Childcare Services

Questions (540)

Joan Collins

Question:

540. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he will address a matter in relation to renovation works at a crèche (details supplied). [6629/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School-Age Childcare (SAC) services, other than those which provide the pre-school ECCE programme only, are currently open for the children of essential workers and vulnerable children.

Parents who are seeking childcare will receive support and advice from the national network of County Childcare Committees (CCCs), which are funded by my Department. The CCCs are currently maintaining lists of vacancies in their local areas and are providing a matching service for the parents of eligible children and childcare services with vacancies in the appropriate age group.

Parents can find contact details of their local CCC on www.myccc.ie.

Domestic Violence Refuges Provision

Question No. 543 answered with Question No. 531.

Questions (541, 542)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

541. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the location in counties Cavan and Monaghan in which victims of domestic violence can seek refuge accommodation during the Covid-19 pandemic in the absence of domestic refuge spaces. [6730/21]

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Niamh Smyth

Question:

542. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the additional supports being put in place in County Cavan to support victims of domestic violence on a long-term basis; if his Department will review the need for a dedicated refuge in this county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6731/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 541 and 542 together.

Tusla currently provides support, coordination and funding to almost 60 organisations around the country that deliver front line services to victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV). Tusla continues to provide funding to DSGBV service providers during the current pandemic, in line with agreed service arrangements.

I have requested Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy with regard to the location in which victims of domestic violence from counties Cavan and Monaghan can seek refuge accommodation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Question No. 543 answered with Question No. 531.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Questions (544)

Martin Browne

Question:

544. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the reason many survivors have yet to receive their copies of the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes; his knowledge of the circumstances that led to some aspects of the report being leaked to the media; his views on the detrimental impact that these issues as well as the deletion of survivors’ recorded accounts have had on the survivors’ trust in the process of attaining further clarity on their histories in the time to come; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6754/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

A printed hard copy of the Final Report of the Commission is being made available to any survivor who wishes to have one, at no cost, by my Department. On the 13 January, my Department issued an email to our contact list of survivors and advocates and posted a notice on our website, outlining how survivors and their advocates could secure a copy of the report. My Department can be contacted at 01-6473200 or by emailing motherandbabyhomes@equality.gov.ie.

The Report was published in digital format in the first instance so as to immediately make it available to the widest possible audience. This is particularly important having regard to the sheer size of the report and the challenges which arise in disseminating hard copies, due in part to current necessary public health restrictions. The Department also has an abridged version of the Report available, containing chapters such as the Executive Summary, Recommendations, and of course, the report from the Confidential Committee, if this format is preferred.

My Department has secured the services of third parties to print and deliver the hard copies of the report. With the consent of those seeking copies of the report, arrangements are being made for delivery of the reports in response to the requests being received by my Department. This is being done in full compliance with General Data Protection Guidelines. I am advised that a large number of full reports have been dispatched and that more will follow shortly.

It is a matter of deep regret that details of the Commission's Final Report were leaked ahead of its publication. I contacted survivors immediately on learning of the coverage in a Sunday newspaper and the matter is now under investigation. I understand why many survivors felt hurt and let down that any element of the Report was given to the media in this manner. This is not what I had planned and it should not have happened.

It was always my intention that survivors would be the first to hear details of the Commission's findings, how to access the Report, and the measures proposed by Government in responding to the Commission's recommendations. My Department had taken appropriate steps to set up engagement with survivors and to maintain the confidentiality of the Report prior to its publication. This issue was discussed at Government level and the Secretary General to the Government is leading an investigation into these matters. I await the outcome of this process.

Supporting survivors to access their personal information is a key priority and a cornerstone of Government's Action Plan in response to the Commission's report. The action plan contains a number of items that will assist survivors in accessing their information such as implementing new Information and Tracing Legislation; providing access to the Commissions archive of records when it transfers to my Department at the end of February; the creation of a central repository of institutional records and the appointment of an archivist to lead work on preservation of, and appropriate public access to, the records held by my Department. I am working to implement these measures as quickly as is possible.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Questions (545, 563)

Martin Browne

Question:

545. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of survivors of mother and baby homes he has contacted since the publication of the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes; his plans to make contact with those who have yet to be contacted; if he plans to meet with a group (details supplied) regarding further scans at Sean Ross Abbey, in County Tipperary, and other issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6755/21]

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Seán Sherlock

Question:

563. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he plans to meet with a representative group (details supplied). [7228/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 545 and 563 together.

In responding to the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation, the Government has approved the development of a Strategic Action Plan encompassing a suite of 22 specific measures. These measures, which take account of the Commission's recommendations, are intended to respond to the priority needs and concerns of former residents and their families. This is a hugely important process for all connected to these institutions and I will be working with colleagues and survivors to advance these measures as a priority.

Most importantly, we will take a survivor-centred approach, characterised by consistent engagement with former residents and their representative groups, including the survivor diaspora. Notably, my Department has been contacted by several hundred survivors since the report was published, many of whom have never been in contact with us before. It is clear, therefore, that new demands emerge in seeking to facilitate dialogue and consultation on the Commission’s Final Report and the State’s Action Plan.

Structured engagement and consultation of this nature requires specific structures, systems and resources to ensure it is inclusive and effective. Innovative methods are required to achieve this objective, especially given the continuing challenges presented by the restrictions necessary to reduce the public health risks associated with Covid-19.

As a first step, I have commenced this consultation with members of the Collaborative Forum as I believe that a new and enhanced model of engagement, which builds upon the strengths of the existing process, can increase opportunities for direct engagement with the large numbers of stakeholders and their representative groups. It is my intention to accommodate both the representative groups mentioned and other relevant stakeholders in this engagement. I want to commence this dialogue as quickly as possible and I will announce further details in due course.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Questions Nos. 547 and 548 answered with Question No. 531.

Questions (546)

Martin Browne

Question:

546. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if consideration will be given to providing free travel passes to all survivors of mother and baby homes in conjunction with medical cards and other supports. [6756/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Commission of investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has made clear recommendations in relation to redress on the basis of its extensive statutory investigations. Notably, the Commission identifies three specific groups for whom it recommends redress might be considered. The Commission also notes that redress can be financial or can be in the form of enhanced services.

The Government has made a very significant and early commitment to accept these recommendations and design a bespoke Restorative Recognition Scheme. An Inter-Departmental Group (IDG), which is being led by my Department, has now commenced the detailed work to scope the terms and conditions for the scheme. The IDG will examine the specific groups identified by the Commission but is not restricted to these.

While the provision of free travel passes to former residents was not specifically included by the Commission in its recommendations, I will pass the Deputies suggestion to the IDG for its consideration. Given the age profile of many survivors, as detailed in the demographic data provided by the Commission, it is likely that a significant number of survivors may already be eligible for free travel in accordance with the Free Travel Scheme operated by the Department of Social Protection.

Questions Nos. 547 and 548 answered with Question No. 531.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (549)

Holly Cairns

Question:

549. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the timeline he is working to for the publication and passing of the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016 in view of the fact that the Bill lapsed at the end of the Thirty-second Dáil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6912/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016, which was drafted to ensure implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, had completed Dáil Committee Stage during the previous Government, but lapsed with the dissolution of the previous Dáil and Seanad and was not restored to the Order Paper. Consideration is being given to the possibility of amalgamating it with the Assisted Decision-Making Capacity (Amendment) Bill. Policy proposals for that Bill are due to be settled shortly with the aim of enactment before year end.

Disability Act Employment Targets

Questions (550)

Holly Cairns

Question:

550. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the target quarter for the introduction of the commitment in the programme for Government to double the target for employment of persons with disabilities in the public service to 6%; if these targets will be changed on a phased basis or in one go; if on a phased basis, when he plans to commence the phasing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6913/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

There is a commitment to increase the employment of persons with disabilities in the public service to 6% (from 3%) under the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities 2015 -2024. The Programme for Government includes a commitment to finalise the legislation required to increase the target and my Department is currently working on this legislation. It is planned that the legislation to this effect will be finalised this year and it is the intention that the target of 6% will be implemented thereafter on a phased basis.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Questions (551)

Holly Cairns

Question:

551. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the target quarter for the signing of the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6914/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Programme for Government reiterates the commitment to ratify the Optional Protocol after the first reporting cycle. The completion of the reporting cycle will identify any additional actions needed to ensure the highest possible level of compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This remains the target for ratification.

The Government priorities remain focused on addressing the remaining legislative measures to be taken to give full effect to the Convention, submitting the first State Report to the UN Committee and developing an implementation plan to coordinate implementation of the Convention.

Direct Provision System

Questions (552)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

552. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth further to Parliamentary Question No. 263 of 21 January 2021, if legislative changes are required for the establishment and operation of the independent monitoring mechanism tasked with carrying out inspections of direct provision centres; if so, the details of same; when the monitoring mechanism will commence its work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6932/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The National Standards meet the requirements of the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive (Directive 2013/33/EU) which we voluntarily opted into in June 2018.

My Department is engaged in consultations with the Department of Health and HIQA aimed at establishing an independent monitoring mechanism for standards in International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) accommodation centres. It has not yet been determined whether legislative change will be required to put this in place.

Direct Provision System

Questions (553)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

553. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth further to Parliamentary Question No. 264 of 21 January 2021, the number of properties selected under the recent tender process referred to in the reply; the number of accommodation centres for persons in the international protection process that are now able to fully implement the national standards for accommodation centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6933/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

There are currently 30 accommodation centres in operation that can implement the National Standards by providing independent living facilities allowing for residents to choose their own food and cook their own meals at no cost to them in addition to having access to laundry facilities and the provision of designated living room space for families. These centres have also implemented actions through the Friends of the Centre model identified in the McMahon Report to meet the social care needs of residents. All of these centres were contracted under the recent tender process referenced in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 264 of 21 January 2021.

Direct Provision System

Questions (554, 555)

Johnny Mythen

Question:

554. Deputy Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of adults and children remaining in direct provision in County Wexford after their leave to remain has been granted for the most recent date available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6943/21]

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Johnny Mythen

Question:

555. Deputy Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of adults and children residing in direct provision in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6944/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 554 and 555 together.

As of the end of January 2021 there were 113 adults and 38 children being accommodated by my Department in Co. Wexford, including 9 adults and 2 children who have been granted an International Protection status (refugee status or subsidiary protection status) or a permission to remain.

Residents who have been granted an International Protection status or a permission to remain have the same access to housing supports and services as Irish and EEA nationals and considerable work is being undertaken to support these residents to move out of accommodation centres and into secure permanent accommodation. My Department has a specific team who work in collaboration with Depaul Ireland, the Jesuit Refugee Service, the Peter McVerry Trust, officials in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the City and County Managers Association collectively to support residents with status or permission to remain to access housing options.

Direct Provision System

Questions (556)

Johnny Mythen

Question:

556. Deputy Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the start and end date of the contracts for direct provision in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6945/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

There is currently one designated accommodation centre in Co. Wexford (Rosslare) and one premises being used as emergency accommodation (Courtown).

The accommodation centre in Rosslare was identified through a call for expressions of interest and contracted for an initial period of one year up to the 25th February 2021. My Department is currently examining our capacity to meet the demand for accommodation from persons seeking international protection and any decision to extend the contractual arrangement will be based on that assessment.

The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department has also been using a number of hotels and guesthouses since September 2018 as emergency accommodation centres due to insufficient capacity to meet demand from within its accommodation portfolio.

These centres are contracted on a bed and full board basis on short term rolling contracts of 3 or 6 month duration. There is currently one such centre being used as emergency accommodation in Courtown, Co. Wexford and this is currently under contract until April 2021. Any decision to continue to use this accommodation after that date will be informed by my Department’s ability to meet the demand for accommodation from within its accommodation portfolio.

The emergency centres are prioritised for closure when demand pressures allow. As an instance of this policy, my Department had been using a second premises in Courtown up until November 2020 but was able to cease this arrangement due to identifying capacity elsewhere in its portfolio.

Direct Provision System

Questions (557)

John Brady

Question:

557. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of adults and children remaining in direct provision centres by centre in County Wicklow after their leave to remain has been granted for the most recent date available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6963/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I am unable to provide the information in the format requested by the Deputy.

There is an obligation under the International Protection process to protect the identity of International Protection applicants. As the breakdown of the numbers of residents in particular accommodation centres in Co Wicklow with a protection status or a permission to remain is very low, there is a possibility that they may be identifiable to others should the information be provided in the format requested.

I can inform the Deputy that there are a total of 31 persons, 21 adults and 10 children, who have been granted an International Protection status or a permission to remain by the Minister for Justice who continue to reside in the three accommodation centres operated by the International Protection Accommodation Service of my Department in Co. Wicklow.

Residents who have been granted an International Protection status (refugee status or subsidiary protection status) or a permission to remain have the same access to housing supports and services as Irish and EEA nationals and considerable work is being undertaken to support these residents to move out of accommodation centres and into secure permanent accommodation.

My Department has a specific team who work in collaboration with Depaul Ireland, the Jesuit Refugee Service, the Peter McVerry Trust, officials in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the City and County Managers Association collectively to support residents with status or permission to remain to access housing options.

Direct Provision System

Questions (558)

John Lahart

Question:

558. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of inspections carried out since January 2020 in St. Patrick’s direct provision centre, County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7021/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Accommodation centres are subject to regular unannounced inspections by both my officials in the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) and an independent inspectorate company (QTS Limited). These inspections are generally undertaken, twice yearly by my officials in IPAS and once yearly by QTS Limited.

Inspectors examine all communal areas, bedrooms, kitchens and dining areas. Inspectors also examine occupancy registers, staffing records, health and safety documentation (including fire safety records), food preparation systems, menu cycles (in centres that provide full catering), facilities available to residents, information provision to residents and the condition of external grounds.

Inspections were suspended temporarily during the first phase of COVID-19 restrictions and recommenced on 14 September 2020 with all necessary safeguards in place. Following the re-imposition of Level 5 restrictions in January, inspections have again been suspended.

Officials from IPAS inspected the centre referred to by the Deputy on 24 September 2020. An independent inspection at the request of IPAS in respect of a particular matter (a pest infestation) was carried out by QTS Ltd. on 11 November 2020 and most recently a further full inspection was carried out by an IPAS official on 14 December 2020.

Completed inspection reports are published on www.ria.gov.ie once the contractor has been given the opportunity to comment on the findings and, if necessary, indicate how and when any required remedial work will be undertaken.