I propose to take Questions Nos. 572 and 575 together.
I thank the Deputy for his question.
Tusla, The Child and Family Agency, is the dedicated State agency responsible for improving well-being and outcomes for children. Tusla’s primary objective is to perform the most comprehensive reform of child protection, early intervention and family support services.
All child protection and welfare concerns reported to my Department are referred directly to Tusla for their appropriate attention. Cases of neglect or risk are managed in line with Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children. HIQA, in their inspections of Tusla child protection services, verify that Tusla act appropriately in cases where it becomes known that a child is at immediate risk. The reports also provide evidence of very dedicated professionals, working in a challenging environment.
Children who appear to be in a situation of immediate risk may also have involvement with both An Garda Síochána and Tusla. These agencies work together in some cases. Tusla, when alerted to a child at immediate risk, such as a young child left alone at home or abandoned, will contact AGS if the child needs to be removed from that situation.
Tusla provides me with data on referrals, children in care, their placement type, care status and allocation of social workers. This information provides statistical evidence of improvements to child welfare and protection services and highlights challenges and areas where further improvement is required. This data is published by Tusla both on a monthly and quarterly basis. In September 2019, the most recent date for which figures are available, Tusla received 4,903 child protection and welfare referrals. Of these, 858 were mandated reports, which constituted 17% of the total referrals received.
In addition Tusla has statutory responsibility for the care and protection of victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV). This includes, but is not limited to, violence experienced in the family home.
Tusla provides funding to 59 organisations nationwide that provide front-line services to individuals and families. This includes funding for emergency accommodation for individuals and families experiencing domestic violence; specialist counselling; advice and court accompaniment services; childcare for children affected by domestic violence; specialist programmes for children affected by domestic violence; and front-line sexual violence services to adults and young people.
Additional funding of €1.5 million was provided to DSGBV services in 2019. This includes funding for 12 additional outreach workers for women and children affected by domestic violence in identified areas of need, the national roll out of a healing programme for children who have been impacted by domestic abuse, and the opening of a new domestic violence refuge in South Dublin.
Both Tusla and my Department are committed to overcoming the significant issues faced by families affected by domestic and sexual violence, which is experienced by all sectors of society. Tusla continues to work with stakeholders in streamlining and enhancing front line service provision to assist victims in the most effective and efficient way.