Children in Care

Questions (2520)

Pat Buckley

Question:

2520. Deputy Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children who died while in the care of the HSE in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33755/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Tusla the Child and Family Agency, was established in 2014 to improve well-being and outcomes for children. This includes offering care and protection for children in circumstances where their parents have not been able to, or are unlikely to, provide the care that a child needs.

I can advise the Deputy that the National Review Panel reviews cases where a serious incident or death occurs of children or young people under 18 who are in the care of the state, or have been known to the Child and Family Agency's social work department or funded services.

The National Review Panel's Annual Report can be found on-line at the following link:

https://www.tusla.ie/national-review-panel/annual-reports2/

I have asked Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to forward information relating solely to the deaths of children in the care of that agency, to the Deputy.

Legislative Reviews

Questions (2521)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

2521. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the primary legislation enacted since May 2016; and if in each case, the legislation placed additional regulatory burdens on small and medium enterprises. [31476/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017 and the Childcare Support Act 2018 have both been enacted since May 2016.

The Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017 does not place additional regulatory burden on small and medium enterprises.

Under the Childcare Support Act 2018, the existing or legacy targeted childcare schemes will be replaced later this year with the National Childcare Scheme (NCS). The NCS was developed based on evidence of the best interests of children and families. My Department has engaged with service providers on the development of the NCS and continues to do so.

In line with the wider regulatory framework around childcare and consistent with existing requirements, childcare providers will be required to monitor and record children’s attendance. As part of the requirements of the National Childcare Scheme, providers will be required to undertake a level of reporting on attendance as the subsidies are paid based on a child’s attendance. The attendance rules will reflect the reality of children and parents' lives and the need for services to operate as businesses.

These rules will be child-centred, fair and proportionate, clear and consistent and will recognise the need for flexibility for parents. The rules will not disadvantage services for what would be considered minor non-attendances. At the same time, they will recognise the need to protect State finances by ensuring that Exchequer funds are used to support the maximum number of families in need of financial support, represent value for money for taxpayers, and are allocated in accordance with robust and appropriate procedures.

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. 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.

Towards supporting providers in fulfilling these requirements, I have provided for an NCS Capital Grant Scheme to support providers in purchasing appropriate hardware and software and separately made available a NCS Transition Support Payment. Applications for both of these schemes are currently open.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Questions (2522)

Tom Neville

Question:

2522. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the secondary legislation enacted since 1 January 2018; and if the legislation in each case placed additional regulatory burdens on small and medium-sized enterprises. [31500/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The following table lists the secondary legislation enacted by my Department since 1 January 2018.

1. Secondary legislation relating to the Childcare Support Act 2018 are Commencement Orders that commence aspects of the primary legislation. These have not, in their own right, placed any additional regulatory burden on small and medium enterprises.

2. Regulations relating to the Adoption Act 2010 have not placed any additional regulatory burden on small and medium enterprises.

3. Regulations relating to the Child Care Act 1991 require School Age Childcare Services to apply for registration with the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) in 2019.

Table

-

Relevant Primary Legislation

SI Name

1

Childcare Support Act 2018

Childcare Support Act 2018 (Commencement) Order 2019

Childcare Support Act 2018 (Commencement) Order 2018

2

Adoption Act 2010

Adoption Act 2010 (Register of Gender Recognition of Intercountry Adoptions)(Fees) Regulations 2018

Adoption Act 2010 (Section 85) (Fees) Regulations 2018

3

Child Care Act 1991

Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) (Registration of School Age Services) Regulations 2018

Childcare Services Staff

Questions (2523)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

2523. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the estimated cost of bringing all childcare workers into the employment of the public sector employed at the living wage; and the staff numbers in this regard. [31601/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As the State is not the employer, my Department does not pay the wages of staff working in early learning and care settings, and I cannot set wage levels or determine working conditions for these staff. As a result, my Department is not in a position to estimate the cost of directly employing staff in the sector. A particular challenge in considering potential costs is the variation in wages, working conditions and employment status of those working in the sector.

In relation to wages, while many staff have hourly wages below the living wage, the wages of many staff are already above the living wage. Pobal data indicates that while the average wage in the sector in 2018 was €12.17 per hour, ECCE room leaders on average earned €12.79 per hour, and centre managers on average earned €14.99 per hour.

In relation to employment status, a substantial proportion of centre based services are run by self-employed sole traders, and home-based childminders are all self-employed. Pobal data indicates that there were approximately 29,500 staff working in centre-based services in 2018, of whom nearly 26,000 worked directly with children (with the others in ancillary roles). In addition, however, the sector includes an unknown number of childminders.

Low pay and poor working conditions in the sector are a priority concern for me, given the importance for child outcomes of recruiting and retaining qualified staff and upskilling the workforce, and given the need to recognise the value of the work that is carried out by early learning and care professionals.

I am doing all that is in my power to improve wages and working conditions in the sector. I have repeatedly called for the sector to pursue a Sectoral Employment Order, which offers a viable mechanism to establish appropriate wage levels. My Department will readily co-operate with such a process when it is underway.

In the interim, I have introduced a range of measures to support employers to improve pay and conditions. These include a 7% increase in ECCE capitation in 2018; higher capitation payments for graduates and Inclusion Coordinators; annual Programme Support Payments to recognise administrative demands; support for School-Age Childcare which will make it easier to offer full-time employment contracts; and a pilot measure to fund participation in CPD.

I have set out my vision for the sector, and a roadmap to achieve it, in First 5. First 5 commits to a Workforce Development Plan, to raise the profile of careers in the sector and to ensure sufficient numbers of staff at all levels. The Steering Group for the Workforce Development Plan met for the first time on 30th May, and the Stakeholder Group held its first meeting on 9th July. First 5 also commits to develop a new funding model for the sector, which may open up new mechanisms to influence pay and conditions.

Childcare Services Data

Questions (2524)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

2524. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the value of childcare fees paid in 2017 and 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31611/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

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 fees. The latest Early Years Sector Profile report, which was published in November 2018 and is available on the Pobal website, relates to the 2017/2018 programme year.

In 2017/18, the average weekly fee, per child, for full day care was €177.92. The average weekly fee for part-time childcare was €101.82 and for sessional care it was €68.95. The average weekly childcare fee for full day care increased by €3.76 or 2.2% since 2016/17. The largest increase, year-on-year and over time, was observed for part-time fees, which increased by 3.3% since 16/17 and by over 6% since 2012.

The fees charged by services vary depending on location. Generally, services located in urban areas and in counties on the East coast charge higher fees, while those in rural areas and counties in the Midland, Western and Border regions tend to have lower fees. Table 6.2 provides a county level breakdown of fees by childcare type. As with 16/17, the highest fees were reported in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, where the average weekly fee for full day care was €233.26. This is €55.34 or 31% above the national average.

The majority of counties with higher fees also have more children on waiting lists. This would indicate that higher demand for places is likely to lead to price increases. The lowest average fee for full day care was reported in Longford, at €146.56, which is €31.36 or 18% below the national average. The difference between the highest and lowest fees at county level was €86.70 for full day care; €52.45 for part-time care and €26.34 for sessional care. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown is the most expensive county for all three types of childcare, while Leitrim is the least expensive for part-time childcare and Donegal is the cheapest county for sessional care.

It is worth noting that while there are large differences between average fees between counties, the fees charged by services within counties also vary. For example, the lowest fee reported by a service in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown was €150, while the highest was €308.

Table 6.2 Average weekly fee by county (full day care, part-time and sessional childcare)

County

Full day care

Part-time care

Sessional

Dublin – Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

€233.26

€127.45

€86.26

Cork City

€206.67

€104.27

€68.68

Dublin – Fingal

€206.25

€115.23

€71.44

Dublin – South Dublin

€202.25

€116.92

€72.17

Wicklow

€200.21

€102.47

€71.77

Dublin – Dublin City

€195.79

€115.71

€71.90

Cork County

€192.37

€108.57

€71.06

Meath

€183.52

€100.68

€68.80

Kildare

€181.39

€113.42

€73.59

Kerry

€172.17

€90.24

€62.01

Louth

€172.12

€101.05

€68.69

Westmeath

€167.97

€90.50

€69.45

Donegal

€167.22

€100.98

€59.92

Wexford

€166.34

€97.30

€67.69

Laois

€164.46

€103.04

€66.85

Offaly

€162.00

€102.33

€68.01

Kilkenny

€159.87

€88.61

€66.46

Galway

€159.44

€96.29

€67.33

Limerick

€159.00

€90.12

€67.98

Clare

€157.72

€90.54

€67.50

Waterford

€157.24

€88.94

€61.55

Cavan

€156.94

€91.13

€63.21

Leitrim

€156.54

€75.00

€62.14

Mayo

€156.40

€85.04

€64.26

Tipperary

€155.08

€92.02

€67.33

Sligo

€153.48

€98.47

€74.11

Roscommon

€151.00

€85.55

€63.69

Carlow

€149.53

€84.29

€70.02

Monaghan

€147.97

€80.12

€64.35

Longford

€146.56

€88.68

€63.31

Total

€177.92

€101.82

€68.95

A detailed analysis of childcare fees can be found in chapter 6 of the Pobal Early Years Sector Profile Report 17/18, available at the below link:

https://www.pobal.ie/app/uploads/2018/11/Early-Years-Sector-Profile-Report-2017-2018.pdf.

Child Abuse

Questions (2525)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

2525. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of reports of child sexual abuse concerns under Children First for the 12 month period to the end of quarter 2, 2019; the number for each integrated service area of Tusla for the same period; the number of reports in each area that have completed stage 1 assessment as per the policy and procedure of Tusla for responding to allegations of child abuse in tabular form; the number of reports in each area that have completed stage 2 assessments as per the policy in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31619/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Deputy is asking about an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore written to Tusla and ask that a direct response be provided to the Deputy.

Child Abuse

Questions (2526)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

2526. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of persons subject to an abuse allegation relating to retrospective reports of child sexual abuse concerns under Children First that Tusla has contacted as part of the retrospective report response for the 12 month period to the end of quarter 2, 2019; the number of such persons formally interviewed with respect to the allegation during the period in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31620/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Deputy is asking about an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore written to Tusla and ask that a direct response be provided to the Deputy.

Legislative Reviews

Questions (2527)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

2527. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of reviews carried out by her Department pursuant to Standing Order 164A of Dáil Éireann; the pieces of legislation to which each review refers; the number and title of each piece of legislation in respect of which a review pursuant to Standing Order 164A has not been undertaken; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31624/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Post-enactment reports (pursuant to Standing Order 164A) relating to two pieces of primary legislation have been carried out by my Department.

A report on the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017(No.19) was laid before the Houses on 18th July 2018 and a report on the Children First Act 2015 (No. 36) was laid on 25th April 2018.

While the Childcare Support Act 2018 was enacted on 2nd July 2018, the majority of the provisions of the Act remain un-commenced at this stage. In that context, a review of the functioning of the Act has not yet been undertaken. In accordance with the section 26 of the Act, my Department will conduct a review of the operation of the Scheme 12 months after the first payment under the Scheme.

The following table shows the legislation enacted by my Department prior to the passing of Standing Order 164A (June 2016) where no reviews have been undertaken.

Act Number

Primary Legislation enacted by DCYA

No. 45 of 2015

Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015

No. 30 of 2015

Children (Amendment) Act 2015

No. 5 of 2013

Child Care (Amendment) Act 2013

No. 44 of 2013

Adoption (Amendment) Act 2013

No. 40 of 2013

Child and Family Agency Act 2013

n/a

Thirty-first Amendment of the Constitution Act 2012

No. 19 of 2011

Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011

Adoption Legislation

Questions (2528, 2529)

Joan Collins

Question:

2528. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if Tusla social workers are instructed to inform foster parents who may wish to adopt a child in their care that the category of pre-adoptive care is a legal barrier under the Adoption Act 2010 to them applying to be assessed to adopt their foster child in the best interest of the child. [31749/19]

View answer

Joan Collins

Question:

2529. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if foster parents who wish to adopt their foster child are not being given application forms to adopt; and if these forms are only available from Tusla. [31788/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2528 and 2529 together.

As these are operational matters, I have asked Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to respond directly to the Deputy with the most up-to-date information.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Questions (2530)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

2530. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when she will publish the first report from the collaborative forum of former residents of mother and baby homes in its entirety. [31807/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

When I published the recommendations of the Forum's first report in April 2019, I explained that the full report could not be published at that time because it included commentary and potential evidence on matters which are currently being examined by a statutory Commission of Investigation. The legal advice received from the Attorney General indicated that the report should not be published ahead of the Commission’s final report which is scheduled for February 2020.

I met with members of the Collaborative Forum to explain the position prior to wider public communications on the Government's initial response to the recommendations. I also committed to revisiting the question of publication once the Commission has delivered its report, subject to seeking further advice from the Attorney General.

Family Resource Centres

Questions (2531)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

2531. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the name and locations of the family resource centres that will benefit from the budget increase of €1.5 million in funding for 2019, in tabular form; the amount which has been allocated to each centre in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31856/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

In 2019, additional funding of €1.5m was secured for Family Resource Centres. Earlier this year I announced that the additional funding is to be used to:

- increase core funding to each of the 110 Family Resource Centres which existed pre-2018 by 5%;

- employ an additional 17 Family Support Workers, where one Family Resource Centre in each of the 17 Tusla geographical areas will receive funding to employ a Family Support Worker; and

- fund the Family Resource Centre Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Promotion Programme.

I have requested Tusla to provide the 110 Family Resource Centres which existed pre-2018 with their core funding increase by end July 2019.

In regard to the employment of 17 Family Support Workers in Tusla's 17 geographical areas, Tusla has advised that Family Resource Centres have been asked to submit expressions of interest regarding the recruitment and management of a Family Support Worker. Following an analysis of the expressions of interest and other relevant data, Tusla local management will make recommendations to Tusla senior management.

Tusla has informed my Department that Family Resource Centres will be notified of the decision regarding the allocation of Family Support Workers in August. The successful Family Resource Centres will be responsible for the recruitment of Family Support Workers to fill the identified vacancies.

As the allocation of funding to individual Family Resource Centres is an operational matter for Tusla, I have requested Tusla to provide the Deputy with the specific information requested.

Adoption Data

Questions (2532)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

2532. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of birth mothers who placed their children for adoption who were widowed or married; the number of birth mothers who had more than one child placed for adoption; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31857/19]

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 the Authority for a direct reply.

Childcare Services

Questions (2533)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

2533. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to a reduction in the level of service provided to parents in a childcare provider (details supplied) in Dublin 22 and the potentially negative consequence that this reduction will have on parents ability to secure appropriate childcare in the Dublin 22 area; and the role her Department or Tusla can play in resolving the issues involved to ensure the reduction in service in reversed. [31862/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

All service providers are obliged to comply with the relevant childcare regulations as set out in the Child Care Act 1991 as amended by the Child and Family Agency Act 2013.

Also, 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 important to note that childcare service providers are private enterprises and therefore my Department is not in a position to comment on a private tendering process. My Department is not the owner/employer of Early Years or After School services; they are private businesses and their opening hours are a private matter.

I would encourage any parents experiencing difficulties with any aspect of service provision to contact their local City or County Childcare Committee for assistance. Contact details for all of the CCCs are available at myccc.ie.

Childcare Services

Questions (2534)

Seán Haughey

Question:

2534. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if transport is provided directly or indirectly for preschool children attending crèches, Montessori schools and community early learning centres, including children with special needs and intellectual disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32007/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department's childcare funding programmes do not include funding for transport for Early Years children.

However, my Department does provide funding towards transport for afterschool childcare places under the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) and After-School Childcare (ASCC) programmes. These programmes can include the child being transported to school (drop-off) and from school (pick up) by the service.

Irish Language

Questions (2535)

John Curran

Question:

2535. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to introduce the Irish language into the ECCE education programme for all children participating in same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32037/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I am conscious of the value of supporting the provision of services in the Irish language to children at an early age, and of the role pre-schools can play in promoting Irish as a living language.

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme provides early childhood care and education for children of pre-school age. It is a universal two-year pre-school programme available to all children within the eligible age range, providing children with their first formal experience of early learning prior to commencing primary school.

A Naíonra is a playgroup run through Irish for children (aged 3-5 years), who attend daily for 2-3 hours, under the guidance and supervision of a Stiúrthóir (Leader). As of July 2019, Pobal confirmed that there are 243 childcare services that identify as Naíonraí on the PIP system. Of these 243 services, 236 provide ECCE services. Since the start of the current programme year a total of 7,515 children have registered for ECCE at these services.

My Department has collaborated with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in agreeing a comprehensive set of actions under the 5 Year Action Plan for the Irish Language 2018-2022. The aim of these actions is to build on existing measures, supports and partnerships in the area of Irish-medium early years education and further improve supports and services.

These actions include the provision of information and supports on childcare to parents who are raising their children through Irish, the creation of two Irish language posts within my Department, and the establishment of a baseline of supports for naíonraí that will inform future policy plans on how best to support and facilitate those early learning and care facilities wishing to provide their service through Irish.

Childcare Costs

Questions (2536)

John Curran

Question:

2536. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that despite the various schemes and grants, crèche fees in Dublin are increasing; the steps and actions she can take to ensure that fee increases in crèches that receive State funding only increase at a moderate rate in line with inflation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32198/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The prices that Early Learning and Care providers charge are set by each service individually. A percentage of services’ fees lists in each local authority area are reviewed by the corresponding City and County Childcare Committee against the rules of the relevant DCYA funding schemes to monitor compliance. For example, in the case of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, no additional charges can be required of parents for the funded hours of service. With the Training and Employment Childcare Scheme (TEC), there is a maximum parental contribution which can be levied. Other funding schemes, where the provision of Early Learning and Care services is not fully funded by my Department, do not have specific fee controls. My Department does however track the average cost of provision each year in each county.

Through the National Childcare Scheme 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 National Childcare Scheme, 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. There are no fee caps within the National Childcare Scheme, however it will establish a sustainable platform to enable us to continue investing for years to come. 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.

First 5, the whole-of-government strategy for babies, young children and their families published in November 2018 sets out Government's intention to develop an appropriate mechanism to control fees charged to parents for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare services in return for increased State investment in affordability, quality and sustainability as part of the reform of the funding model. An Expert Group to lead the development of a new funding model will shortly be appointed and begin its work later this year. A key priority for the Expert Group will be to make recommendations for a mechanism to control fee rates for different types of provision for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare. This is a complex piece of work and is likely to take a number of years to complete.

I will continue to monitor this situation closely in the coming months in the lead up to the introduction of the National Childcare Scheme this autumn. I will continue to seek investment in other initiatives in Early Learning and Care, and School-Age Childcare to further address access, affordability and quality.

Childcare Services

Questions (2537, 2538)

Bríd Smith

Question:

2537. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of parents on the community childcare subvention, CCS, scheme and the childcare education and training scheme, CETS, who will be affected negatively by the national childcare scheme. [32202/19]

View answer

Bríd Smith

Question:

2538. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to ensure that the national childcare scheme will not result in new entrants who would qualify under the community childcare subvention, CCS, scheme and the childcare education and training scheme, CETS, paying more than existing users. [32203/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2537 and 2538 together.

Through the National Childcare Scheme 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 National Childcare Scheme, 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.

The National Childcare Scheme will ultimately replace the current targeted childcare subsidy schemes which are no longer fit for purpose in the context of our current efforts to support access to education and employment, and to reduce poverty. However, these schemes remain open to parents until the end of October. Anyone availing of one of these schemes at that point can choose to either switch over to the national Childcare Scheme or can remain on their current subsidy payment until at least the end of August 2020. No-one will lose out in the initial transition to the new scheme and many will be better off.

In addition, I have asked my officials to undertake further analysis to identify if any refinements are required to the NCS in order to ensure that we fully achieve our aim to deliver quality, accessible, affordable childcare for families in Ireland and to examine all options that may be available for the small number of cases where people could receive a smaller subsidy under the National Childcare Scheme than they currently receive under the existing schemes.

The National Childcare Scheme 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. In this way, it aims to combat the poverty traps which may exist within the existing schemes, and to appropriately incentivise employment and education / training for parents. Many parents will see an increase to the level of subsidy they currently receive.

From the perspective of one particular cohort, the Deputy might note the OECD's 2017 Faces of Joblessness report compared the child care supports for lone parents previously available in Ireland with the expected impact of the National Childcare Scheme.

It found significant improvement for lone parents. It found for example, that for certain lower paid lone parents working full time, the Scheme will bring net child care costs down from being the highest across the OECD, to 11th highest.

By making this shift and by tangibly reducing the cost of quality childcare, the Scheme aims to improve children's outcomes, support lifelong learning, incentivise employment and education / training 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.

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. 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.

Childcare Costs

Questions (2539)

Bríd Smith

Question:

2539. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to stop childcare providers increasing their fees under the national childcare scheme; and if a cap will be put on prices. [32204/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The prices that Early Learning and Care providers charge are set by each service individually. A percentage of services’ fees lists in each local authority area are reviewed by the corresponding City and County Childcare Committee against the rules of the relevant DCYA funding schemes to monitor compliance. For example, in the case of the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme, no additional charges can be required of parents for the funded hours of service. With the current Training and Employment Childcare Scheme (TEC), there is a maximum parental contribution which can be levied. Other funding schemes, where the provision of Early Learning and Care services is not fully funded by my Department, do not have specific fee controls. My Department does however carefully track the average cost of provision each year in each county and this is reported on annually.

Through the National Childcare Scheme and a range of other measures, I am committed to changing Ireland’s system for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare from one of the most expensive in the world to one of the very best. In designing the National Childcare Scheme, 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. There are no fee caps within the National Childcare Scheme, however it will establish a sustainable platform to enable us to continue investing for years to come. 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.

Ireland's Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare services operate within a market model. Data is available to indicate that fees have risen by approximately 8% over a 6 year period. Many factors impact on the fee level charged by services. Competition levels are one important factor. The number of Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare places have grown significantly in recent years in response to demand. The National Childcare Scheme should result in existing services continuing to expand and new services being established. The identification of childcare as a strategic priority in the National Development Plan and the commitment of €250m in capital funding will also assist in building capacity. In the coming weeks, The Department will launch plans for the development of childminding in this country so that more childminders can access the National Childcare Scheme and its subsidies. All these measures should collectively improve access, affordability and quality.

First 5, the whole-of-government strategy for babies, young children and their families published in November 2018 sets out Government's intention to develop an appropriate mechanism to control fees charged to parents for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare services in return for increased State investment in affordability, quality and sustainability as part of the reform of the funding model. An Expert Group to lead the development of a new funding model will shortly be appointed and begin its work later this year. A key priority for the Expert Group will be to make recommendations for a mechanism to control fee rates for different types of provision for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare. This is a complex piece of work and is likely to take a number of years to bring to fruition.

I will continue to monitor fee levels closely in the coming months in the lead up to the introduction of the National Childcare Scheme this autumn. I will continue to seek investment in other initiatives in Early Learning and Care, and School-Age Childcare to further address access, affordability and quality.

Consultancy Contracts Data

Questions (2540)

Shane Cassells

Question:

2540. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of external consultant reports commissioned by her Department in each of the years March 2011 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the cost of same; the company involved; and the title and publication date by report in tabular form. [32242/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department is currently compiling the information requested and will revert to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (2541)

Shane Cassells

Question:

2541. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the photography costs for her Department in each year since March 2011, including costs incurred from use of the ministerial allowance; the occasions for which photographers were booked; the photographers used; the costs associated with each occasion that a photographer was used in tabular form; if there is a policy regarding the booking of photographers within her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32259/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Details of the costs incurred on photography by my Department since its establishment are set out in tabular form.

Date

Photographer Used

Event/Occasion Photographer was booked for

Cost (€)

2011

Report Ltd

Report on consultations with young people on Reform of the Junior Cycle in 2nd level schools

590.20

2011

Report Ltd

Report of consultations with children living in the care of the State.

590.20

2011

Moya Nolan Photography

Dáil na nÓg Event

820.00

2012

Report Ltd

How we see it: Report of a survey on Teenagers Body Image

436.97

2012

Report Ltd

Life as a Child and Young Person in Ireland

493.72

2012

Report Ltd

Comhairle na Óg National Showcase

828.55

2012

MKC Communications

Children’s Referendum Information

1,094.70

2012

Unavailable (sourced via D/Foreign Affairs)

Photography associated with visit of Vietnamese Delegation

1,409.22

2013

Report Ltd

Standards for Local Youth Groups

436.97

2013

Moya Nolan Photography

EU Presidency International Conference

675.00

2013

Moya Nolan Photography

Dublin Castle Networking of Four Youth Organisations

500.00

2013

Moya Nolan Photography

Launch of Board of Child and Family Agency

300.00

2013

Fennel Photography

Dáil na nÓg Event

1,094.70

2014

Lafayette Photography

Launch of Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures

189.80

2014

Maxwell Photography

CNN Showcase

522.75

2016

Maxwells Photography

Comhairle na nÓg Showcase

528.90

2017

Maxwell Photography

Launch of the Affordable Childcare Scheme

430.50

2017

Maxwell Photography

International Women’s Day

482.16

2017

Maxwell Photography

Childcare Billboard Launch

361.62

2017

Maxwell Photography

Kilnamanagh FRC

578.10

2017

Maxwells Photography

Dáil na nÓg Event

528.90

2018

Maxwell Photography

Launch of First 5

867.15

2018

Maxwell Photography

AIM Launch

430.50

2018

Maxwell Photography

Appointment of Gaisce Chairman

375.15

2018

Maxwell Photography

National Parents Council

116.85

2018

Maxwell Photography

Launch of LGBTI+ Strategy

430.50

2018

Maxwell Photography

Scouting Ireland Statement

430.50

2018

Lafayette Photography

First meeting of Mother and Baby Homes Collaborative Forum

120.88

2018

SON Photography

CNN Showcase

430.50

2019

Maxwell Photography

Mother & Baby Homes Collaborative Forum

430.50

2019

Maxwell Photography

Announcement of new Tusla chairperson

467.40

2019

Maxwell Photography

Dublin Port

301.35

2019

Maxwell Photography

LGBTI+ Welcome Sticker Awards Show

264.45

2019

Maxwell Photography

Launch of the National Childcare Scheme

492.50

2019

W1 Design Ltd

Launch of What Works

500.00

The Deputy might note that the Office of Government Procurement has a Multi Supplier Framework Agreement for the Provision of Professional Photography and Videography Services in place and my Department acquires photography services from this. The overall objective is to keep costs of this nature to a minimum and these services are only used when deemed necessary in the course of Departmental activity.

Departmental Legal Costs

Questions (2542)

Shane Cassells

Question:

2542. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the expenditure incurred in respect of external legal fees in each year since March 2011, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32276/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Expenditure on external legal fees incurred by my Department since its establishment is set out in tabular form.

Year

Cost (€)

2011

34,412

2012

16,692

2013

392,182

2014

234,693

2015

152,978

2016

253,492

2017

395,371

2018

1,060,770

2019 (ytd)

455,720

Expenditure on legal fees increased in 2013 and 2014 due to cases arising from the Children’s Referendum 2012. Over 50% of the fees incurred in 2018 represent cases where my Department was under court order to pay claimants' costs. In addition, regular legal fees relating to the work being undertaken by the Supervisory and Documentary Counsel to identify the relevance and privilege status of files requested by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation have been incurred by my Department since 2016.

As a result, annual fees charged by the State Claims Agency, who manage liability on behalf of the State, has also increased over these years.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (2543)

Shane Cassells

Question:

2543. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the expenditure incurred in external information technology costs in each year since March 2011, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32293/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Expenditure on external information technology incurred directly by the Department is set out in tabular form.

2011

€19,575.43

2012

€100,589.50

2013

€100,426.35

2014

€134,362.82

2015

€231,339.75

2016

€691,340.42

2017

€874,099.43

2018

€4,673,632.00

The Deputy may wish to note the IT costs for the period 2011-2014 is primarily the costs associated with the direct running of the department.

The increased spend from 2016 onwards represents costs associated with the development of the new National Childcare Scheme and a case management system for Oberstown Children Detention Centre.

Protected Disclosures Data

Questions (2544)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

2544. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of protected disclosures for which she has engaged an external consultancy and or legal firm since 2014 to date; the name of the firms engaged; the year and the costs associated with engaging the consultancy and or legal firms in respect of protected disclosures; the way in which persons are protected in cases in which an external consultancy firm is engaged in respect of protected disclosures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32393/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department engaged the services of a consultant, Mr Paul Snell, in one protected disclosure case since 2014 to date. The total cost associated with this consultancy was €13,530.75.My Department is committed to fostering a supportive environment for receiving protected disclosures under the 2014 Act to ensure that disclosers are confident that they can speak up about wrongdoing without fear of reprisals. In this context, my Department follows the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s Guidance under section 21(1) of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and its key principles that:

- all disclosures of relevant wrongdoing in the workplace should, as a matter of routine, be the subject of an appropriate assessment and / or investigation

- the identity of the discloser should be adequately protected and provided that the worker discloses information relating to wrongdoing, in an appropriate manner, and based on a reasonable belief, no question of penalisation should arise.

Penalisation of workers who make a disclosure will not be tolerated and workers who feel that they are being subjected to adverse treatment are encouraged to report the matter immediately to management. If it is found following any such notifications that penalisation has occurred appropriate action will be taken and may include disciplinary action against supervisors and co-workers etc where necessary. These principles and safeguards apply in all cases of disclosures and any consultants engaged would be obliged to adhere to them.