Internet Safety

Questions (418)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

418. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which her attention has been drawn to cyberbullying; the degree to which her Department has assisted in respect of such complaints in each of the past three years to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22460/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I am conscious of the issue referred to by the Deputy. The internet is an increasingly valuable resource for everyone, including children and young people, but it also exposes people to new risks including cyberbullying.

A range of Government Departments and agencies have a role in relation to internet safety. In recognition of the whole of government approach required, in July 2018, the Taoiseach launched the Action Plan for Online Safety 2018-19. The Action Plan involves a wide range of actions, across six Government Departments - Departments of Communications, Climate Action and Environment; Education and Skills; Justice and Equality; Children and Youth Affairs; Health and Business Enterprise and Innovation, recognising that online safety is not the responsibility of any one Department and signifying the range and breadth of the issues involved. A Sponsors Group, involving the six Departments and chaired by the Department of Education & Skills, has been established to drive implementation of the Action Plan.

Children First operates on the premise that it is the responsibility of everyone in society to keep children and young people safe from harm. This responsibility includes keeping children safe from harm online. As part of the Action Plan for Online Safety my Department committed to amending the Children First Guidance to include a specific reference to the need to consider online safety in the completion of a Child Safeguarding Statement. An addendum to the guidance, clarifying the need to consider online safety in the preparation of risk assessments and Child Safeguarding Statements, was finalised and published on my Department’s website in January. In addition, the Child and Family Agency – Tusla has revised its template for the completion of Child Safeguarding Statements to refer to the need to consider online risks to children if a service provides access to the internet.

My Department does not have a role in relation to the coordination or investigation of complaints about cyberbullying.

Child Abuse

Questions (419)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

419. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the most common forms of child abuse referred to her Department for attention in each of the past two years to date; the degree to which a satisfactory outcome has been achieved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22461/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I can advise the Deputy that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is the appropriate body to receive referrals of abuse. Tusla publish data on the number of referrals received, and the actions taken in relation to referrals. I have therefore written to Tusla and asked them to revert to the Deputy directly.

Childcare Costs

Question No. 421 answered with Question No. 402.

Questions (420)

Robert Troy

Question:

420. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps she is taking to assist families in reducing the cost of childcare; and her views on whether childcare costs are unsustainable for many families. [22464/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I understand that Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare costs can be a significant burden for families. I and officials in my Department are working towards alleviating this financial strain for all families.

The National Childcare Scheme (NCS), which will be introduced later this year, is a new user-friendly scheme to help parents meet the cost of quality childcare. The development of this Scheme is a significant move forward in delivering quality, accessible, affordable childcare to families throughout Ireland.

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. In designing the NCS, extensive research and consultations have been carried out to ensure that this goal is achieved and that the scheme can help as many families as possible.

Under the Scheme, a Universal subsidy is available to all families using registered childcare with children aged between 24 weeks and 3 years. An Income Assessed subsidy will be available to families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years. This subsidy will vary depending on family income, the child’s age and their educational stage. It can be used towards the cost of a registered childcare place for up to a maximum of 40 hours per week where parents are working, studying or training, or in circumstances where a parent is unavailable to care for a child. Where parents are not working, studying or training, the subsidy will be paid for up to a maximum of 15 hours per week. A priority for me in last year’s budget was to increase the lower income threshold under the NCS from €22,700 to €26,000 per annum. This will ‘poverty-proof’ the Scheme, ensuring that families at or below the relative income poverty line will benefit from the highest subsidy rates under the Scheme, over €200 per child in some instances.

A second priority was to increase the Scheme’s maximum net income threshold from €47,000 to €60,000 per annum in order to benefit moderate and middle income families struggling with the cost of childcare.

These enhancements will ensure that 7,500 more children will now benefit from the Scheme relative to the original proposals. Over 40,000 other children, already eligible for support, will see increases to their subsidies.

The NCS will greatly increase the number of families who can access financial support. The Scheme removes many of the restrictive eligibility requirements of the existing support programmes, whereby a parent must be in receipt of certain Social Protection payments or a Medical Card in order to receive targeted supports. It will also make work pay for parents trying to get back into employment or training as they will now be able to avail of help with their childcare costs. Many working families will, for the first time, be entitled to subsidies which will reduce their childcare costs significantly. Others will see an increase in their level of subsidy.

The Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme, or ECCE as it is known, is a universal scheme available to all children in Ireland for the two years prior to them starting in primary school. It is estimated that this scheme can save parents who require full or part time childcare approximately €5000 over the course of the two years.

Over the last four budgets, investment in childcare has risen by nearly 117%. However, I acknowledge that more investment will be needed. Historic under-investment in early learning and care has created a situation that has no quick solution. The new National Childcare Scheme will establish a sustainable platform to enable us to continue investing for years to come, and the Scheme is designed to be flexible, allowing income thresholds, maximum hours and subsidy rates to be adjusted in line with Government decisions and as more investment becomes available.

Question No. 421 answered with Question No. 402.

Child and Family Agency Investigations

Questions (422)

Clare Daly

Question:

422. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the procedures in place for Tusla regarding investigations of companies and agencies used by the courts to supervise children in court orders in relation to their non-compliance with the Children First Act 2015, with particular reference to the reason the list of non-compliant organisations is not publicly accessible; the further reason there is no sanction in place to publish the details of non-compliant organisations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22537/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I can advise the Deputy that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is the appropriate body to investigate the non-compliance of a provider of a relevant service under the Children First Act 2015. I have, therefore, written to Tusla and asked them to revert to the Deputy directly.

Children in Care

Questions (423)

Clare Daly

Question:

423. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to provide support from Tusla to families with access orders; the reason such assistance is not already available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22538/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The impact of violence and abuse witnessed or experienced in childhood can last a lifetime.

Where a child is in the care of Tusla, and where there is a history of violence or other forms of abuse, the Courts may order, or social workers may arrange, for access to be supervised to ensure safe oversight of the access visit.

I am deeply conscious of, and sensitive to, the concerns of parents who have experienced domestic abuse. Having to arrange for their children to meet with the other parent can be difficult and worrying.

This was highlighted in a report I launched for Women's Aid last month, which suggested that as many as one in five women were under threat of abuse from a violent partner during access visits. This is shocking.

My own Department and the Department of Justice and Equality have been engaging on this issue for some time.

I am convinced of the need for the provision of safe child contact spaces when they are needed for protective purposes.

My Department has embarked on work to firstly assess exactly what facilities and supports are available for families in this situation.

Child Access Services exist through the Family Resource Centres. Preliminary indications are that at least 42 Family Resource Centres provide some sort of service for access visits.

These have grown up in an organic and ad hoc way and are dependent on the facilities and staff available within a Centre. For example some Family Resource Centres provide a pick up and drop off service which helps in the avoidance of contact between parents, if that is desirable.

I want to build on the services available through FRCs and expand the number of locations where a child's right to have access to both parents is preserved in a safe way.

The Deputy may also be aware of the Time4Us service in Galway which is a family access service. Following the resolution of funding and governance issues the service has now been absorbed into the ARD Family Resource Centre.

I understand that this is operating very successfully and is now facilitating even more families than originally planned. Parents and children are also participating in other activities in the FRC outside of the family access service. This is a very positive benefit of being part of the FRC.

Family breakdown is difficult for children. Parental separation can take a toll on children. I am keen to support children and families as much as possible and to keep them safe if there is evidence of family violence.

Child and Family Agency Investigations

Questions (424)

Clare Daly

Question:

424. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the reason the results of investigations conducted by Tusla are not made publicly available when a complaint is made through the compliance unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22539/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I can advise the Deputy that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is the appropriate body to investigate the non-compliance of a provider of a relevant service under the Children First Act 2015. I have, therefore, written to Tusla and asked them to revert to the Deputy directly.

Garda Vetting

Questions (425)

Clare Daly

Question:

425. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to enable parents to access Garda vetting for childminders to work with children as distinct from applications being taken only from organisations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22540/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Garda vetting in Ireland is governed by the Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 to 2016 which fall under the remit of my colleague the Minister of Justice and Equality. These Acts set out in detail the range of persons/activities to which vetting applies.

With regard the Deputy's specific query around childminders, my Department is currently finalising a Childminding Action Plan which will set out steps to move incrementally towards wider regulation, support and professional development of childminders, and will aim at extending National Childcare Scheme subsidies to them, thus improving access to high quality and subsidised childminding services. This Plan will include considerations in relation to Garda vetting requirements. Officials from my Department are currently liaising with officials from the Department of Justice and Equality in the context of these plans.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Questions (426)

Clare Daly

Question:

426. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the remit of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes will be extended to include pregnant women and girls detained in psychiatric hospitals in order to determine the outcomes of them and their children. [22544/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

This Commission of Investigation was established by Government in response to significant concerns around the experiences of pregnant women in a specific type of institution, namely mother and baby homes. The comprehensive investigation was framed to provide a clear emphasis on the experiences of women and children who spent time in these institutions. This was a deliberately focused rather than a limited approach.

In previously responding to calls to extend the remit of the Commission into other types of institution, the Government concluded that completing the current programme of work must be the priority. In reaching this decision, the Government was cognisant of the necessity to allow the Commission to complete its extensive analysis of available information before it can be definitively established whether additional matters may warrant investigation.

The Commission is tasked with examining arrangements with other institutions that were part of the entry or exit pathways for mothers into Mother and Baby Homes, and upon their leaving these institutions. These matters are also appropriately incorporated in the social history module of the Commission’s investigations. In addition, the Commission is required to report on any specific matters outside its scope which it considers may warrant further investigation in the public interest as part of the Commission’s work (Article 6). The Government has stated that it will consider any recommendations made by the Commission in this regard.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Questions (427)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

427. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 164 of 16 May 2019, her views on the advice from a religious order (details supplied) that burial sites at a site are to remain in the ownership of the order; and if she has raised the recent finding of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes that the religious order failed to provide evidence that infants were not buried in unapproved cemeteries. [22581/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I published the Commission's Fifth Interim Report, which had a focus on burial arrangements, on the 16 April 2019 and it has been circulated to relevant State authorities for their appropriate attention. We know from this Interim Report that the Commission has dedicated significant time and effort to advancing its investigations into these matters. As the matters referred to by the Deputy are within the scope of an extant Commission of Investigation, it would not be appropriate for me to make direct contact with the religious order while these independent statutory investigations are on-going. Therefore, I have not raised these issues directly with the religious order.

The Commission of Investigation is the appropriate authority to investigate these matters. It has the necessary legal powers and resources to conduct these investigations. The Commission's Fifth Interim Report describes its engagement with the order, and its interim findings are based on its assessment of the available documentary evidence and witness testimony. Notably, the Commission also confirmed that private burial grounds, including those owned by religious institutions during the period in question, were not automatically subject to the same regulation as publicly owned burial grounds. Most significantly, there was no was no legal requirement to keep a register of burials in such burial grounds.

The Commission has conducted geophysical surveys and test excavations on the designated child burial grounds on the site of Sean Ross Abbey. The Commission has stated that it will report further on these investigations in its final report. Information regarding the sale of parts of the former institution at Sean Ross Abbey is available in the public domain. This information indicates that the areas designated as burial grounds were excluded from the sale and would remain in the ownership of the religious order. It is important to clarify that the sale of these lands in the course of the Commission's on-going work does not alter the powers of the Commission or impede the exercise of these powers.

While I do appreciate the deep personal sensitivity for families around these issues, as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs I do not have statutory powers or responsibilities in relation burial grounds or a role in the Planning and Development Acts. There is scope within current planning regulations for the relevant Local Authority to consider archaeological and heritage concerns in the context of any proposal or application for redevelopment of the site.

Childcare Services Funding

Questions (428)

Martin Heydon

Question:

428. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the grants available to a playschool (details supplied) in County Kildare for upgrades; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22602/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I am committed to ensuring childcare is affordable, accessible and of a high quality. Capital funding is aimed at increasing the capacity of services, creating new services and maintaining and improving existing services.

Each year my Department reviews the capital programmes as a whole and determines the priorities for Early Learning and Care and School Age Capital grants. The capital strands have been made available to achieve the strategic priorities for 2019 as determined by my Department, having regard to the funding available, developed using analysis of the current state of the childcare sector, learnings from previous capital programmes and feedback and input from stakeholders, including childcare providers and Pobal.

This year I focused the funding of the 2019 Early Learning and Care and School Age Capital programme on the expansion of early learning and care places for 0-3 year olds and school age childcare places where this is most needed.

In 2019, I secured €6.106m in funding for the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare Capital programmes.

This funding will be delivered in three strands, as follows:

- €4.231m has been allocated to Strand A, which will offer grants of up to €50,000 in value to early learning and care providers for the creation of new 0-3 places where demand for these is clearly evidenced.

- €0.875m has been allocated to Strand B, which will offer individual grants of up to €15,000 in value to aid community/not-for-profit early learning and care services in addressing fire safety issues that have been highlighted in inspection reports by Tusla, the HSE or Local Authorities.

- €1m has been allocated to Strand C, which will offer individual grants of up to €20,000 in value to school age childcare providers for the creation of new school age places where demand for these is clearly evidenced.

Funding was available to providers nationwide in a competitive process, with the application window open from Monday 25th February. The application window for the Capital programmes closed on 27th March 2019 and Pobal are currently in the process of appraising all applications received.

The service in question may have been eligible to apply for Strand A, Strand B or Strand C. In the event that the service applied for either of these strands decisions are due to be delivered in June 2019 with the anticipation that capital works can begin as soon as possible following this.

Childcare Services Provision

Questions (429)

Seán Haughey

Question:

429. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the measures she is taking to increase the number of childcare places in Dublin city and county including places for children not eligible for the ECCE scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22620/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Historically, there have been low levels of investment in Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) in Ireland. Over the past four budgets however, investment has increased by some 117% - rising from in €260 million in 2015, to €575 million in 2019.

This 117% increase in investment in childcare over the last 4 budgets has assisted with an unprecedented doubling of capacity in the sector, most growth occurring in ECCE, but some elsewhere.

Assisting childcare providers in extending their existing childcare services, or establishing new childcare services, have always been key areas of focus for my Department's capital programmes.

My Department's 2019 Early Years Capital Scheme includes a focus on baby and toddler places. €4m is available and in excess of 100 development proposals are currently being assessed. This will create hundreds of more places, significantly increasing capacity in just one year.

Concerns have been raised about the availability of childcare places in the registered childcare sector. I am aware that the higher cost of operating baby rooms, due to higher staffing ratios being required, may be contributing to the capacity issue and my Department is monitoring this situation closely whilst also taking a number of measures to address it.

Access to high quality and affordable childcare generally remains a topical issue. The particular focus on availability of places in the centre based sector for the 0-3 age range has emerged in the context of recent media coverage. There is a suggestion that ECCE has been expanded (successfully) at the cost on provision for younger children.

The National Childcare Scheme (NCS), due to be launched later this year will also be a significant intervention to address this challenge. The NCS recognises the different costs associated with providing childcare for children of different ages. The Scheme will provide for a progressive system of subsidies starting with the highest subsidy rates for children under 1(up to €5.10 per hour) and the next highest subsidy for children from 1 to under 3 (up to €4.35 per hour).

In relation to childminding, I was delighted to secure €500,000 in Budget 2019 to recruit a National Childminding Coordinator and a team of six Development Officers around the country, to support the registration of more childminders with Tusla and thus enable them access subsidies under the National Childcare Scheme. My Department will publish a Childminding Action Plan in the coming months to follow through on the commitments in First 5 and the Programme for Government to further develop the childminding sector.

My Department funds 30 City and County Childcare Committees across the country. Part of their role is to advise my Department on capacity issues. 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. 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.

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 Data

Questions (430)

Jack Chambers

Question:

430. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the notice periods for childcare providers to give a parent whose child is occupying an ECCE place; if days or weeks notice is required in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22710/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Early Childcare Care and Education (ECCE) services are either privately run or operated by community/not for profit services. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs is not the owner or operator of any childcare service, but through a Funding Agreement provides a range of funding supports, through capitation payments and other programmes, to support the sector. My Department generally cannot prescribe the enrolment policies of private businesses. Accordingly, the notice period that a childcare provider gives to a parent/guardian of a child occupying an ECCE place is subject to this private agreement and therefore outside of our remit.

In relation to parents securing childcare places on our programmes, our requirement regarding parental notice on our childcare schemes are based solely to my Department's public funding obligations and the administration of the childcare schemes by service providers. In order to accommodate the smooth registration of children on our childcare programmes, we do ask parents who wish to remove a child or move them to another service to provide their current service provider with four weeks notice (where possible) in order to provide a space for that service provider to de-register the child from their service, thus enabling my Department to cease payments to that service in relation to that child. This notice period prevents the IT payment system from declining their child's registration in their new chosen service due to a 'double registration' scenario.

Local Improvement Scheme Data

Questions (431)

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

431. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if additional funding will be provided to the local improvement scheme, LIS, to local authorities particularly in counties Leitrim, Sligo, Roscommon and Donegal; the number of rural roads that have received funding under the LIS in each of the years 2016 to 2018, by the local authority in tabular form; the projected number of road projects to be completed in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22395/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Local Improvement Scheme, or LIS, is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas. The scheme is funded by my Department and is administered through the Local Authorities.

There was no dedicated funding available for this scheme for a number of years due to constraints on public expenditure. However, I was very conscious of the underlying demand for the scheme in rural areas throughout the country and I re-launched the scheme in 2017. Since then, €48 million has been allocated for LIS road improvements.

The following table outlines the number of LIS road projects completed in 2017 and those completed under the 2018 LIS scheme to date, by Local Authority. Final figures in respect of 2018 will not be available until final returns have been submitted to my Department by all Local Authorities. However, it is anticipated that approximately 250 additional roads will be completed under the 2018 scheme.

I launched the 2019 LIS on 7th February last and allocated a sum of €10 million to Local Authorities under the scheme. This included €250,000 for Leitrim, €256,154 for Sligo, €355,104 for Roscommon, and €677,456 for Donegal. The number and location of roads to benefit from improvement works in 2019 will be a matter for the relevant Local Authority.

I will be closely monitoring expenditure under the scheme over the coming months, and will make decisions regarding any future funding in due course.

LIS

County

2017 Roads Completed

2018 Roads Completion Confirmed

Carlow

20

28

Cavan

10

6

Clare

28

30

Cork

21

42

Donegal

164

56

Galway

57

69

Kerry

41

36

Kildare

0

12

Kilkenny

16

9

Laois

21

10

Leitrim

18

24

Limerick

18

10

Longford

18

13

Louth

8

6

Mayo

89

79

Meath

22

8

Monaghan

21

28

Offaly

20

31

Roscommon

41

54

Sligo

16

22

Tipperary

9

24

Waterford

17

20

Westmeath

23

22

Wexford

18

17

Wicklow

7

15

TOTAL

723

671

Defibrillators in Schools Provision

Questions (432)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

432. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if funding will be considered for a defibrillator to be installed in a school (details supplied); the programmes that provide such funding supports; the application process involved; the available grant aid in each programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22545/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

In general, the provision of defibrillators may be eligible for funding under a number of my Department's programmes, including CLÁR, LEADER and the Community Enhancement Programme. Each programme has its own particular objectives and eligibility criteria.

CLÁR is a targeted investment programme that provides funding for small infrastructural projects in designated rural areas that have experienced significant depopulation in the past. The school referred to by the Deputy is not in a designated CLÁR area and therefore does not qualify under the CLÁR criteria.

LEADER is a multi-annual programme covering the period 2014-2020 which is delivered through Local Action Groups in each of the 28 LEADER sub-regional areas around the country. The Social Inclusion theme of the LEADER Programme focuses on the provision of services for people living in rural areas and, in that context, support for the services referred to by the Deputy could potentially be considered eligible for LEADER funding.

In order for a project to be eligible under LEADER, it must be compatible with the actions outlined in the approved Local Development Strategy in the LEADER sub-regional area concerned, and it must comply with the Operating Rules and EU Regulations in place for the programme.

The decision to approve a project, or otherwise, is a matter for the Local Action Groups (LAGs) which administer the programme in each LEADER area. Contact details for all LAGs are available on my Department's website at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c45498-local-action-groups/ .

The Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) replaces and builds on the former RAPID programme and the Community Facilities Scheme, providing a more flexible, streamlined and targeted approach to funding communities most in need while reducing the level of administration involved. The CEP is administered by the Local Community Development Committees in each Local Authority area, on behalf of my Department. Some of the funding available under this programme is ring-fenced to provide small capital grants of €1,000 or less. The Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) 2019 is now open for applications. The deadline for applications is 5pm on 30th May 2019.

National Broadband Plan Data

Questions (433)

Willie Penrose

Question:

433. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the interactions and discussions of his Department with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment regarding the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22810/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

Through the analysis conducted to date, National Broadband Ireland (NBI) does not anticipate that there will be many premises that will involve a high cost to connect. The Department and NBI have completed high level designs to determine the quantities of existing infrastructure that can be re-used and quantities of new infrastructure that will need to be deployed to deliver the NBP State intervention.

In addition, NBI has completed a number of low-level designs to corroborate the assumptions made in the high level designs. My Department has separately completed several network models and associated cost models down to the premises level. The high level designs take into account the various passive infrastructure databases (i.e. buildings, poles and ducts) as well as the Eircode database of premises. This analysis indicates that nearly 99% of the premises in the intervention area are 150 metres or less from the road and the vast majority of these are less than 50m.

Once the deployment commences a detailed design process will be conducted by NBI which is referred to as the low-level design. This low level design includes a detailed site survey of each route and each premises to be served on that route. The site survey will confirm what infrastructure is in place and what infrastructure will be required in order to enable a connection to be made to each premises. Every effort will be made to reduce costs by utilising existing infrastructure. In cases where there are ‘difficult to serve’ premises that could involve a high cost to connect, NBI will consider alternative solutions to deliver the high speed broadband service.

National Broadband Plan Data

Questions (434)

Willie Penrose

Question:

434. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if he has had discussions with the Department of Finance regarding the national broadband plan; if the anticipated cost will lead to a reduction of funding for other rural programmes such as the community enhancement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22811/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government recently announced its intention to award the contract for the roll out of high-speed broadband in the State Intervention Area to a preferred bidder following a detailed tendering process. The question of securing funding for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) is a matter for the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

I do not anticipate that investment in the NBP will result in a reduction in funding for other rural programmes. In fact, the roll out of high speed broadband will complement the commitment in the National Development Plan to invest €1 billion over the next ten years through the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

Funding for rural programmes in my Department’s Vote this year amounts to €138.371 million. This compares to a provision of €93.384 million for rural programmes in 2018.

The 48% increase year-on-year in my Department’s Vote shows the Government's clear commitment to supporting rural communities. This commitment is further enhanced by the recent announcement regarding the NBP.

LEADER Programmes Data

Questions (435)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

435. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the person or body conducting the circling the Great Western Lakes feasibility study; the anticipated completion date; when it will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22883/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Great Western Lakes feasibility study referred to by the Deputy is funded under the Co-operation strand of the LEADER programme. The Co-operation strand supports Local Action Groups (LAGs) to come together to jointly deliver a LEADER project.

Funding of €9,750 was approved for the project in question, which is a joint project between the LAGs in counties Mayo and West Galway.

The feasibility study, undertaken by First Western Consulting, involved an investigation into the possibility of creating a scenic tourist driving route linked to the Wild Atlantic Way through counties Galway and Mayo.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the feasibility study has now been completed and final report will be launched in the coming weeks.