per year however, a much smaller sub-group is willing to work in the particularly challenging environment of Special Care. This challenge is further compounded as Tusla is competing with the HSE, Oberstown Children Detention Campus, the voluntary and private sector to recruit from this subgroup.

I am aware that Tusla is exploring a number of measures to address the challenges in Special Care, such as increasing the potential talent pool by widening the eligible skills and experience considered for the role, improving the work environment and implementing a new model of care. Tusla has also commenced a stability programme to appoint in excess of 25 agency social care workers on temporary three year contracts into identified posts within the service.

At the same time, Tusla has indicated that a key focus for the Agency is the continued development of initiatives to support the retention of the talent, capability and institutional knowledge that already exists within the Agency. A Retention Steering Group has been established by Tusla to plan and implement an integrated approach throughout the organisation and its work is being coordinated through Tusla’s Health and Wellbeing and Employee Assistance service. In this context, Tusla has confirmed that the turnover rate for social care workers has fallen from 4.6% in 2017 to 3.52% in 2018 and this may be attributed to the recent work that Tusla has undertaken to address retention issues. 

Tusla has developed its Strategic Workforce Planning Model – Phase 1 Multidisciplinary teams which will be rolled out by a Strategic Workforce Implementation Plan 2019-2020 and which encompasses capability and capacity planning. It is my expectation that this will chart the way forward in terms of a realistic approach to the personnel deficits being experienced by Tusla. Tusla has established a Steering Group, and also intends to establish Working Groups, to oversee and drive the implementation of the Strategic Workforce Planning Model and I welcome this approach.

I also welcome the fact that the Retention Steering Group will feed into the Strategic Workforce Planning Model, focusing on staff wellbeing by assessing workplace stressors, employee psychological wellbeing and critical incident exposure in the workplace.

With regard to HR, my Department is primarily focussed on funding, governance and support of Tusla however, my officials are actively engaging and supporting Tusla and other stakeholders with regard to addressing issues relating to the supply, recruitment and retention of social workers and social care workers.

Youth Services Funding

Questions (27)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

27. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to reinstate funding to youth projects which were hard hit during the recession; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22245/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As the Deputy is aware my Department, along with all Government Departments, was required to deliver substantial savings on all funding programmes in line with the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure 2012-2014.

In recent years funding for the provision of youth services has increased on an annual basis. Between 2016 and 2019 the annual current youth funding available to my Department has increased from €51.9m to €60.4m. This additional funding is being used for programmes that target disadvantaged young people and to assist national youth organisations in their work to support local voluntary youth services. 

In addition, my Department is currently managing the most significant reform of youth services ever undertaken. This will provide an opportunity to identify need and to focus funding on young people most in need of intervention. 

I recognise the value of youth work from both a social and an economic viewpoint, so strengthening our investment in youth work makes sense.  In this regard, increasing the budget for youth service funding is a key priority for me.