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Friday, 3 Dec 2021

Written Answers Nos. 61-80

Youth Services

Questions (61)

Steven Matthews

Question:

61. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing issues facing a service (details supplied); and if he will consider facilitating a meeting with management to discuss their concerns. [59238/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

1.)  Funding for the provision of targeted youth services is administered on behalf of my Department by the Education and Training Boards (ETBs), which allocate funding via applications to the UBU Your Place Your Space scheme.  Youth Clubs which may require additional funding should contact their local ETB for further information and assistance. I also provide annual funding for universal youth services through the Youth Services Grant Scheme to 30 national youth organisations.  

      The Deputy will be aware that DCEDIY provides funding to all 16 Education and Training Boards (ETB) around the country to support youth services in their area and that each ETB has a Youth Officer. Youth Officers provide an important support role to my Department in the co-ordination and administration of youth services at local level. My officials hold quarterly meetings with them and these meetings assist my Department in identifying service needs and emerging issues, particularly for vulnerable young people. 

      A key tenet of the UBU scheme is the production of evidence of local need. In allocating funding under the scheme, each ETB carries out an Area Profile, Needs Assessment and Service Requirement process. This process draws upon quantitative and qualitative information to objectively identify the needs of young people within the ETB’s functional area. This analysis leads to the development of a Service Requirement, which is then used as the basis for discussion between ETBs and service providers in terms of service delivery to meet the needs of young people in the area. This approach ensures that DCEDIY can target supports to the young people most in need of intervention and that funding is allocated on the basis of evidenced need. 

As regards the Deputy's request to facilitate a meeting with this particular service, I would recommend that they discuss their issues with the relevant ETB in the first instance, consistent with the mid level governance structure in place for the administration of these schemes. Notwithstanding this, I would add that my officials and I are frequently in contact with this particular organisation at a national level in relation to the full range of issues affecting the sector and, as such, we enjoy an extremely valuable relationship with them.

Domestic Violence

Questions (62)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

62. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth further to Parliamentary Question No. 113 of 7 October 2021, when the strategic review by Tusla of the provision of accommodation for victims of domestic violence will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59446/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The response to Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence (DSGBV) is a cross Departmental and multi-agency issue. Overall policy is coordinated by the Department of Justice. Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has statutory responsibility for the care and protection of victims of DSGBV under the Child and Family Agency Act 2013. Capital funding for approved housing bodies, including services that provide refuge accommodation for victims of DSGBV, is provided by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Tusla’s ‘Review of the Provision of Accommodation for Victims of Domestic Violence’ assesses the current and requisite distribution of safe emergency accommodation. It has examined the current level of refuge provision, evidence of demand for services and unmet need, and analysis of proximity to refuge by local communities. The Review has been completed and is undergoing the final edit for publication. Tusla is expected to publish the Review shortly.

My Department will be guided by the recommendations of the Review. I expect that the implementation process for the Review will identify priority areas where there is greatest urgency in achieving safe accommodation for victims of DSGBV. This process will guide the consideration for refuge spaces over the longer term. Implementation will require collaboration from a range of statutory and other bodies. My Department continues to engage with Tusla, Non-Government Organisations that play a key role in this area, and other relevant Government Departments and Agencies, particularly the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Department of Justice, to progress work in this area. It is important that the needs of those who experience domestic violence are met in the most appropriate way possible.

Youth Services

Questions (63)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

63. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he will assist an organisation (details supplied) to overcome some of the financial difficulties it has experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic. [59198/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department provides substantial funding to this organisation, which plays an important role in providing young people with opportunities for developmental experiences and informal learning.  All of the youth funding provided by my Department has been maintained fully throughout the ongoing period of restrictions. The ongoing management of this organisation is a matter for its Board, including the financial challenges being presented due to Covid-19.

I secured an increase of €5 million in funding for youth services in 2021 and 2022. The additional funding allocated to youth services in 2021 and 2022 will support the delivery of universal and targeted youth services nationwide, with a particular view to the role played by youth services in fostering resilience and developing the social and personal competencies of young people.  

This year I announced two Covid-19 Minor Grant Schemes to support youth services, youth clubs, and the national youth organisations. The Covid-19 Minor Grant Scheme for Youth Services and Youth Clubs was announced in June 2021 and €1.4m was dispersed among the 16 Education and Training Boards for local administration to the youth services and clubs within their functional areas.

The Covid-19 Minor Grant Scheme for National Youth Organisations in September 2021 made €1m available for distribution between the national youth organisations. This sought to defray additional Covid-19 costs, the cost of re-engaging volunteers in universal services, and made a contribution towards funding gaps emerging as services reopened in line with public health guidance. The organisation referred to by the deputy received €110,000 through this Scheme.

My officials are in regular contact with youth sector representatives in relation to the impact of the pandemic and associated health restrictions. It is of importance that Exchequer funding to youth services nationally is protected. I am satisfied that Government has been able to continue to support them. My officials will continue to work closely with youth organisations and will actively monitor the situation. We very much appreciate the challenges Covid-19 has posed and is posing for them.

Domestic Violence

Questions (64)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

64. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth his Department’s strategy to support victims of domestic violence including proposals to provide a statutory entitlement to domestic violence leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59452/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The response to Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence (DSGBV) is a cross Departmental and multi-agency issue. The Department of Justice leads national policy, coordinates the progress on actions under the Second National Strategy on DSGBV and is currently developing the Third National Strategy.

I am keen to support the development and implementation of the 3rd National Strategy on DSGBV with a particular focus on prevention as outlined in our Programme for Government.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has statutory responsibility for the care and protection of victims of DSGBV under the Child and Family Agency Act 2013. In 2021, I allocated €30m to Tusla specifically to support DSGBV services throughout the country. This included €2m for necessary supports to service providers arising from Covid-19. In Budget 2022, Tusla has been allocated an additional €41 million over the 2021 allocation. I have directed Tusla to use part of these additional resources to maintain supports for DSGBV services and address the recommendations arising from Tusla’s Accommodation Review of refuge provision.

I am keen to address the shortage of refuge spaces in the country. Tusla’s ‘Review of the Provision of Accommodation for Victims of Domestic Violence’ assesses the current and requisite distribution of safe emergency accommodation and has examined the current level of refuge provision, evidence of demand for services and unmet need, and analysis of proximity to refuge by local communities. The Review has been completed and is undergoing the final edit for publication. I have agreed with the Minister for Justice that the findings of Tusla’s Review would inform actions under the Third National Strategy on DSGBV.

Key initiatives to combat DSGBV that are currently underway in my Department, include:

- The roll-out of child-centred services for child and adolescent victims of DSGBV through the Barnahus pilot project in Galway with Cork, and Dublin to follow.

- Consideration of a process to introduce paid domestic violence leave and benefit, with a view to bringing forward proposals to Cabinet by the end of the year. Ireland will be one of the first countries in Europe to adopt domestic violence paid leave on its introduction.

- Tusla continues to work with funded service providers on the expansion of outreach services in locations across the country and in the provision of individual Safe Home units that enable those fleeing domestic violence to find safety.

Child and Family Agency

Questions (65)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

65. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of times persons have taken legal cases against Tusla since it was established; the number of cases which have been concluded; the number of cases still ongoing; and the number of times the courts have ruled against Tusla in that time period. [58864/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As the matter raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, I have referred the question to Tusla for direct response to the Deputy.

Youth Services

Questions (66)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

66. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he will consider reviewing the pod restrictions still in place for youth groups and youth-led services considering drop-in clinics have resumed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58933/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Having regard to the need to support often vulnerable young people during the pandemic, the Guidance for DCEDIY funded Youth Work Organisations was updated on the 15th November 2021 to allow for pods of up to 15 young people of mixed vaccination status to be allowed for indoor youth service provision. The guidance provides for larger numbers where all participants are fully vaccinated and also states a preference for outdoor provision or smaller group work where these are viable options. Consideration is also given to the prevailing public health profile in determining these provisions. This change appears to have been well received by the sector and I believe strikes the right balance between respecting critical public health needs and the welfare and wellbeing requirements of young people.

The Department has worked closely with key youth sector representatives to provide sector-specific guidance in line with the Government’s Resilience & Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 and Reframing the Challenge: Continuing our Recovery and Reconnecting to ensure that young people continue to be supported in a manner consistent with evolving public health guidance and to address other issues arising in the sector as a result of Covid-19. 

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

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Questions (67)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

67. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the reason children who were boarded out by mother and baby homes have been excluded from the redress scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59195/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme, Action 20 in the Government's Action Plan for Survivors and Former Residents of Mother and Baby and County Home Institutions is one element of a package of support measures. The Scheme has been designed to provide a response to those who were resident in Mother and Baby and County Home Institutions. If a person was boarded out as a child and also spent time in a Mother and Baby or County Home Institution, they may be eligible for this Scheme in respect of the time spent in one of these institutions.

The proposals for the Mother and Baby Institutions Payment Scheme are designed to be non-adversarial and will not require applicants to bring forward evidence of abuse or harm suffered. The  Scheme will consist of a general payment rising based on time spent in one of the institutions, so that those who suffered most from the harsh institutional conditions will receive the highest level of payment. Children were boarded out in a range of circumstances, in some instances from their own home when a family no longer had the means to care for them and from institutions other than a Mother and Baby or County Home Institutions. In addition, the abuses suffered were not experienced by all people who were boarded out as children and, so, could only be fully considered on a case by case basis.  The payment approach in this Scheme does not cater for such individualised assessments.

The overall Government Action Plan for Survivors and Former Residents of Mother and Baby and County Home Institutions will provide support and assistance to those who were boarded out as children in the following ways:

- Access to birth and early life information as part of the Birth Information and Tracing Legislation which is being advanced.

- Inclusion in the memorialisation initiatives being developed which will afford an opportunity for people to tell their story.

- The provision of an ex-gratia payment to reimburse anyone who was boarded out and had to pay inheritance taxes for farms which they inherited from their foster parents.

Finally, I intend to make arrangements for the provision of access to dedicated counselling supports through Tusla to those who were boarded out as children.

Childcare Services

Questions (68)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

68. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the way Budget 2022 will benefit parents in relation to the national childcare scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59203/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Following Budget 2022, two significant reforms will be introduced to the operation of the National Childcare Scheme (NCS). It is intended that these reforms will make it possible for significantly more families to apply for and access the NCS.

The first change is the discontinuation of the practice of deducting hours spent in ECCE or school from the entitlement to NCS subsidised hours.

Currently, where both parents in a household are in work or study, eligible families can receive a subsidy for up to 45 hours (enhanced hours) per week and, for households where a parent is not in work or study they can receive up to 20 hours (standard hours) per week of subsidy.  Where a child is in ECCE or school these hours are subtracted from their entitlement to NCS subsidised hours.

With this change, parents will be able to avail of all NCS subsidised hours regardless of time spent in school or ECCE.  

It is anticipated that this will have the most significant impact on children in socio-economically disadvantaged communities and, on services with high concentrations of families from socio-economically disadvantaged communities.

It is expected that this reform will be introduced in Spring 2022. The removal of the

wraparound will increase subsidised NCS hours available to approximately 3,000

children currently eligible for standard hours.

The second reform relates to the universal subsidy. This will be made available to all families with children up to the age of 15 from September 2022. Parents do not have to undergo an assessment to avail of this subsidy.

The universal subsidy provides €0.50 cent per hour towards the cost of a registered childcare place up to a maximum of 45 hours a week, which totals €1,170 per annum.

Assisted Decision-Making

Questions (69)

Pa Daly

Question:

69. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth his views in relation to the forthcoming Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Bill 2021. [58560/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (the 2015 Act) is a very important piece of legislation and it is vital that the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Bill 2021 is enacted so that the 2015 Act can be commenced. I am keenly aware of the significance of the reform that is represented by the 2015 Act. I am equally aware of the scale of that reform and the practical impact it will have on people’s lives.  

The Government made a commitment in the Programme for Government to commencing the 2015 Act, recognising the importance of the much needed reform that it represents. We are working towards a date of June 2022 for full commencement.

The Act changes the existing law on capacity from the status approach of the wardship system to a flexible functional approach, whereby capacity is assessed on an issue and time-specific basis. It will abolish the wards of court system for adults by repealing the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871.  Adults currently in wardship will transition to the new decision-making support arrangements on a phased basis over 3 years from the date of commencement.

The amendments planned in the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Bill will streamline processes, in the interests of those using its provisions. They will also strengthen the safeguards included in the 2015 Act.

I recently brought the General Scheme of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Bill to Cabinet, where approval was sought and granted for the drafting of a Bill, and to refer the proposed legislation for pre-legislative scrutiny.

A high-level Steering Group, chaired by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, is overseeing progress of the Bill and working towards full commencement of the Act. The Steering Group comprises senior officials from relevant Departments and agencies.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Questions (70)

Dara Calleary

Question:

70. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the number of persons that have submitted a subject access request for their personal information contained in the archive of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission; the number of requests that have been successfully completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59454/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

On 28 February last, with the dissolution of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation, my Department became the data controller for all the personal data contained in the records that transferred from the Commission.

Former residents of Mother and Baby Homes can make a Subject Access Request (SAR) to my Department for access to their record.

As of Friday 26th of November, my Department has received 420 Subject Access requests (SARs) relating to the Mother and Baby Homes archive and responded to and closed 322 of these within statutory timeframes.

Child and Family Agency

Questions (71)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

71. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he will report on actions he plans to take to tackle waiting times associated with applications for children in foster care to be adopted by their foster parents. [59197/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The adoption process for children in care is a legal process which is commenced by Tusla Foster Care Services. The adoption process involves a series of assessments by social workers to ensure that prospective adoptive parents meet the suitability and eligibility criteria laid out by the Adoption Act. The process also requires consultation with, and consent of, the child's birth parents. In certain circumstances, the High Court may make an Order to dispense with a birth parent's consent.

An adoption is a significant event in the life of a child, and as such it is necessary to provide appropriate safeguards in order to protect the best interests of the child and the rights of the birth parents.

The Department is mindful of the length and complexity of the process, and is engaging on an ongoing basis with the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) and with Tusla to ensure that cases are progressed in as timely a manner as possible while still protecting the best interests of the child and the rights of the birth parents. The AAI and Tusla are now holding monthly meetings to case manage these cases, with the aim of avoiding delays and progessing the applications in most timely manner possible.

Disability Services

Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 42.

Question No. 74 answered orally.

Questions (72)

Thomas Gould

Question:

72. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the funding provided to local authorities by his Department to employ a disability officer and the local authorities with a full-time disability officer employed. [59421/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department does not provide direct funding to local authorities to employ 'disability officers'.  Rather, there are existing statutory requirements regarding accessible information and services that all public bodies are bound by and which they must be cognisant of when conducted and planning their normally funded functions. This approach is designed to integrate accessibility into core business functions. 

To support persons who may have particular needs, section 26 of the Disability Act 2005 requires the authorisation of at least one officer of a public body, to provide or arrange for and co-ordinate the provision of assistance and guidance to persons with disabilities in accessing its services.   This officer is referred to as an 'access officer' in the Act.  

The general funding of local authorities is a matter for the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 42.
Question No. 74 answered orally.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Questions (75)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

75. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the steps he has taken to progress a thorough investigation of the grounds at the former Bessboro Mother and Baby Home, Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58443/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The grounds of the former mother and baby institution at Bessborough extended originally to around 200 acres. In its Fifth Interim Report, the Commission of Investigation noted that:

'About 100 acres were sold in 1973 for the building of the N25 and for social housing. The Commission understands that there are about 60 acres of ground around the building now.'

It is my understanding that the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary retains part of the site and that some land has been transferred to the HSE.  Other land on the site is owned by private parties who intend to develop it for housing, subject to the appropriate permissions. 

The Commission concluded that:

- it is likely that burials did take place in the grounds of Bessborough

- despite efforts, the location of burials on the site could not be ascertained

- the site was too large to feasibly excavate

- there was insufficient evidence to support a finding of the likely location of burials

A particular part of the site, not in public ownership, is identified on a 1950s Ordnance survey map as a burial ground. Campaigners consider it the most likely location of burials. It is notable that An Bord Pleanála has refused permission to develop the land because:

'it is not satisfied that the site was not previously used as, and does not contain, a children's burial ground and considers that there are reasonable concerns in relation to the potential for a children's burial ground within the site [...].' 

As the Deputy may be aware, I made submissions to An Bord Pleanála and Cork City Council, as part of the normal planning process, in respect of two planning applications made on the Bessborough lands, requesting that due consideration be given to the sensitivity of the site and the conclusions of the commission’s report. Like himself, I attended and made an oral submission to the Oral Hearing on the SHD application.

As the land in question is in private ownership, it is not open to Government to procure or carry out investigations there.

Earlier this year I wrote to the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage asking him for support in encouraging local authorities to provide specific protections within their Development Plan processes for any burial sites that may be linked to former Mother and Baby or County Home Institutions.  I know that Cork City Council has committed to undertaking its development plan process and I would urge the councillors to take account of the Commission's conclusions in the zoning of the land.

I continue to maintain a close interest in the Bessborough site, and I will continue to engage with survivors and the local authorities in terms of protecting this site.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Question No. 77 answered orally.

Questions (76)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

76. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if assistance will be provided in the case of a person (details supplied). [58931/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The Commission of Investigation received records relating to the period 1922 to 1998 from a number of Institutions and sources as part of its investigation.  On 28 February last, following the dissolution of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation, my Department became the data controller for all the personal data contained in the records that transferred from the Commission.  

While I am not in a position to comment on the particular circumstances of the individual referred to, my officials will be in contact with the person directly to assist them.  

Where a person receives information and documentation in response to a Subject Access Request and considers that the information is incorrect, the person may wish to exercise their right to rectification under GDPR.  

Where a request for rectification is submitted by an individual, my Department will consider all practical options as may be appropriate in each particular case including, for example, appending the text of a data subject’s comments to the record.  

Each request by a data subject to exercise their right to rectification of personal data will be considered on a case by case basis.  

I continue to be committed to vindicating the rights of each data subject in respect of their personal data. I am mindful that individuals may be receiving information from the archive for the first time and the Social worker employed in my Department is available to assist individuals.  

My officials are also available to assist individuals with exercising their rights and a dedicated helpline is available to provide information to individuals. Relevant details are available on my Department’s website.

Question No. 77 answered orally.

Domestic Violence

Questions (78)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

78. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the actions his Department is taking to address the chronic shortage of refuge places who are fleeing domestic violence considering the State is obliged to have 498 refuge places and currently has only 140; the current progress of Tusla’s review into refuge spaces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58934/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

The response to Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence (DSGBV) is a cross Departmental and multi-agency issue. Overall policy is coordinated by the Department of Justice. Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has statutory responsibility for the care and protection of victims of DSGBV under the Child and Family Agency Act 2013. Capital funding for approved housing bodies, including services that provide refuge accommodation for victims of DSGBV, is provided by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

I accept that there is a significant shortage in refuge provision at present and am keen to address it but I do not necessarily accept the Deputy's assertion that the State is obliged to have 498 refuge places available.

Tusla’s ‘Review of the Provision of Accommodation for Victims of Domestic Violence’ assesses the current and requisite distribution of safe emergency accommodation. It has examined the current level of refuge provision, evidence of demand for services and unmet need, and analysis of proximity to refuge by local communities. The Review has been completed and is undergoing the final edit for publication. Tusla is expected to publish the Review shortly.

My Department will be guided by the recommendations of the Review. I expect that the implementation process for the Review will identify priority areas where there is greatest urgency in achieving safe accommodation for victims of DSGBV. This process will guide the consideration for refuge spaces over the longer term. Implementation will require collaboration from a range of statutory and other bodies. My Department continues to engage with Tusla, Non-Government Organisations that play a key role in this area, and other relevant Government Departments and Agencies, particularly the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Department of Justice, to progress work in this area. It is important that the needs of those who experience domestic violence are met in the most appropriate way possible.

Childcare Services

Questions (79)

David Stanton

Question:

79. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth his views on the need for a career structure to be put in place for staff in the childcare sector in recognition of the important role they play; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59216/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I believe it is important for service providers to have flexibility in staffing arrangements and in how they structure their organisations. However, I also believe that a career structure will be necessary to the further professionalisation of the sector and to making careers in the sector more attractive.  

Establishing clear and supported career pathways is important both in improving recruitment and retention of staff, and in enhancing practitioners' continuing professional development, both of which support better outcomes for children.

Putting in place a career structure will involve giving clarity on the different roles in services, and on the tasks and qualification requirements for those roles. It will also involve identifying - and supporting - career pathways for individuals to progress their careers within the sector. These are all elements that will form part of the Workforce Plan that I will publish shortly.

Work began in 2019 on developing a Workforce Plan for the sector. The process has involved extensive engagement with sector representatives, as well as a public consultation process . The Workforce Plan will set out actions to achieve related commitments in First 5, including a graduate-led workforce by 2028, development of a career framework, a national infrastructure for continuing professional development, and strengthening leadership development opportunities.

Another element of a career structure is rates of pay that recognise the value of the work, with higher rates of pay for those with greater responsibility or higher qualifications. While the State is not the employer and I have no power to set wage rates, the process I began last December has led to the recent establishment of a sectoral Joint Labour Committee. Supported by the Core Funding stream I announced in Budget 2022, there is now a real prospect of improvement in pay rates in the sector through the Joint Labour Committee.

Assisted Decision-Making

Questions (80)

Pauline Tully

Question:

80. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the plans he has to cope with the anticipated large volume of applications once the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 has been fully commenced and the Decision Support Service is operating; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59379/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

Government has committed to full commencement of the amended 2015 Act, and full operationalisation of the DSS by July 2022. There is a substantial programme of work that must be completed in advance of that date.

A high-level Steering Group, chaired by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, meets monthly to oversee and drive progress towards full commencement. This is supported by a range of bilateral engagements. The Steering Group comprises senior officials from relevant Departments and agencies.  

A budget of €7.3 million has been secured for the Decision Support Service in 2022. This represents an increase of €1.5 million compared to 2021 and a doubling of financial resources since the transfer of functions to my Department in 2020.

To date, the Decision Support Service has made considerable progress in putting in place the administrative and IT systems needed to operate the 2015 Act.  It is working actively at the moment to undertake detailed forecasting of potential demand and to have the systems in place to cope with potential high volumes of requests for its services.

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