Foster Care Data

Questions (832)

Clare Daly

Question:

832. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the percentage of children over 18 years of age who were fostered and in receipt of aftercare allowance given to those in college in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [23694/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Deputy is asking about an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore referred the question to Tusla, and asked them to reply directly to the Deputy.

Foster Care Data

Questions (833)

Clare Daly

Question:

833. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of young persons placed in foster care who became homeless six and 24 months after leaving care in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019. [23695/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Deputy is asking about an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore referred the question to Tusla, and asked them to reply directly to the Deputy.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Questions (834)

Clare Daly

Question:

834. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the reason there has been no chair of the forum established alongside the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes for more than six months, no replacements for those who resigned and no meetings or communication; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23700/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

It is important to be clear that the Collaborative Forum and the Commission of Investigation are two entirely separate processes.

The Commission of Investigation is an independent statutory investigative process.

The Collaborative Forum was established to examine ways to facilitate dialogue with former residents of Mother and Baby Homes and related institutions on issues of concern to them, in particular relating to health and well being supports.

In responding to the suggestion that there has been no Forum activity for over six months, it should be noted that I in fact met the Forum on two separate occasions in April. In addition, there has been correspondence with the Forum on matters relating to its first report.

Following  the delivery of the report from the Collaborative Forum, I signalled the opportunity to take some time to reflect upon the learning from the process to date.  In this way the mandate of the Forum can be refined to further enhance the engagement with former residents of the institutions involved. The Forum itself also suggested a revisiting of these matters. I am currently examining how best to conduct a focused interim evaluation which involves the Forum members.

The Chair had signalled his intention to step down once the report from the Forum had been finalised. The recommendations of the report were published in April following their consideration by Government. I am actively considering a suitable appointment to the role of Chairperson to ensure the process continues to be effectively supported.

In line with the Government's response to the Forum's recommendations, a number of actions, including a comprehensive analysis of all of the Forum’s recommendations by relevant departments, continue to be developed.

My officials will be in further contact with Forum members shortly to update them on these developments and make arrangements for the next meeting.

Garda Vetting

Questions (835)

Clare Daly

Question:

835. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the dispute between Tusla and the Garda National Vetting Bureau which is causing delays in persons obtaining Garda clearance; the reason for the dispute; when it is likely to be resolved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23719/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Garda vetting in Ireland is governed by the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 to 2016 which fall under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality.

The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 to 2016 provide a legislative basis for the mandatory vetting of persons who wish to undertake certain work or activities relating to children or vulnerable persons or to provide certain services to children or vulnerable persons.  Garda vetting is conducted in respect of any person who is carrying out work or activity, a necessary and regular part of which consists mainly of the person having access to, or contact with, children or vulnerable persons.

Under the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 and the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) (Registration of School Age Services) Regulations 2018, registered owners/ board members and/ or managers of early years and school age services are required to submit Garda vetting disclosures to the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) when making an application for registration. My Department has been advised by the Tusla Early Years Inspectorate that the National Vetting Bureau has confirmed that there is no provision in the relevant legislation to conduct vetting in respect of such persons where that person is not engaged in relevant work or activities as defined in the legislation.  Where such persons clearly state on their application for vetting that they have regular access to children as part of their duties, the National Vetting Bureau will process such applications.

Engagement is ongoing between officials from my Department, Tusla and officials from the Department of Justice and Equality in relation to this matter.  Tusla has put in place a number of interim measures in response to this issue.  For example, they have issued a notice to all early learning and care and school age services advising that such persons, who have not been processed for vetting by the National Vetting Bureau but have regular access to and contact with children, should submit a new vetting application expressly clarifying that they have such contact with children. Furthermore, they have notified all services that such persons, who have access to and contact with children and who have been refused vetting, should not be allowed to carry out their duties when children are present.

Garda vetting is just one of the tools designed to protect children.  The Children First Act 2015 promotes the protection of children from abuse and neglect, by setting out what persons and organisations need to do to keep children safe, and how to deal with concerns that a child may have been, is being, or is at risk of being abused or neglected.  For example, all persons running a registered early learning and care service and those employed in them as childcare staff are mandated persons under the Act.  Providers of relevant services to children must also undertake a comprehensive risk assessment of their services and prepare a Child Safeguarding Statement, which is a written statement that specifies the service being provided and the principles and procedures to be observed in order to ensure, as far as practicable, that a child availing of the service is safe from harm.  

A Children First Inter-Departmental Implementation Group (CFIDIG) with membership from all Government Departments, the Health Service Executive, An Garda Síochána and Tusla, provides a forum for members to raise child welfare and protection issues of general concern or with a cross-departmental or cross-sectoral dimension.

The National Early Years Children First Committee, established by my Department in 2013, is currently rolling out the 2019/20 Child Protection Plan. 62 Children First trainers are in place and are working to deliver training to early years childcare services on their requirements under the Children First legislation.  To date more than 15,000 early learning and care workers have received training. 

Furthermore, my Department provides funding to both Early Childhood Ireland and Barnardos on the agreement that they act as an “authorised signatory’ to process Garda vetting applications on behalf of the sector.

Foster Care Expenditure

Questions (836)

Clare Daly

Question:

836. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount Tusla is paying to an organisation (details supplied) for each child it places in a foster home. [23720/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Deputy is asking about an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore referred the question to Tusla, and asked them to reply directly to the Deputy.

Childcare Services Regulation

Questions (837)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

837. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the new regulations which came into force in February 2019 are causing difficulties for childcare providers and leading to the closure of after-school facilities for children over eight years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23738/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) (Registration of School Age Services) Regulations 2018, which came into force in February 2019, enable us to begin the long sought-after quality assurance of school-age childcare services.

In setting regulatory requirements, the primary consideration must be children’s health, safety and well-being.  These were the primary factors considered when setting a minimum 1:12 adult-to-child ratio in the new Regulations for school-age childcare. The 1:12 ratio was selected following consultation with an expert group on school-age childcare standards.  The Group included representatives from DCYA, National Childhood Network, Early Childhood Ireland, Barnardos, Children's Rights Alliance, Better Start, Childcare Committees Ireland, Irish Primary Principals Network, Childminding Ireland, National Parents Council, Quality Development of Out of School Services, Tusla, PLÉ and the Department of Education and Skills among its members. The working group report that was submitted to my Department in 2018 recommended a ratio of 1 adult to 11 children. A 1:8 ratio was recommended in a 2005 working-group report. My Department ultimately decided on a 1:12 ratio.

I do not expect to see an overall reduction in the number of school-age childcare places as a result of the new Regulations. In setting the ratio requirement, current practice was considered; while some providers have until now operated higher ratios than 1:12, the evidence suggests that a majority have operated lower ratios. The 1:12 ratio requirement is close to the expert group recommendation, and while some individual services may have to recruit additional staff or reduce places (if they choose to keep their staffing level constant), this will not be true for all school-age childcare services. 

Indeed, initial data  available to my Department indicates an increase in the number of services offering  school-age childcare. This demonstrates that various policy initiatives to encourage additional capacity in school age childcare are working. As of 5th June, 338  “stand-alone” school-age childcare services (i.e. services that only provide  school-age childcare) had applied for registration with Tusla, an increase on the  235 such services previously known to DCYA, Tusla and the City/County Childcare  Committees. These services are in addition to the approximately 1,600 Early Learning and Care services that also provide school-age childcare. 

To give service providers time to adjust to the new requirement I made a decision earlier this year, following discussions with sector representatives, to delay the date on which the 1:12 ratio comes into force by 6 months, from 18th February to 18th August 2019. This decision recognised the difficulty for providers of adjusting their staffing ratio in the middle of the school year. If, in spite of the adjustment period for service providers, any parent finds it difficult securing a school-age childcare place for September, they should contact their local City/County Childcare Committee, which is available to support parents to locate childcare within their locality. Local contact details for City/County Childcare Committees can be found at www.myccc.ie.

The 1:12 ratio enables services to make a reasonable profit given that wages in the sector average at €12 per hour and pay costs are services' largest overhead. It should also be possible for services to recruit additional staff for school age childcare given that half of the sector work part-time only (ECCE hours and weeks) and many of these should be available to work additional hours.

The introduction of Regulations for school-age childcare is a new and important development. While the Regulations introduced this year are limited in scope, I intend to introduce comprehensive Regulations that build on the initial Regulations as well as on the recommendations made by the standards working group.

Public consultation is built into the process of developing these comprehensive Regulations for school-age childcare. On May 21st my Department launched the public consultation process. The consultation comprises an open call for submissions and an online public survey which are open until 5th July, as well as a focus group session with School Age Childcare Providers and an Open Policy Debate, both of which are taking place in June. Further information and links to the online survey and call for submissions can be found on my Department's website.

I am delighted to state that the  2019 School Age Childcare Capital Scheme that I announced this week is expected to create approximately 2,300 new places nationally before the end of the year.  

Children in Care

Questions (838)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

838. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children in care who do not have a social worker. [23762/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I wish to advise the Deputy that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, publishes data periodically in relation to children in care. 

At the end of March, the most recent date for which figures are available, there were a total of 6,005 children in care. Of these, 669, or 11% were awaiting the allocation of a social worker. 

I am informed by Tusla that a case awaiting allocation may be listed as 'active on duty'. Tusla indicate that this may include checking with professionals who see the child regularly, or visiting the child and family at home, getting additional information about the child's situation and, in some instances where a child is in care, organising a Care Plan Review and visiting the child.

Child and Family Agency Staff

Questions (839)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

839. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the average post-qualification experience of each social worker under the remit of Tusla. [23763/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

As this is an operational matter for Tusla I have asked my officials to forward this question to Tusla for a direct response to the Deputy.

Children in Care

Questions (840)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

840. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when the transfer of the registration and inspection functions for non-statutory children’s residential centres from Tusla to the chief inspector in HIQA will take place. [23764/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) inspects children’s residential care services provided by Tusla, monitoring these settings against the National Standards for Children’s Residential Services, and relevant regulations.

Where a children's residential centre is not operated directly by Tusla but by a voluntary organisation or private agency, Tusla are currently responsible for that centre's monitoring and registration.

My officials have been working with Tusla and HIQA to draft new regulations which will give HIQA responsibility for the registration and inspection of private and voluntary centres in addition to Tusla-operated centres.

This will require the designation of such private and voluntary centres as "designated centres" under the Health Act 2007.

Before the inspection and registration functions can be transferred to HIQA, it will be necessary to amend the Health Act 2007 so as to allow for temporary registration of designated centres. This is essential to maintain Tusla's flexibility in providing appropriate placements for children placed in emergency situations. (Such placements can be accommodated under the Child Care Act 1991 at present.) Work is ongoing in the Department of Health to draft this amendment.

It is not possible at this time to put a timeline on when this will take place.

Child Safety

Questions (841, 842)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

841. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when she will implement the recommendations of a report (details supplied). [24149/19]

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Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

842. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will provide a list of child contact centres in tabular form. [24150/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 841 and 842 together.

The Final Evaluation of the Barnardos/One Family Pilot Child Contact Centre Report recommended an integrated response by my Department and the Department of Justice and Equality.  It is my belief that this is the best approach to progress the recommendations.  

I can advise that officials from my Department have come together with colleagues in the Department of Justice and Equality to jointly look at the implementation of the recommendations of the report.      

In preparation for the work of the Group, officials in my Department are finalising a scoping exercise to establish the current provision of family contact services. 

To date this has included reviewing:

- evaluations and recommendations relating to family contact services;

- family contact services available in other jurisdictions;

- the services currently offered at Family Resource Centres;

- information from other service providers relating to the needs of children and families and consultation with individuals who are / have been working directly in family contact services.

My officials are in contact with the Department of Justice and Equality with a view to share the findings of the review and to plan next steps. 

Child Safety

Questions (843)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

843. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will reinstate funding to a project (details supplied); and the reason the funding was withdrawn from same. [24151/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Barnardos/One Family Child Contact project was a pilot which was funded for its duration.  

The Final Evaluation of the Barnardos/One Family Pilot Child Contact Centre Report recommended an integrated response by my Department and the Department of Justice and Equality.  It is my belief that this is the best approach to progress the recommendations.  

I can advise the Deputy that officials from my Department have come together with colleagues in the Department of Justice and Equality to jointly look at the implementation of the recommendations of the report.      

In preparation for the work of the Group, officials in my Department are finalising a scoping exercise to establish the current provision of family contact services. 

To date this has included reviewing:

- evaluations and recommendations relating to family contact services;

- family contact services available in other jurisdictions;

- the services currently offered at Family Resource Centres;

- information from other service providers relating to the needs of children and familie and consultation with individuals who are/have been working directly in  family contact services.

My officials are in contact with the Department of Justice and Equality with a view to share the findings of the review and to plan next steps.  

Childcare Services Funding

Questions (844)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

844. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the funding options available for childcare providers (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24181/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

A key priority for me as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is to support the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare sector through the provision of capital funding where it is most needed.  

I have allocated significant funding in recent years for this purpose and for improving the quality of infrastructure nationwide.

In 2019, I have secured an Early Learning and Care and School Age Capital budget of €6.1m for the sector which will enable a focus on increasing the number of places available.

This funding is to be delivered in three strands, as follows:

- €4.23m will be available under Strand A, which will offer grants of up to €50,000 to early learning and care providers for the creation of new places for 0-3 year-olds where demand for these is clearly evidenced.

- €875,000 will be available under Strand B, which will offer individual grants of up to €15,000 to aid community/not-for-profit early learning and care services in addressing fire safety issues.

- Finally there will be €1m for Strand C, which will offer individual grants of up to €20,000 to school age childcare providers for the creation of new school age places where demand for these is clearly demonstrated.

Appraisals for 2019 Early Learning and Care and School Age Capital programmes are near completion with funding decisions expected to be announced within coming weeks.  There will be no further Capital programmes in 2019.

Although both Community and Private services play a vital role in their communities, financial supports are currently targeted at the Community Sector. It is unfortunately not possible for my Department to provide direct financial assistance to private childcare services at present. I would recommend that the service contact Pobal immediately. Pobal have a dedicated team that assess services facing crisis situations and are able to provide non-financial assistance or support.

Planning for 2020's Capital offering is currently underway and the details of this will be communicated to providers in due course. The service may be able to apply for this funding next year when details are announced.

Child Abuse Reports

Questions (845)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

845. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of the response of Tusla to the findings of the HIQA investigation into the way in which it manages child sexual abuse referrals against adults of concern, published in June 2018 (details supplied). [24201/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

In 2018, HIQA published a report that was carried out at my direction, namely the "Report of the investigation into the management of child sexual abuse against adults of concern by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) upon the direction of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs".  

The report included a recommendation that Tusla would review the findings of the report and, produce an action plan.  Tusla’s strategic action plan contains 46 proposed discrete initiatives under nine themes to support the operational outcomes. This plan was approved by the Tusla Board and it was published on its website in November 2018. The current version, updated in line with the recommendation, represents the position as at April 2019 and includes comments on more recent achievements.  Tusla's 2019 business plan includes key deliverables from the strategic action plan.

I established an Expert Assurance Group (EAG) to, amongst other things, monitor the progress of Tusla's action plan. I receive reports from the EAG which are published on my Department's website. The EAG has noted that Tusla has expended a considerable amount of time and resources responding to the key issues from the report. I have been advised by the Expert Assurance Group that the actions addressing the findings of the report and to improve services are well underway, and Tusla has the requisite mechanisms in place to monitor their implementation. The next meeting of the EAG is scheduled to take place on 12th June 2019.

Child Abuse

Questions (846)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

846. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the way in which Tusla is managing and retaining information in respect of adults of concern and adults who make retrospective referrals of abuse to its social work services. [24202/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Deputy refers to data protection practices, which are an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore written to Tusla, and asked that they provide a direct response to the Deputy.

Child Abuse

Questions (847)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

847. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of retrospective disclosures awaiting allocation of a social worker; if this number includes recent referrals of historical abuse referred by an organisation (details supplied) as highlighted in recent media reports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24203/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I can advise the Deputy that Tusla - Child and Family Agency, publishes monthly figures on the number of cases of retrospective abuse which are currently awaiting allocation to a social worker. At the end of March, the most recent date for which data is available, there were 1,463 retrospective cases waiting to be allocated to a social worker, out of a total of 2,824 open cases. 

I have written to Tusla to ask that a direct response be provided to the Deputy in relation to the organisation in question.