I propose to take Questions Nos. 830 and 831 together.
I am pleased to inform the Deputy that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, will receive Exchequer funding of over €787m in 2019. This represents an increase in funding of some €34m over 2018, and is the fourth year in succession that Tusla has received a significant increase it its funding. I strongly support the work of Tusla, and I am committed to supporting the Agency in meeting the needs of all children and families.
Tusla operates an adoption information and tracing service at various locations throughout the country, as well as funding services provided by a number of adoption agencies and societies. The adoption information and tracing service oversees a broad spectrum of enquiries from a wide range of people, including adopted people, birth parents, adoptive parents, siblings of adopted people and other birth relatives and people raised in long- term foster care. The service operates on a limited-statutory basis within the wider legal framework of the Adoption Act 2010 and assists each of these categories of person with their information and tracing enquiries.
As part of their Key Service Improvement Areas in 2019, Tusla has agreed to aim for a 10% reduction in the cases awaiting allocation for adoption information and tracing services. This is in the context of a dramatic increase in people seeking information or looking to trace their birth relatives.
Applicants seeking an Information and Tracing Service from Tusla are prioritised based on nationally agreed priority categories. Tusla assigns cases a priority category on receipt and review of the application form. Tusla has provided the data below, which represents the current, longest waiting time for allocation to a social worker across the five Regions for Q1 2019. Variation in waiting times between the Regions, and across the categories is influenced by a number of operational and demand-led factors.
Priority category 1 is based on a National Adoption Contact Preference Register match (NACPR) and the age threshold of birth parent (>70years). The longest waiting times for priority category 1 are as follows:
DML - 2 months, DNE - 14 months, South East - 5 months, South West - 9 months, West - 3 months.
Priority category 2 includes applicants with a medical condition (non-life limiting) or individuals who were previously in care. The longest waiting times for priority category 2 are as follows:
DML - 2 months, DNE - 24 months, South East - 8 months, South West – 1.5 months, West - 9 months.
General applicants are treated as priority category 3. The longest waiting times for priority category 3 are as follows:
DML - 3 months, DNE - 40 months, South East - 18 months, South West – 30 months, West - 12 months.
As data returns are collected and reported quarterly, Tusla do not calculate average waiting times as part of the dataset.