Tourism Data

Questions (971)

John Curran

Question:

971. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of UK tourists that came here in each of the years 2011 to 2018 and to date in 2019; his plans to ensure that the number of tourists from the UK does not decrease; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45391/19]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Using data from the CSO and other sources, Fáilte Ireland publishes estimates of the number of tourists coming to Ireland from both Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The aggregate estimates for 2011 to 2018 are as follows:

Year (000's)

2011 6,230

2012 6,033

2013 6,455

2014 6,729

2015 6,853

2016 7,006

2017 6,777

2018 6,836

(2019 year to date estimates are not available).

The initial impact of the Brexit referendum for tourism saw a reduction of 5% in the number of tourists coming from Britain in 2017 (compared to 2016) on foot of the depreciation in Sterling. The GB market was steady in 2018, with the number of visits up marginally up compared to 2017. To date in 2019, the number of GB visitors remains steady, but is still down when compared to 2016.

Brexit has been a major factor in my Department’s planning for some time now, particularly given the importance of Britain as a key source market for tourism.

In 2019 the Government allocated almost €8 million in additional funding to the tourism agencies specifically to respond to the impact of Brexit. In addition, I was pleased to secure a €7 million supplementary budget for the tourism agencies for the remainder of 2019 to mitigate the on-going effects of Brexit uncertainty.

This additional funding has enabled Tourism Ireland to put in place a programme of marketing activity, post-Brexit research, and stakeholder information to ensure that potential visitors in relevant markets fully appreciate that it is "business as usual" for Ireland and the Irish tourism industry. Tourism Ireland also concluded a wide-ranging review of the British market in early 2019 and implemented its new market strategy for growth in the GB market in June.

Fáilte Ireland is supporting tourism enterprises to respond to the impact of Brexit. The ‘Get Brexit Ready’ programme is helping businesses to assess the risk and respond to changes and will also assist the sector in diversifying into other markets. Fáilte Ireland’s work is focusing primarily on border counties and the South East region which have been most adversely affected by the drop in the value of sterling. It is also taking action to promote domestic holidays to visitors from Northern Ireland.

Tourism is a sector that has already been impacted by Brexit and in that regard my Department and the tourism agencies continue to monitor the situation closely, working with our industry colleagues here and our trade partners and carriers in the markets.

Budget 2020

Questions (972)

John Curran

Question:

972. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the level of funding he has requested in budget 2020 to improve Dublin Bus services for customers in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45396/19]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

In Budget 2020, I secured an overall allocation of €1 billion to fund public and sustainable transport projects. This includes funding for approximately 127 diesel/electric hybrid buses for the Dublin Bus fleet. 32 of these buses are additional buses and the remainder will improve the environmental performance of the bus fleet by replacing older buses.

Since 2010, my Department no longer pays subvention for public transport services directly to operators. The award of public service obligation (PSO) funding falls under the independent statutory remit of the National Transport Authority (NTA). The allocations to the companies are decided by the NTA in exercise of its statutory mandate and, in accordance with the various contract arrangements that it has in place with PSO service providers. The increased funding that I have secured over recent Budgets will enhance and improve the experiences of the travelling public in 2020 and beyond.

Budget 2020

Questions (973)

John Curran

Question:

973. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of additional buses that will be provided in Dublin in 2020 resulting from budget 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45397/19]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area, including bus fleet procurement.

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

Road Network

Questions (974)

John Curran

Question:

974. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the emergency vehicle breakdown and recovery plans in place in view of the traffic congestion caused by breakdowns and accidents on the M50; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45403/19]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the operation and management of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Noting the above position, I have referred your question to TII for a direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Departmental Correspondence

Questions (975, 976, 977, 978)

Alan Kelly

Question:

975. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide a copy of all correspondence between him or the Secretary General of his Department, his private secretary or the assistant secretary in charge of sport or the principal officers or assistant principal officers in the sports capital section and his advisers (details supplied) from July 2019 to 31 October 2019. [45419/19]

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Alan Kelly

Question:

976. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide a copy of all correspondence, notes, reports and briefings brought to the management board meetings and-or the ministerial management board meetings of his Department on sports capital funding since 1 January 2017. [45420/19]

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Alan Kelly

Question:

977. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide a copy of all correspondence, notes, reports, briefings and emails between the Secretary General of his Department and-or the assistant secretary for sport and-or the sports capital division regarding sports capital allocations from 1 January 2017. [45421/19]

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Alan Kelly

Question:

978. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the details of each meeting he has had with the Minister of State with special responsibility for tourism and sport regarding the sports capital programme since 1 July 2017; and the attendees, minutes and notes of each meeting to date. [45422/19]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 975 to 978, inclusive, together.

The information sought by the Deputy will require an extensive examination of a very large volume of records to cover the period in question. Therefore, in accordance with Standing Order 42A, a more detailed reply will be furnished to the Deputy within 10 working days.

Question No. 979 answered with Question No. 964.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (980)

Micheál Martin

Question:

980. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans for an economic impact assessment of the current withdrawal treaty on trade and other economic metrics under the auspices of her Department and agencies under her remit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44269/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Department of Finance have advised that they will provide a response to this PQ regarding the broad economic impact based on published economic studies. Therefore this question is more properly directed at my colleague the Minister for Finance.

Child and Family Agency Funding

Questions (981)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

981. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if adequate funding will be provided to an organisation (details supplied) that receives its main funding from Tusla; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44310/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Barnardos provide a range of services for children and families in Ireland, including family support, therapeutic services, school completion programmes and counselling services. These services are available in 24 locations around Ireland.

In 2018, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, provided funding of €8.596 million to Barnardos. Final funding figures are not yet available for 2019.

Prevention and early intervention has been a key priority for me during my time as Minister. My Department has funded and supported several important prevention and early intervention programmes, including Tusla's Prevention, Partnership and Family Support (PPFS) Programme and the Area Based Childhood (ABC) Programme in which Barnardos is involved.

I highly value the work that Barnardos does in providing supports and services to vulnerable children, young people and families. Tusla values the work of Barnardos and will continue to consult with Barnardos regarding potential funding for 2020.

Child Abuse Reports

Questions (982)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

982. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the date on which a report by a person (details supplied) will be furnished to her Department; if the report will be made public; if her Department has been involved in the creation of the report; if her attention has been drawn to the number of cases being investigated by the person for the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44390/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Deputy will be aware that the individual in question has undertaken, or is undertaking, a number of projects for the commissioning organisation.

In August 2012 a full review was undertaken of all files relating to cases involving the inappropriate actions of adult volunteers in the specified organisations. The files related to child abuse and many other behavioural issues with adult volunteers of the time.

The purpose of this review was to look at each file to ensure there was no volunteer currently active in the commissioning organisation was named in a legacy files. A secondary objective was to ensure that where there was a reportable offence that all necessary reporting had been done by the legacy organisation.

No volunteers active in the commissioning organisation in 2012 were found to be named in the legacy files. It was unclear from five files as to whether incidents had been reported to the relevant authorities and the commissioning organisation brought these files to the attention of An Garda Síochána.

A second report into historical child sex abuse in the commissioning organisation in Ireland is currently being completed by the individual in question on behalf of the commissioning organisation. The purpose of this report is to set out the evidence which has emerged in recent times, the actions taken by the organisations and the learnings as it seeks to continuously improve its safeguarding. This report is due in February 2020.

This work is commissioned by, and provided to, the commissioning body, and while an integral part of this process is to keep my Department informed of ongoing developments, my Department is not involved in the creation of the reports.

Childcare Costs

Questions (983)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

983. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the practice by which crèches are charging the full fees for children who are attending an ECCE course in their local naíolann Gaelach and also attending the local crèche for the rest of the day, which is making it more expensive for parents whose children attend a crèche part time in order to enable them to learn the Irish language than it is for those who attend full time in circumstances in which the ECCE grant is rebated from the fees; if so, her plans to take steps to deal with same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44466/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Services who have signed a grant funding agreement to provide any of my Department's childcare funding programmes must have their fees list, for all approved funding programmes, clearly displayed in an area accessible to parents/guardians. Pobal compliance inspectors, who carry out unannounced inspections of service providers, check that the approved fees list is clearly displayed and that it indicates the full childcare fees for the service as well as the reduced childcare fees taking account of any approved funding based on the relevant programme.

It must be noted that my Department is not the owner/employer of Early Years services; they are private businesses and their policy on fees relating to levels of service not funded by my Department, including full time and part time care, are a matter between the service provider and the individual parent.

I would urge any parent/guardian who believes that their fee is not accurately reflected on their service's fees list to contact their local City/County Childcare Committee (CCC) as a matter of urgency. All CCC contact details are available at the following link: https://myccc.ie/where-is-my-nearest-ccc

Childcare Services Staff

Questions (984)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

984. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on whether there is a staffing crisis in the childcare sector; the steps she is taking to address same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44513/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I am acutely aware of the difficulties that many early learning and care services report in recruiting and retaining qualified staff, and the high rate of staff turnover in the sector. In Pobal’s latest Early Years Sector Profile Report (2017/2018), the staff turnover rate stood at 24.7% which, despite a 3% improvement on the previous year, was unsustainably high. However, data from previous years suggests that only half of those contained in the 24.7% figure have left the sector, with the other half joining other services.

Low pay and poor working conditions in the sector remain a serious concern and impact on the quality of provision to children through their effect on the recruitment and retention of qualified staff. The lack of consistency of care caused by high staff turnover impacts directly on quality, while low wages are a constraint on plans to upskill and professionalise the workforce. The most recent data on pay and conditions indicates that the average hourly pay in early learning and care and school-age childcare is now €12.55 (as of May 2019), which represents a 3% increase on last year.

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. I am, however, doing all that is in my power to improve wages and working conditions in the sector. My support for improved pay and conditions for early learning and care professionals has been explicit, as their role is critical to supporting children’s development and delivering better outcomes for children and families.

Budget 2020 saw a 9% increase in investment in early learning and care and school age childcare. Additional investment of €54.5m will bring spending to €628m in 2020, a 138% increase in investment over five budgets. The very welcome level of investment needs to continue if we are to offer services that are of high quality, affordable and accessible. However, increased investment by itself will not ensure that staff wages and conditions will improve.

My Department has set out its vision for the sector, and a roadmap to achieve it, in First 5 the whole-of-Government strategy for babies, young children and their families. First 5 recognises that the workforce is at the heart of high-quality early learning and care and school-age childcare and seeks to build ‘an appropriately skilled and sustainable professional workforce that is supported and valued and reflects the diversity of babies, young children and their families’.

In particular, 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 within the sector. The Workforce Development Plan, work on which began recently, will set out plans to raise the profile of careers in the sector, establishing role profiles, career pathways, qualifications requirements, and associated policy mechanisms along with leadership development opportunities and work towards a more gender-balanced and diverse workforce.

Preparation of the Workforce Development Plan will involve close collaboration between the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Education and Skills, and an extensive consultation process. To help ensure a strong consultation process, a Stakeholder Group comprising representatives from across the sector has been formed and will work alongside the Steering Group.

Delivering on a further commitment in First 5, I have also recently appointed an expert group to examine the current model of funding for early learning and care and school-age childcare and its effectiveness in delivering quality, affordable, sustainable and inclusive services. The Expert Group is independently chaired and includes national and international experts in early learning and care systems, funding and quality, economics, and policy experts from a number of Government Departments.

In Budget 2020, I secured increased funding for the sustainability fund for the sector. This will see funding to support sustainability rising from €1.7m to €2.2m per annum. The fund will assist high quality services which are experiencing financial difficulties to transition themselves to a sustainable footing, and will also assist with needs arising in the event that the Labour Court introduces a Sectoral Employment Order, which I have repeatedly called for the sector to pursue. My Department will readily co-operate with such a process when it is under way.

Other recent measures I have taken to assist employers to improve the pay and conditions of their staff whilst also addressing administrative demands 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, full-year employment contracts; and a pilot measure to fund participation in CPD. In April I announced capital funding for service providers who sign up to the National Childcare Scheme. This funding allowed service providers to purchase ICT support which will assist them in recording and reporting children’s attendance.

Child Abuse

Questions (985)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

985. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if Tusla is providing funding for the provision of counselling to persons who have raised issues with an organisation (details supplied) in respect of historic cases of abuse; if so, the funding provided to date; the number of persons in receipt of funding; the length of time into the future the funding is being provided for; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44526/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Deputy is referring to an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore referred the matter to Tusla, and asked that a direct response be provided to the Deputy.

Legal Proceedings

Questions (986)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

986. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of cases of legal action her Department has been informed of that are being taken against an organisation (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44527/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department is aware that there are a number of legal cases pending against the specified organisation. As neither myself as Minister nor my Department are named in these cases we do not have precise details as to the number and nature of these cases, nor would it be appropriate to comment further as the cases are still in process.

Foster Care Expenditure

Questions (987)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

987. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the fees paid to private fostering agencies by Tusla since its establishment in 2014; the names of the private agencies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44570/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Deputy is referring to an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore referred the matter to Tusla, and asked that a direct response be provided to the Deputy.

Children in Care

Questions (988)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

988. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children in the care of private fostering agencies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44571/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Deputy is referring to an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore referred the matter to Tusla, and asked that a direct response be provided to the Deputy.

Early Childhood Care and Education Data

Questions (989, 990, 991)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

989. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 519 of 13 November 2018, the status of quality enhancements that were promised for the 2019-20 ECCE programme year to improve the roll out of higher capitation payments; the steps that have been taken by Pobal to address the delays in 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44645/19]

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Seán Sherlock

Question:

990. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 544 of 13 November 2018, the average turnaround times for applications for ECCE higher capitation payments in Pobal in each year since the higher capitation scheme came into operation; the number of applications received each year; the number of applications approved each year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44646/19]

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Seán Sherlock

Question:

991. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 544 of 13 November 2018, the number of ECCE higher capitation applications lodged in the week the application system went live in August 2019 that are still awaiting approval; the reason some of the applications are still to be approved by Pobal in cases in which applicants have provided all of the requisite documentation; if her attention has been drawn to the serious impact this delay is having on providers that are unable to pay staff; if the payments will be expedited without further delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44647/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 989 to 991, inclusive, together.

I am aware of the distress and inconvenience caused by delays in the processing of ECCE Higher Capitation applications, and my Department has taken action to provide additional preliminary payments to affected services in order to minimise the negative impacts. Officials in my Department are also working with Pobal to ensure that outstanding applications are processed as fast as possible and to remedy the causes of the delays.

In addition, officials in my Department are in the process of finalising a Focused Policy Assessment of the ECCE Higher Capitation payments, which includes analysis of administrative procedures used in the processing of applications. It is hoped that this report, once finalised, will inform decisions on how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Higher Capitation payments.

While I must stress that the delays in the payments are not acceptable, it is important to note that part of the reason for the delays is the large and rising volume of applications, linked to the rising number of graduates working in the sector, which is a reflection of the success of the Higher Capitation payments in supporting the professionalization of the early learning and care workforce. The proportion of ECCE services receiving Higher Capitation payments rose from 20% of services in the 2012-13 programme year to 53% of services in 2018-19. The number of applications has increased significantly in recent years, from 1,562 in 2015-16 to 2,785 in 2018-19. At the same time the proportion of applications approved rose from 83% to 97%. The number of applications approved therefore more than doubled in this 3-year period, from 1,301 in 2015-16 to 2,693 in 2018-19.

So far (as of 4th November) in the 2019-20 programme year, Pobal have received 2,299 applications, of which 790 have been approved and 2 declined. Of the applications that have not yet been approved or declined, Pobal is actively engaging with a large number of services in relation to their applications. The number of applications is expected to continue rising over the coming months.

A significant administrative reform took place in mid-2018, with the transfer of administration of the Higher Capitation from my Department to Pobal, thus completing the transitioning of administration of the ECCE programme to Pobal, and enabling early learning and care providers to conduct all business relating to the ECCE programme with one agent.

On 19th August 2019, Pobal issued an announcement to services through the PIP system informing them of the Higher Capitation application timelines for the 2019-20 programme year. Regrettably these timelines resulted in a start date which was later than had been indicated the previous year and was due to a combination of resourcing issues and a delay in closing off the 2018/2019 programme year. I understand the frustration the timelines and delays have caused.

Pobal officials began processing applications for the programme year 2019/2020 in October 2019, in line with the announced schedule. Pobal is currently processing a large volume of applications, and is working to approve applications and release funding as soon as possible.

Considering the significant pressure on services, my Department has made the decision that early learning and care providers whose applications have not yet been processed and who were also in receipt of the first preliminary payment on 23rd August 2019, would receive an additional preliminary payment on 1st November 2019. This payment was for a four-week period that will take early learning and care providers to 20th October 2019. The payment was based on a child’s Full Time Equivalent (FTE) numbers for the week ending 18th November 2019 using the max FTE cap for services which were approved for Higher Capitation last year.

A further preliminary payment will be made on 8th November 2019 for any early learning and care service providers whose application has still not been processed at that stage. This payment will be for a four week period that will take early learning and care service providers to the 22nd November 2019. Early learning and care service providers who had not previously been approved for the Higher Capitation rate but have submitted an application for the 2019/2020 programme year, that has not been processed, received a preliminary payment on 29th October 2019. This payment was for an eight week period. An additional preliminary payment will also be made to these services on 8th November and this payment will be for a four week period.

For any Higher Capitation application or payment queries, service providers are recommended to contact highercap@pobal.ie who are best placed to advise on these matters.