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Friday, 3 Dec 2021

Written Answers Nos. 81-100

Child Protection

Question No. 82 answered orally.

Question No. 83 answered with Question No. 29.

Questions (81)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

81. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the extent to which he and his Department continue to receive reports relating to vulnerable children on a county basis throughout the country; if adequate steps continue to be taken to ensure that each case is followed up and steps taken to ensure against possible repetition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59363/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Tusla has a statutory duty to respond to reports of children who are not receiving adequate care and protection. Tusla assesses the information received and the child and family’s situation, and provides appropriate social work intervention and family support services. Where necessary in the best interest of the child,  children are received into the care of Tusla.  

Tusla has a dedicated Quality Assurance Team which produces monthly, quarterly and annual reports in respect of Tusla's functions, including detailed reporting on child safety and protection services. The reports are published on Tusla's website and are scrutinised by my officials. Issues of note are brought to my attention. The reports provide statistical evidence of improvements to child welfare and protection services and highlight challenges and areas where further improvement is required, such as the recruitment of additional social workers. Most recent reports indicate that 89% (5,233/5,851) of children in care nationally had an allocated social worker at the end of Q2 2021; down three percentage points from Q1 2021 (92%). 

Additionally, Tusla child protection and welfare, and alternative care services are inspected against the relevant Standards and Regulations by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA). These inspection reports are also published, and the findings used to inform the development and improvement of services within Tusla. The majority of  inspection reports are  generally positive, and reflect both examples of good practice and dedicated staff. However, some reports identify challenges, within individual areas, to maintaining a consistently high standard of service, including the impact of staffing shortages, and difficulties in finding appropriate placements for children and young people.

Officials from my Department meet Tusla management on a regular basis to review the level of service provision, including areas in need of improvement. The recruitment and retention of social workers is a priority for Tusla, and in that regard there is a significant amount of work being done, both by Tusla and my officials, to increase the recruitment of social workers.

Question No. 82 answered orally.
Question No. 83 answered with Question No. 29.

Youth Services

Questions (84)

David Stanton

Question:

84. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth his plans to increase supports and services available to youth projects nationwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59217/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I am pleased to confirm that I secured an additional €5 million in current funding for youth services nationally as part of Budget 2022.  My officials and I are currently considering how this funding will best be used to meet the needs of young people in 2022 and the various organisations and clubs that serve them.  Our considerations are informed by young people themselves and the sector, with which we engage regularly.

This additional funding allocated to youth services in the coming year will support the delivery of universal and targeted youth services nationwide with a particular view to the role played by youth services in supporting mental wellbeing, fostering resilience and developing the social and personal competencies of young people, including disadvantaged, marginalised or vulnerable young people.

As we begin to move beyond the pandemic, I am committed to supporting this important sector, which has enormous value to the many young people involved and from a broader social and economic viewpoint.

Paternity Leave

Questions (85)

Neale Richmond

Question:

85. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if an update will be provided on the take-up of paternity leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57824/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Under the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016, a new parent can avail of 2 weeks leave. The parent may also qualify for Paternity Benefit. The entitlement applies to the father of the child; the spouse, civil partner or cohabitant of the mother of the child;  the parent of a donor-conceived child within the meaning of the provisions of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015; and, in the case of adoption, the parent who is not the qualifying adopter for the purposes of Adoptive Leave.

As an application for paternity leave is made directly to the employer, my Department is, therefore, not in a positions to record statistics on uptake.  However, the Minister for Social Protection records information on uptake of the associated Paternity Benefit. I can confirm to the Deputy that the number of Paternity Benefit claims awarded between 2018 to the end of October 2021 is as follows:

2018 24,080

2019 28,191

2020 24,726

2021 (to 31/10) 21,675

My Department is continuing work to understand the barriers to the uptake of family leaves and will bring forward legislative amendments or policy proposals where major challenges are identified. A successor to the National Strategy for Women and Girls will be developed in 2022 and I expect that gender roles in caring responsibilities will be considered in this context.

Departmental Schemes

Questions (86)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Question:

86. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the way his Department is supporting the National Participation Framework for Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-Making; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59450/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department has continued to support implementation of the National Participation Framework for Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-Making which it published earlier this year. It does this through capacity building measures and training provided by Hub na nÓg, the Department’s centre of excellence, and co-ordination of various activities to support children and young people’s participation in decision-making.

These measures provide support to practitioners and policy makers working across all settings relevant to children and young people’s lives.

Earlier this year, phase one of a Capacity Building Grant was allocated by my Department to Arts organisations, Disability Service providers, Homeless Service providers, Traveller Service providers, the Youth Justice sector, and Early Learning & Care and School Age Childcare Services.

Alongside this €150,000 grant funding for resources, organisations undertook training from Hub na nÓg. The training supports them  to listen to children and young people, while involving them in decision making in their day-to-day services and activities, and to develop resources based on the training.

In 2022, phase two of the Capacity Grant scheme will see Sporting Organisations and Youth Services included.

Additionally, Hub na nÓg is continuing to engage bilaterally with government departments, agencies and key stakeholders, providing support to ensure policy making and other decision-making processes that impact on the lives of children meet the standards set out in the Participation Framework. Hub na nÓg is furthermore working with key academic partners across all sectors, to develop a  module on the participation of children and young people in decision-making for all professionals who work (or will work) with or on behalf of, children and young people.

This Framework and the associated capacity building measures will continue to play a vital long term role in ensuring that Ireland is a country where all children and young people are respected and listened to, and where their views are taken on board routinely in the public services offered to them, as citizens of today and not just as the adults of tomorrow.

Disability Services

Questions (87)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Question:

87. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if approval will be given for qualified HSE staff to be redeployed to service providers (details supplied) for persons with intellectual disabilities in order to ensure that facilities can stay open or reopen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59306/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I wish to advise the Deputy that I am not in a position to comment on these matters which are more appropriate for the attention of my Cabinet colleague, the Minister for Health.

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (88)

Ivana Bacik

Question:

88. Deputy Ivana Bacik asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he plans to offer antigen testing provision to pre-school, early years and after-school facilities. [59436/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department is currently working with the HSE to finalise an antigen testing programme for early learning and childcare services.  It will be launched in the coming weeks.  

The antigen testing programme for early learning and childcare services will be similar to the antigen testing programme which has recently been rolled out for close contacts in primary schools.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Questions (89)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

89. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the extent to which he expects to be in a position to meet the concerns and expectations of the victims of mother and baby homes; if all victims will receive the full benefits of the redress scheme; if he will ensure that no-one or group is excluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59362/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

In providing an overall response grounded in a wide variety of differing needs, the Government considered what would be the most effective remedy for all survivors of Mother and Baby and County Home Institutions. I am confident that the wide-ranging Action Plan for Survivors and Former Residents of Mother and Baby and County Home Institutions is fully inclusive and responds to the diverse needs of all those who are affected by the complex legacy of Mother and Baby Institutions. The actions are designed to support survivors in a number of ways into the future, as well as ensuring that what happened in the institutions is never forgotten, or repeated.  

The Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme is Action number 20 in the Action Plan, and sits as  one element of the entire redress package of supports and measures set out in that Plan. Survivors have made it very clear that they wanted the Scheme to be non-adversarial, simple and to do no further harm. Through extensive and challenging deliberations, it was concluded that the only way of delivering this is through an approach that does not require applicants to bring forward evidence of abuse or harm suffered. Therefore, the Scheme will consist of a general payment rising based on time spent in an institution. This approach means that those who spent the longest time in these institutions, and therefore suffered most from the harsh institutional conditions, will receive the highest level of payment.

The proposals for the Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme go well beyond the recommendations of the Commission of Investigation and also beyond the proposals of the Interdepartmental Group which was established to develop proposals for the Scheme. An estimated 34,000 people will benefit from the Scheme. Beyond this, the needs of all those who spent time in one of the institutions will be addressed in some way through the Government’s Action Plan.

I have been given Government approval to bring forward legislative proposals on the basis of the Scheme as outlined and work has commenced in my Department on heads of the bill for this legislation. Through the legislative process we will have the opportunity to examine any issues or concens that have been raised in relation to the Scheme.

International Protection

Questions Nos. 91 to 93, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions (90)

James O'Connor

Question:

90. Deputy James O'Connor asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the progress on commitments to transfer unaccompanied minors to Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59462/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

In 2018 Ireland committed to receiving 36 separated children seeking international protection (unaccompanied minors) from Greece under the European Union Relief Projects. 

In June 2020, eight separated children arrived. Their arrival had been delayed by the additional challenges presented for travel by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Following the fires in the Moria refugee camp in September 2020, and as part of the EU humanitarian response and Ministerial commitment, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, worked to accelerate the intake of the remaining 28 separated children from Greece and agreed also to the relocation of an additional infant. 

In Budget 2021, an additional €5m was provided to Tusla to provide dedicated services to expedite the intake of these separated children in Greece to whom Ireland had a commitment and I can confirm that as of 15th November 2021,  37 separated children have arrived in Ireland from Greece.

Tusla receives separated children seeking asylum into care via two routes: those who have been relocated under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme and those who present independently at ports and other points of entry to Ireland. The majority of unaccompanied children arriving in Ireland are over 15 years and need significant educational, language and, in many instances,  therapeutic supports.

In 2020, Tusla received 80 referrals for Separated Children Seeking International Protection and of that number 51 children were received into the care of Tusla.

Questions Nos. 91 to 93, inclusive, answered orally.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions Nos. 95 and 96 answered orally.

Questions (94)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

94. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Health his plans to extend the certificate of recovery from six to nine months to reflect HIQA’s latest advice to NPHET to extend the period of presumptive immunity from six to nine months post-infection; and if not, the reason a certificate of recovery and immunity only lasts for six months when studies show that the period of immunity lasts for nine months. [59765/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation creates a framework for the issuing, authentication, and validity of certificates to facilitate the safe and free movement across the EU during pandemic. Certificates are proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result, or recovered from COVID-19.

This initiative has been adopted by countries around the world confirming its status as a robust international standard for COVID certification. To date 24 third countries have joined the initiative and a further 32 are in the process of joining. This demonstrates how Europe can set global standards through decisive and coordinated action.

The Irish Government has successfully delivered the EU Digital COVID Certificate to the Irish public. To date over 4.5 million certificates have issued nationally, and over 25,000 have issued to Irish diaspora. With over 600 million certificates issued internationally by EU Member States this initiative is fundamental to enabling safe international travel.  

The wide implementation of this tool for accessing indoor hospitality and services has supported the reopening of our economy and society nationally.

The scope and parameters for issuing the Certificates has been agreed at EU level and is standardized to allow for complete interoperability. Currently the agreed maximum validity date for Recovery Certificates is 180 days after the date of a positive PCR test result, as set out in the EU Regulation. Where necessary, the Commission is empowered to adopt delegated acts to update the EU Regulation in light of scientific progress. To date the EU Regulation has not been amended to alter the validity period on recovery certificates.

Questions Nos. 95 and 96 answered orally.

Hospital Services

Question No. 98 answered orally.

Questions (97)

Gino Kenny

Question:

97. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Health the total payments made by the State to private hospitals and other private health service providers in 2020 and to the end of October 2021; and the projected cost in Budget 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59506/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I understand that following contact from officials in my Department, the Deputy has confirmed that at this time he is only concerned with payments made to private hospitals and not to other private health providers.

The original arrangement with the private hospitals ran from April – June 2020, where, by way of Government Decision, the HSE acquired access to the totality of private hospital capacity. Under this arrangement, all 18 private hospitals signed up to centrally negotiated Heads of Terms and 100% of their capacity (including ICU) was made available to the State.  Following the termination of this agreement in June 2020, the Government mandated the HSE to seek to agree with the private hospitals a new arrangement which would provide the HSE with access to private hospital capacity to include a safety net arrangement for any further surge of Covid-19 cases.

At the end of January 2021 all 18 Private Hospitals signed a Safety Net 2 agreement to provide additional hospital capacity to the HSE to deal with the surge in Covid-19. The agreement remains in place to help deal with any further surge in the pandemic that occurs this year and a variation was used to deal with the impact of the cyber attack in May this year.

The HSE has advised that the following payments were made to Private Hospitals in respect of the three safety net agreements. In 2020 a total payments of €288.24 million were made under Safety Net 1. To date in 2021 a further €3.22 million was paid under SN 1 and €90.31 million under SN 2 and 3 giving a total year to date of €93.53 million. Giving an overall total to date of €381.77 million.   

In relation to the National Treatment Purchase Fund, it has advised me that in 2020 out of a total expenditure to both private and public hospitals of €70,474,497,  €22,957,536 was paid to private health care providers. This information is based on data sourced from their Annual Audited Financial Statements. The NTPF has advised that 2021 financial date has not been provided as the financial statements have not yet been audited. Its total budget for 2021 is €130 million.

Brief

Question No. 98 answered orally.

Hospital Services

Question No. 100 answered orally.

Questions (99)

Gino Kenny

Question:

99. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Health the number of ICU beds currently being sourced from private hospitals; and the monthly cost to the Exchequer of these beds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59505/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

At the end of January 2021 all 18 Private Hospitals signed a Safety Net 2 agreement to provide additional hospital capacity to the HSE to deal with the surge in Covid-19. The agreement remains in place to help deal with any further surge in the pandemic that occurs this year.

Under the agreement the HSE can obtain up to 15% or 30% of the private hospitals’ capacity, dependent on certain metrics occurring. The HSE triggered the agreement between the end of January and the end of May this year.

The HSE also made use of Private Hospital capacity, through a Safety Net 3 arrangement, to help it deal with the cyber attack in May this year.

It is estimated that there are 47 ICU beds and 54 High Dependency Unit beds in the Private Hospital System. Therefore, the number available to the public sector with access to 15% of private hospital capacity would be 7 and 14 at 30%.

In recent weeks, the HSE continues to access up to 1,300 bed days, an average of 10 ICU beds, delivering care to around 450 patients a week. Since the start of 2021 over 65,000 bed days have been used with over 20,500 patients treated.

Based on the latest information from the HSE the total payments to date in 2021 in relation to SN2 and 3 are €90.31 million.

Brief

Question No. 100 answered orally.
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