Early Childhood Care and Education Standards

Questions (565)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

565. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the code of practice or business code of conduct to which recipients of funding must subscribe in order to remain funded by her Department in instances in which funding is provided directly to early years settings for children that they have registered on the ECCE scheme; the grievance or complaints procedure open to persons if they have issues with a service provider funded by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24917/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

In order to participate in Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) childcare funding programmes, a service provider must sign the relevant childcare programme funding agreement and agree to abide by the rules of the childcare programme as outlined in the DCYA childcare funding programmes 2018/19 rules document.

It is compulsory for service providers to register with Tusla (the Child and Family Agency) prior to offering any DCYA childcare funding programme. As part of this registration process, a service provider must submit a copy of their complaints policy (a policy specifying the procedures for making and dealing with complaints in relation to any aspect of the service). This is outlined in the Childcare Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016:

32. (1) A registered provider shall ensure that the complaints policy of the service specifies— (a) the procedure to be followed by a person for the purposes of making a complaint in relation to the service, (b) the manner in which such a complaint shall be dealt with, and (c) the procedures for keeping a person who makes such a complaint informed of the manner in which it is being dealt with.

(2) A registered provider shall ensure that— (a) a record in writing is kept of a complaint made to the provider in respect of the pre-school service, and (b) the complaint is duly dealt with in accordance with the provider’s complaints policy.

(3) A record in writing referred to in paragraph (2)(a) shall— (a) include the nature of the complaint and the manner in which the complaint was dealt with, and (b) be open to inspection on the premises by an authorised person.

(4) A registered provider shall ensure that a record in writing referred to in paragraph (2)(a) is retained for a period of 2 years from the date on which the complaint has been dealt with. 24 [221]

(5) The requirement in paragraph (4) is without prejudice to any requirement to retain the record in writing referred to in paragraph (2)(a) under any other enactment or rule of law.

In the first instance, if a parent/guardian is experiencing an issue with a service provider, the Department encourages both the parent/guardian and the service provider to seek to resolve the issue between themselves using the service provider's complaint policy. The local City/County Childcare Committee may also provide assistance to both the parent/guardian and the service provider in order to resolve the issue.

If the complaint is in relation to a breach of the DCYA childcare funding rules, the parent/guardian should contact their local City/County Childcare Committee or Pobal who will escalate the issue to my Department if the issue cannot be resolved.

If there is a concern that a child may have been, or is currently at risk of harm or neglect, Tusla should be contacted immediately. However, if there is a concern that a child is at immediate risk, An Garda Síochána should be contacted immediately.

The core principle underpinning all of the regulatory requirements in the Early Years sector is the health, safety and well being of children. It must be noted that Tusla acts as an independent legal entity with responsibility for supporting and promoting the development, welfare and protection of children, as such, it would be inappropriate for my Department to intervene in any way with the functions of a statutory regulator, who are tasked with investigating these complaints.

School Completion Programme

Questions (566)

Joan Burton

Question:

566. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the need for expanded supports in the school completion programme at schools (details supplied); if her attention has been further drawn to the fact that a number of these schools have been affected by crime and gang violence making the broad supports that the programme provides to the schools even more important; the level of funding she plans to provide through the programme in the academic year 2019-2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24946/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I am very conscious that the School Completion Programme (SCP) continues to deliver a valuable service for some of our most vulnerable young people. Currently, the SCP receives annual funding of 24.7 million.

My Department works with the Educational Welfare Service (EWS) to ensure that necessary resources are available to support this programme and to ensure staffing levels are sufficient to deliver a high quality service for those young people most at risk of early school leaving. Tusla (EWS) has advised that the schools referred to by the Deputy are part of Together Opportunities for Education SCP (TOFE). The funding to TOFE SCP is €181,559.

In recognition of the need for a strong policy platform for educational welfare services, including the SCP, I requested my officials establish a Task Group to support the further development and integration of these services. The work of this group is near completion and I am eager to ensure that output will result in a clear blueprint for the development of the three strands of the EWS, including the SCP.

A consultation event on the blueprint was held on June 10th where those working with vulnerable young people as part of the EWS had an opportunity to express their views and help shape the policy blueprint prior to its publication.

As part of the implementation of the actions contained in the blueprint I have requested that a new SCP scheme be scoped out and developed to ensure that its reach, resources and impact are maximised in supporting young people .

I can assure the Deputy that my Department and Tusla Educational Welfare Service are fully committed to the future of the School Completion Programme and will continue to work to ensure that it will deliver the best possible outcomes for young people at risk of early school-leaving.

Departmental Reports

Questions (567)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

567. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when the final report of the national review panel on the abuse of children in the care of the health board-HSE (2003-2011), the summary report of which was published in May 2019, will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25037/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I am conscious that the abuse suffered by the young people at the centre of this very serious case disrupted and severely impacted their lives. The summary report from the National Review Panel on this case was published on 28 May 2019.

I referred to the publication of the main report in my replies in this House on 28 May last. There is strong advice that it would not be appropriate for the full report to be published, and I have been advised that, separately, the National Review Panel and Tusla obtained legal advice on this.

Where there is such clear legal advice, it is wise for it to be respected, in particular where a case involves the statutory protection afforded the victims of rape who have been witnesses in criminal prosecutions.

In my replies to the Deputy, I have given a clear indication that the summary report as published did not compromise this advice and that the findings were both clear and comprehensive.

The summary report has placed into the public domain both the facts and the serious findings about the management of this case, which took place when children's social services came under the remit of the HSE. It has done so while protecting the interests of the very vulnerable young people at the centre of the case, who, I understand, were consulted as part of the publication process.

I am committed to ensuring that the recommendations of the report are fully implemented, and there are improvements to minimise the chances of such mistakes ever happening again.

Maternity Services

Questions (568)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

568. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the expenditure on baby boxes; the number distributed to date; if baby boxes are available at maternity hospitals nationally; if not, the estimated full-year cost of providing a baby box to mothers on the birth of a child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25139/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The First 5 Strategy was published in November of last year, followed in May of this year by the Implementation Plan for the first phase of implementation in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

First 5 outlines Government’s intention to pilot the development and implementation of Baby Boxes and Book Bags initiatives to support parenting with a focus on parent-baby bonding, information on baby development and early learning and promotion of baby safety.

Baby Boxes are packages of items and information to assist with the transition to parenthood including safety items, baby clothes, small toys, baby toothbrushes, and books to support early development. The intention behind Baby Boxes is to welcome a new arrival to a family, acknowledging this very significant moment for parents.

As indicated in the Implementation Plan, an oversight group will be established later this year to lead the development of the pilot and scope to project to prepare for implementation and evaluation.

While resourcing has been secured through the Dormant Accounts Fund to progress the pilot, there has been no expenditure to date as this pilot has not yet begun.

The pilot will consult to determine items for inclusion in the pack. Baby Boxes offer the opportunity to communicate important child development and safety messages and is an early opportunity to link with parents in need of support services.

The cost of providing a Baby Box will of course be determined by the selection of items, as well as the design of the box and any logistical costs. These have not yet been determined. However, by means of international comparison in Scotland, a very well equipped box is costed at £160 for the box alone. The equivalent figure in Finland is €170. There were just over 61,000 births in Ireland in 2018.

There are some baby box schemes in operation via maternity hospitals and otherwise in different parts of the country but my Department is not involved in funding or co-ordinating these.

Childcare Services

Questions (569)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

569. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has received correspondence from a person (details supplied); her views on the opinion expressed that the childcare industry is at breaking point; her further views on the points set out in the correspondence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25249/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

In the first instance I would state that there is little or no evidence that the early years sector is in crisis or that providers are not signing up to administer Exchequer funded childcare schemes. Whilst some providers are expressing dissatisfaction with the speed of change and enhanced governance requirements, many also acknowledge the unprecedented increase in investment and supports. Indeed, with contracts for the 2019/20 childcare schemes going live in recent weeks, DCYA has seen a very significant early take up by service providers, far in excess of that we would have seen previously ( for example the new National Childcare Scheme has seen 1400 services sign up within 5 working days of the contract being available, this is far beyond the level of take up anticipated). My Department has also been informed by Pobal that their Service Provider Helplines are seeing a relatively low number of calls-queries when compared with previous years. The rules for ECCE scheme and the text of the National Childcare Scheme contracts for providers were published on 31st May, together with an Explanatory Guide covering all aspects of the NCS contractual requirements, including the rules relating to children's attendance, and the general operational arrangements for the Scheme. In addition, the Childcare Support Act 2018 (Payment of Financial Support) Regulations, which are the regulations of most relevance to service providers, have been published, in draft form, so that childcare providers can be fully informed of the terms and conditions of the new Scheme before signing up.

There has been an unprecedented 117% increase in investment in the childcare sector over the last four budgets, now totalling €575m per year. In securing these significant increases for early learning and care services, I rely substantially on a wide ranging evidence base to underpin my Estimates submissions. This evidence base is greatly assisted by information obtained directly from early learning and care services, primarily through the annual early years sector profile survey conducted by Pobal.

Given the large amount of public money that is invested by the Exchequer in funding childcare programmes, there needs to be an appropriate level of oversight and accountability. A high level of compliance with programme rules is vital to maintaining existing investment as well as ensuring future investment. It is a requirement that services operating the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare programmes, funded by my Department, must be compliant with the ‘Rules for DCYA childcare funding programmes’ which are prepared having regard to relevant central Government rules and guidance around the administration of State funded schemes. Compliance with these Rules is overseen by Pobal on behalf of my Department. Subsidies for the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare programmes are paid based on attendance (not enrolment). This is a vital governance component of the funding for which my Department is responsible. It is in recognition of this work that I introduced Programme Support Payments for Early Years service providers a number of years ago, now valued at €19.4m per annum. Each provider receives an annual lump sum over the summer in this regard.

The National Childcare Scheme (NCS), when introduced later this year, will represent a major landmark for all children and families in Ireland, and especially for lower income families and lone parents. It can be accessed by all families and not just those working or studying full time. The new Scheme will replace the existing targeted childcare schemes with a single, streamlined and user-friendly scheme. It entails a fundamental shift away from subsidies grounded in medical card and social protection entitlements, and towards a comprehensive and progressive system of universal and income-based subsidies. By making this shift, and by tangibly reducing the cost of quality childcare for thousands of families across Ireland, the Scheme aims to improve children's outcomes, support lifelong learning, make work pay and reduce child poverty. It is also designed to have a positive impact on gender equality in relation to labour market participation and employment opportunities.

Under the auspices of the campaign, a dedicated website was launched, information packs issued to every service provider in the country, and a nationwide training programme for providers commenced. This programme delivers training across multiple platforms, including classroom-based and online. It is designed to meet the needs of busy childcare providers and to ensure that they are well prepared to operate the Scheme in advance of its launch. Communications and training sessions have been very positively received to date: as of now, 3,520 childcare professionals have attended NCS Phase 1 training. Phase 2 of the training will commence in the coming weeks. This training is designed to be comprehensive and ensure that providers are prepared and confident to operate the Scheme once it opens.

The new National Childcare Scheme is designed to be flexible, recognising that childcare needs are different for each family. In creating a single, national scheme, it was important to recognise these differences and create a system that could respond to them without affecting service operations for providers. For this reason, subsidies will be awarded as an hourly rate, along with a maximum number of hours for which that rate is payable. The hourly rate of subsidy illustrates to parents their level of subsidy and will not affect service operations. Parents and providers will continue to work together, as they currently do, to decide on the amount of childcare that is needed and can be provided. Providers will continue to set their own fees, sessions and admissions policies; there is no change to this. The scheme will pay subsidies based on the hours of care agreed between the provider and the parent, up to the maximum hours awarded to the parent. Providers are not required to change their operations to run their services on an hourly basis.

As regards the workforce issues mentioned. the Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Aged Care (SAC) sector is recognised as a sector in which low pay and high turnover of staff are common. The 7% increase in ECCE capitation I secured from September 2018 was designed to specifically target these areas and support employers to improve terms and conditions. I look forward to seeing the result of this initiative in the sector profile survey for 2019. Further, I have been a strong advocate of a Sectoral Employment Order (SEO) as a mechanism to address issues of pay and conditions in the early years sector. An SEO would provide for mandatory terms and conditions in the childcare sector, minimum rates of remuneration, pensions, and sick leave along with a dispute resolution procedure but will require an employee representative body to progress.

In addition, First 5, the Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families, includes a commitment to review the funding model for the ELC sector, under which employers will be supported to provide more favourable working conditions to attract and retain staff. The new funding model will leverage additional investment for certain criteria, for example, better pay, or full implementation of the curriculum. It is envisaged that this may open up alternative mechanisms by which the State could incentivise services to meet national standards in relation to wages and/or working conditions. Officials from my Department have commenced work on the development of a Workforce Development Plan, which will identify practical steps to achieve First 5 commitments.

Other initiatives I have introduced which have assisted in improving conditions in the sector include:

- The development of paid CPD (continuous professional development)

- Development of multi-award winning training opportunities (LINC)

- Enhanced career options for graduate staff which includes Inspector positions in Tusla, the Department of Education Early Years Inspectorate, and positions to support quality and inclusion development within Better Start.

- Additional investment in higher capitation in relation to the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme which has seen the number of services employing graduates rise from 11% to 50% and attracts €24m of additional funding annually

- The incentivisation of school age childcare services to enable part time Early Learning and Care services offer full time contracts to staff

From September 2018, all children meeting the minimum age requirement of 2 years and 8 months are eligible for a full two programme years on the Early Childhood Care and Education programme (ECCE). This measure refines the development introduced the previous year and increases the duration of each registered child on ECCE from a previous average of 61 weeks, to a potential duration of 76 weeks (two programme years). This delivers fully on a commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government that is good for children, families and Early Years providers.

As regards issues of consultation, both my Department and I are very active in our consultations with the early years sector. These consultations are both formal, through structures such as the Early Years Forum, stakeholder groups established as part of the NCS project, various Open Policy Debates held each year; and informal, through almost daily meetings and other interactions with front line service professionals, providers and representative groups.

Finally, to address the issue of tax credits, the possibility of allowing a tax credit to parents for the provision of childcare was discussed by the Inter-Departmental Group (IDG) on Future Investment in Childcare in Ireland. The purpose of the group was "..to identify and assess policies and future options for increasing the quality, accessibility (including supply) and affordability of early years and school-age care and education services in Ireland." The report of the IDG was published on 22nd July 2015. The IDG considered both supply and demand side measures in terms of supporting parents by removing barriers including the specific issue of affordability. The Group was particularly mindful of the views expressed in the consultation with parents regarding the possible introduction of a tax credit. Looking at the current mix of universal and targeted schemes, and having considered the option of a tax credit, the Group concluded that investment in supply side measures was strategically optimal in achieving the combined objectives of affordability, accessibility and quality. In comparison with other measures, the introduction of a tax credit does not bring sufficient impact to the policy objectives. In particular, the Group was concerned that a tax credit measure would not necessarily achieve that purpose. Further information from the report of the IDG is available on my Department's website: www.dcya.gov.ie.

Guardians Ad Litem

Questions (570)

Clare Daly

Question:

570. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the cost of guardians ad litem; the number employed by Tusla in each of the years 2017 and 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25257/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Guardians Ad Litem are appointed by judges in child care proceedings under Section 26 of the Child Care Act, 1991. The role and function of a Guardian ad litem is to inform the court of the child’s views and to advise the court of what, in the Guardian Ad Litem's professional opinion, is in the best interests of the child.

The 1991 Act obliges Tusla, the Child and Family Agency to pay costs (fees, travel, and legal representation) incurred by Guardians ad litem in the performance of their functions and otherwise gives it no role.

I am advised that there are in the region of seventy-five Guardians Ad Litem operating in the Courts at present. Guardians ad litem are not employed by Tusla. The report of the Child Care Law Reporting Project suggested that Guardians Ad Litem are appointed in 53% of child care proceedings nationally. The report found that in the Dublin Metropolitan District, Guardians Ad Litem were appointed in almost 70% of proceedings, while in Galway, the appointment rate was as low as 13%.

During 2017, Guardians Ad Litem were paid €7.67m in fees by Tusla, while in 2018 €8.44m was paid. Legal fees incurred by Guardians Ad Litem amounted to a further €6.33m in 2017 and €6.21m in 2018.

Work on the reform of Guardian ad Litem arrangements is underway. In December 2017, the Government approved the establishment of a new national Guardian ad litem service within an executive office of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs

The Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2019, which is close to publication, includes a presumption in favour of the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem for all children in child care proceedings.

It will also provide for the establishment of an executive office within my Department, which will employ Guardians ad litem and also establish a panel of Guardians Ad Litem who will provide services as independent contractors.

Adoption Records Provision

Questions (571)

Joan Burton

Question:

571. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the procedure in respect of an adopted person who wishes to trace personal information such as his or her birth certificate and file in respect of his or her adoption; the number of such information requests Tusla has received in the past five years; the number responded to with comprehensive information, including file information on the person; the number on hold pending further information; the number of requests in which information required in respect of a person has been made subject to an application to the adoption contact register; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25274/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As the subject matter of the Deputy's question relates to an operational matter for Tusla, I have referred the matter to them for a direct reply.

Adoption Authority of Ireland Data

Questions (572)

Joan Burton

Question:

572. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of applications in each year since 2013 to the adoption contact register; the number that have been successful, the number that have been unsuccessful and the number pending a reply, respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25275/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As the subject matter of the Deputy's question relates to an operational matter for the Adoption Authority of Ireland, I have referred the matter to it for a direct reply.

Adoption Data

Questions (573)

Joan Burton

Question:

573. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the estimated number of improper adoption arrangements by religious bodies, nursing homes and other bodies in which no detailed records were kept; her views on the prevalence of this practice in the past; the number of persons affected; the steps taken to contact those affected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25276/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

By definition, it is impossible to estimate with any accuracy, the number of instances of practices that were irregular or improper, for which no records were kept. What I can say is that my focus and priority is the enactment of the Adoption ( Information & Tracing ) Bill 2016, as some of the key provisions of this Bill will ensure that records are identified, safeguarded and indexed, and that Tusla can provide an effective and efficient information and tracing service to adoptees, people whose birth was illegally registered and others.

We are aware of concerns arising from the Saint Patrick's Guild files, where evidence of illegal birth registrations was uncovered. The process of contacting those individuals is continuing. The Deputy will be aware of the sampling review process currently underway, to establish if there are markers on other files to indicate the same practice.

Further to this the remit of the Mother and Baby Home Commission includes several specific areas of practice and procedure in the care, welfare, entry arrangements and exit pathways for the women and children who were in the named 14 institutions. The Commission's terms of reference include the examination of issues such as irregular procedures related to consent that may have been in place within the named institutions, as set out as follows:

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

The report and any findings or recommendations made therein cannot be pre-empted. The Commission is due to submit its final report to me in February 2020.

Home Schooling

Questions (574)

James Browne

Question:

574. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding the role of Tusla in inspecting home schooling facilities; the contact details for the section related to inspecting home schooling; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25369/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Under the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 every child being educated in a place other than a recognised school must be registered with Tusla - Child and Family Agency, Alternative Education and Assessment Registration Service (AEARS).

The process of registration involves assessment by the AEARS of the education that is being proposed to be provided and education being provided to the child. The purpose of this assessment is to determine if the child will receive a certain minimum education. To apply for registration the child must be resident in the State and

- have reached the age of 6 and is not older than 16 or

- if aged 16, has not completed 3 years of post-primary education and has not yet reached the age of 18.

While there is no legal requirement for a child to register if the child is over 16 and has completed 3 years post primary education, applications will be processed if parent(s)/ guardian(s) choose to apply once the child is under 18 years of age.

Parent(s)/guardian(s) must apply for registration by completing the R1 Home Education Application Form providing details of the proposed education provision.

Contact details:

Alternative Education Assessment and Registration Service

Tusla – Child and Family Agency

Floor 4, Brunel Building

Heuston South Quarter

Dublin 8

Telephone: 01 771 8638 or 01 7718 500, Email: homeeducation@tusla.ie .

Information for parents and guardians in respect of Educational Welfare Services is available at the following link:-

https://www.tusla.ie/services/educational-welfare-services/information-for-parents-and-guardians/ .

Departmental Properties

Questions (575, 576)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

575. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount of land purchased and leased by size and amount expended in the past five years to date; the location of same; the term of the lease and amount expended per year in cases in which land is leased; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25379/19]

View answer

Catherine Murphy

Question:

576. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of buildings and property purchased and leased and the amount expended in the past five years to date; the location of same; the term of the lease and the amount expended per year in cases in which properties are leased; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25396/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 575 and 576 together.

My Department has not purchased or leased any land, property or buildings in the last five years. The Deputy might note that the Office of Public Works holds the lease for my Department's HQ at Miesian Plaza and previously at Mespil Road.

However, my Department has a number of staff co-located with Pobal since September 2017 working on the development of the National Childcare Scheme. There is an agreement in place in relation to sharing of office hosting costs and my Department has incurred costs of €0.244 million to date. The agreement is expected to terminate in December 2019 with an estimated further €58,000 to be incurred.

Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme

Questions (577)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

577. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if he will establish an interdepartmental group to develop a new programme of action and resources for areas experiencing cumulative disadvantage and affected by serious anti-social and criminal behaviour. [24925/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department has many programmes in place to assist disadvantaged areas affected by the issues outlined in the question.

For example, in Dublin, the SICAP programme will provide €9.7m in 2019 giving vital support to those community groups and individuals most in need. In addition, under the Community Enhancement Programme (CEP) my Department allocated €675k to the Dublin area in 2019 so that community groups could avail of small capital grants.

The Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) in each area manages the SICAP programme and administers the CEP at a local level to ensure the funding is targeted to address disadvantage.

LCDCs play a key role in tackling issues in disadvantaged areas, bringing a more coordinated, whole-of-Government approach to local and community development. They are best placed to ensure that state funding is channelled to those areas and communities most in need.

My Department will continue to work with Local Authorities through the LCDCs to ensure that appropriate local plans are developed and available resources are targeted effectively to support the development of vibrant and sustainable communities.

Community Enhancement Programme

Questions (578)

Joan Burton

Question:

578. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if his attention has been drawn to the threat to the viability of a community centre (details supplied) in Dublin 15; if assistance will be provided to ensure the centre is rebuilt to comply with new building rules and regulations and can continue to operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24904/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department supports Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) who are responsible for the delivery of the community elements of their Local Economic and Community Plans (LECPs). These plans, adopted in each local authority area, identify local needs, such as essential community infrastructure, in each area including the area referenced in Dublin 15.

Community facilities are funded from a range of sources; including via schemes and programmes provided by my Department which provides a range of supports to communities nationwide, helping citizens to participate in the development of their communities and providing funding to improve facilities.

For example, the Community Enhancement Programme funded capital projects to the total value of €12.5m in 2018 and can be used to contribute towards the renovation of community infrastructure. Funding of €4.5m is bring provided nationally under this programme in 2019. The Community Enhancement Programme is administered locally by the LCDC in each Local Authority area.

RAPID Programme

Questions (579)

John Curran

Question:

579. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development further to Parliamentary Question No. 278 of 18 April 2019, if the information has been collated (details supplied). [24990/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 278 of 18 April 2019 which provided information on the amounts allocated to each local authority area for the schemes and years referenced.

The 2017 and 2018 amounts have issued from this Department to the Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) that administer the schemes. The 2019 amounts will issue during quarter 3 of this year.

A list of approved projects for 2017 and 2018 was provided in the previous response, however, a list of the amounts paid out by the LCDCs to community groups is not yet available. To allow community groups time to complete the work necessary to draw down the funding, an extension to end June 2019 has been provided for use of these funds. In July, the Department will compile a list of the payments provided by LCDCs to community groups. A copy will be provided to the Deputy at that stage

A copy of the response to the previous question (No. 278 of 18 April 2019) is provided as follows for completeness.

Response to previous question (No. 278 of 18 April 2019)

The nationwide re-cast RAPID programme and the Communities Facilities Scheme were launched for the first time in 2017. €65,000 was allocated to and paid to each local authority area under each scheme, a total of €130,000 for each area and €4m across the country.

In 2018, these two programmes were replaced by the Community Enhancement Programme (CEP), which received total funding of €13m in 2018, including €0.5m that was ring-fenced for Men’s Sheds. The 2019 CEP has recently been launched with funding of €4.5m. The amount allocated to each local authority area is shown in the below table for 2018 and 2019. The 2018 amounts have been paid out by this Department. The 2019 amounts have not yet been paid out.

All of these three programmes were administered by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs), with support from the local authorities. Local Development Committees (LDCs) were not involved in that process.

Lists of approved projects under the 2017 Communities Facilities Scheme, the 2017 RAPID programme, and the 2018 CEP are provided in the below links. In some cases there is a delay in drawdown of this funding by community groups, for example, due to a delay in completing the approved work. This causes a delay in having final figures for some areas. The Department has written to the LCDC in each area asking for confirmation of final amounts provided to community groups and will provide this to the Deputy when it is available. It is not anticipated that there will be any significant difference between the amounts paid out by the Department to each LCDC/LA and the amounts paid out by that LCDC/LA to community groups.

Local Authority area

2018 CEP Allocation

2019 CEP Allocation

Carlow

€259,285

€134,206

Cavan

€274,141

€134,757

Clare

€336,239

€139,257

Cork City

€472,567

€149,241

Cork

€650,400

€160,762

Donegal

€632,449

€159,461

Dublin City

€1,364,607

€212,306

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

€369,788

€142,108

Fingal

€493,131

€150,521

Galway City

€233,676

€132,455

Galway

€397,778

€143,401

Kerry

€382,630

€142,409

Kildare

€468,672

€148,013

Kilkenny

€289,901

€136,319

Laois

€294,177

€136,524

Leitrim

€189,068

€129,223

Limerick

€542,485

€152,942

Longford

€234,155

€132,385

Louth

€418,627

€145,542

Mayo

€425,542

€145,203

Meath

€393,662

€142,893

Monaghan

€238,172

€132,571

Offaly

€322,142

€138,550

Roscommon

€248,252

€133,301

Sligo

€263,402

€134,084

South Dublin

€750,743

€169,399

Tipperary

€486,017

€149,690

Waterford

€402,777

€144,499

Westmeath

€303,516

€136,571

Wexford

€494,079

€150,065

Wicklow

€367,921

€141,343

Total

€13,000,000

€4,500,000

Details on approved projects for the 2017 Communities Facilities Fund are on the following link:

https://drcd.gov.ie/community/communities-facilities-scheme/

Details on approved projects for the 2017 RAPID programme are on the following link:

https://drcd.gov.ie/revitalising-areas-by-planning-investment-and-development-rapid/

Details on approved projects for the 2018 Community Enhancement Programme are on the following link:

https://drcd.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/CEP-Jan-2019-Project-approvals.pdf

Details on approved projects for the 2018 Men’s Shed fund (under the Community Enhancement Programme) are on the following link:

https://drcd.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/Mens-Sheds-Funding-Jan-2019.pdf

Community Enhancement Programme Funding

Questions (580)

Gino Kenny

Question:

580. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a group (details supplied) has been excluded from availing of the grant from the men's sheds fund; the reason for this exclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25059/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

In 2019, my Department is providing funding of €4.5m for community groups through its Community Enhancement Programme (CEP). An additional €0.5m has been ring-fenced under the Programme for provision to Men's (and Women's) Sheds. This funding provides small grants to enable sheds to purchase equipment or to carry out minor works to their premises .

To quality for this ring-fenced fund, sheds must be affiliated to the Irish Men's Sheds Association. All other groups, including the group referenced in the question, were eligible to apply for funding under the main CEP, under which €4.5m is available in 2019.

I note that in 2018, the group in question was approved for €1,000 under the main CEP, and LEADER funding of €3,696, also provided by my Department.

Departmental Properties

Questions (581, 582)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

581. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the amount of land purchased and leased by size and amount expended in the past five years to date; the location of same; the term of the lease and amount expended per year in cases in which land is leased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25391/19]

View answer

Catherine Murphy

Question:

582. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of buildings and property purchased and leased and the amount expended in the past five years to date; the location of same; the term of the lease and the amount expended per year in cases in which properties are leased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25408/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 581 and 582 together.

My Department was established on 19 July 2017. My Department has two location, Trinity Point, Dublin, and Government Buildings, Ballina.

Both of these properties are leased by the Office of Public Works on our behalf. No property has been purchased by my Department.

Direct Provision Payments

Questions (583, 614)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

583. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the amount paid to an adult living in direct provision; the amount given for each child living in direct provision; and his plans to increase the amount given to each. [25267/19]

View answer

Willie O'Dea

Question:

614. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the estimated full-year cost of increasing the allowance for children in direct provision from €29.80 to €31, €32, €33, €34 and €35, respectively, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25111/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 583 and 614 together.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection administers the daily expenses allowance which is paid to applicants for international protection who live in the direct provision system where they are provided with full board, accommodation and other services by the Reception and Integration Agency of the Department of Justice and Equality.

The Government has provided €9.38 million for the allowance in 2019. The weekly rates of payment were increased in Budget 2019 from €21.60 per adult and per child to €38.80 per adult and to €29.80 per child.

There are approximately 4,280 adults and 1,750 children residing in the system of direct provision in respect of whom daily expenses allowance is being paid. The full-year costs, based on current numbers, of increasing the weekly child rate from €29.80 to €31.00, €32.00, €33.00, €34.00 and €35.00 are provided in the following tabular statements.

Any increases to the rate of daily expenses allowance would have to be approved by Government and considered in a budgetary context.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Tabular Statement : Cost of Increasing Child Rate of Daily Expenses Allowance

Proposed Rate

Additional full year cost to increase child rate from €29.80 to amount shown

Increase to €31

€109,200

Increase to €32

€200,200

Increase to €33

€291,200

Increase to €34

€382,200

Increase to €35

€473,200

Proposed Legislation

Questions (584)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

584. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a general scheme of a Bill to extending social protection supports to the self-employed will be published; and will she make a statement on the matter. [24849/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The General Scheme of the Social Welfare Bill, 2019 which provides for the introduction of a new social insurance benefit scheme, to be known as Jobseeker's Benefit (self-employed), which will support those who lose their self-employment and are covered by social insurance, was published at the end of April and can be found on my Department's website at the following link:

www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/Bills-2019.aspx.

Since then, my Department has been working closely with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to draft the Bill. This work is now very well-advanced and I expect to be in a position to bring the text of the Bill to Government in the coming weeks to secure approval for its publication and early introduction to the Dail. It is my intention that the new scheme will come into operation in November of this year.

The introduction of this new scheme, which aims to provide an income safety net to people setting up or running their own businesses, represents the latest step in the Government's work to extend PRSI benefits to the self-employed. It follows on the extension of the Treatment Benefits scheme and the Invalidity Pension scheme to the self-employed in recent years.

Domiciliary Care Allowance Review

Questions (585)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

585. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to review entitlement to domiciliary care allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24858/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

In line with other Social Welfare schemes, Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) is subject to review to ensure that the qualifying conditions for the scheme continue to be met.

In the case of DCA, scheduled eligibility reviews were suspended in May 2012 pending a review of the operation of the scheme and have remained suspended in the intervening period for a number of operational reasons, including introducing the recommendations of the report on the review of the scheme and the assignment of all available staff resources to process the increased volume of applications received in recent years. New claims are currently processed in line with the departmental standard (90% to be processed within 10 weeks), with claims finalised on average within 10 weeks.

The re-introduction of eligibility reviews at this time, is made possible in the context of having sufficient staff resources available to undertake reviews, without impacting on new claim processing times. It also fulfils the requirement to have proper control and oversight of claims in payment, as required by the comptroller and auditor general.

Eligibility for DCA is not based on the child's particular disability or the severity of the condition, but rather on the additional care needs arising from the disability. So the purpose of the review is to assess the child's current care needs, which may have changed over time as the child developed and as a result of receiving appropriate treatment/support.

The number of reviews will be small, initially 100 per month, from the 44,000 children currently in receipt of the allowance. The re-introduction of reviews has been discussed and agreed with the DCA Implementation group, comprising departmental staff and representatives of parent groups (NGOs).

Information notices have been sent to all groups and made available to Citizens Information Offices setting out the exact nature of the review programme and stressing the small number of reviews to be undertaken.

The timeline for completing review forms has been extended to 5 months, to allow parent sufficient time to gather any information they require to support their review. The Department has also committed to reverting to the parent before making a final decision, in the event that the decision would be negative, to give them a final chance to submit any additional information to support their ongoing eligibility to the allowance.

The Department will deal sensitively with any question raised by a parent who has any concern in relation to ongoing eligibility.

Children recommended by the department's medical advisors, as not requiring review due to their particular disability, will be exempted. Some 15% of claims are marked as 'not to be reviewed', due to the severity of the disability of the child.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.