Written Questions Nos. 156-159

Departmental Correspondence

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

156. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he will provide a reply to correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36277/14]

The correspondence to which the Deputy refers relates to the closure of a Community Playschool. I understand that his service had insufficient children participating in the various childcare schemes and was therefore not sustainable. and took the decision to close. Only 2 children were signed up for the 2014/15 academic year. I am aware that the group made considerable efforts supported by both the local County Childcare Committee and Pobal to attract local parents to use the facility but to no avail. I recognise and appreciate the hard work and commitment of the group and staff in trying to maintain the service. Unfortunately in the circumstances, there is nothing further that can be done.

Youth Services

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

157. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which he has had dialogue with those involved in providing youth support services throughout the country with particular reference to the need to identify ongoing or upcoming requirements in terms of support or resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36294/14]

My Department administers a range of funding schemes and programmes to support the provision of youth services to young people throughout the country including those from disadvantaged communities. In 2014, funding of €49.78m has been provided to my Department for these schemes. The funding schemes support national and local youth work provision to some 380,000 young people and involve, approximately 1,400 youth work staff in 477 projects and 40,000 volunteers working in youth work services and communities throughout the country.

Ongoing engagement and dialogue with the youth sector organisations and with young people themselves are priorities in the formulation of policies and provision of services to support young people’s development and learning. My Department works closely with the youth sector interests in various fora in developing key initiatives. The National Youth Work Advisory Committee, whose members include representatives of the national youth organisations, Government departments and the Education and Training Boards, that support youth services at local level, has an important advisory role to me in matters to do with provision for young people. My Department has worked with the youth sector on the development of youth work responses to the challenges of youth unemployment, including the contribution that the youth services can make to the Government's employment agenda and the Action Plan For Jobs, 2014.

The youth sector is engaged in the development, by my Department, of the new National Youth Strategy 2014- 2020. The strategy will be a universal strategy for all young people, aged 10 to 24 years, while having particular regard to those young people who are experiencing or at risk of experiencing the poorest outcomes and, therefore, in most need of support. In consultation with the National Youth York Advisory Committee, my Department has set up a National Youth Strategy Task Group to oversee the development of the new strategy. The Task Group, which meets regularly, is chaired by the Director of the National Youth Council of Ireland and comprises representatives from the youth sector, Government departments, Education and Training Boards, the Centre for Effective Services and the business community. It is anticipated that the new National Youth Strategy will be completed by my Department for the end of 2014.

I, and officials of my Department have met, and continue to meet regularly, with youth organisations and groups. Earlier this month, over 2 days, I met with the representatives of some 30 national and major regional youth organisations. My aim is to see how we can work together to bring about the best possible outcomes for young people, having regard to resources available to us and to ensure that the programmes and services being provided are relevant and responsive to young people's needs.

Juvenile Offenders

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

158. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which adequate accommodation remains available, or is likely to become available, in respect of juvenile offenders with particular reference to future and current needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36295/14]

The 3 children detention schools, all located at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin, currently provide a total of 46 detention places for young people ordered to be remanded or committed by the courts in relation to criminal matters. These comprise 6 places for girls up to the age of 18 on admission and 40 places for boys up to the age of 17 on admission.

Boys aged 17 on being ordered to be detained are currently accommodated by the Irish Prison Service. This practice will cease, meeting the commitment in the Programme for Government to end the practice of detaining children in adult prison facilities, when new children detention facilities currently being constructed on the Oberstown campus become available before the end of this year. Construction commenced on site on the Oberstown campus in September 2013 and the new facilities will increase the capacity on the campus to provide sufficient accommodation for all children under 18 years of age ordered to be detained by the courts in relation to criminal matters.

In the interim, there is ongoing contact with the Courts, Probation and An Garda Síochána regarding the availability of places in the children detention schools and, pending introduction of the expanded facilities, the existing facilities at the Oberstown campus will continue to be available to the Courts.

Child Abuse

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

159. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the degree to which his Department has received reports of the various forms of child abuse in the past 12 months; the extent to which it has been found possible to provide an adequate follow up response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36296/14]

Statutory responsibility for the delivery of child welfare and protection services rests with the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, which is the appropriate body to receive all reports of concerns relating to all forms of child abuse.

Each referral received by the Agency is assessed and progressed on an individual basis by the relevant social work team. Preliminary screening is aimed at establishing the appropriateness of the referral to Children and Family Agency, Tusla services and if necessary is followed by an initial assessment of the nature and degree of any harm and an assessment of the child's needs.

The Agency has advised that there were 4,641 referrals for child abuse during quarter one of 2014 - 1,037 (22%) of these referrals received related to a concern of physical abuse - 1,576 (34%) related to a concern of emotional abuse - 806 (18%) related to sexual abuse and 1,222 (26%) referrals received related to neglect. Following the preliminary enquiry by the Agency of the 4641 referrals, there was a reduction by 41% in the number of individual cases going on to have an initial assessment. The reasons for this included the duplication of referrals, the child being known to the service and receiving attention, or that the referral was not appropriate for the agency.

The Agency publishes a range of reports on performance indicators on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. Among these indicators is information relating to referral and assessment processes, and numbers of substantiated cases which have led to a child's name being placed on the Child Protection Notification System and having a Child Protection Plan. The Agency also provides an annual Review of Adequacy Report under Section 8 of the Child Care Act 1991. The annual service planning process provides an opportunity to set out service priorities in the context of available resources. In addition, information is provided to me by the Agency on specific issues as required or to inform me of policy or legislative issues arising in the services.

My Department's function is exercised through a range of interactions with officials in the Agency. Among the more formal engagements are regular meetings between myself and the Chief Executive Officer of the Agency along with our respective senior management teams. Officials from my Department also meet formally on a quarterly basis with their counterparts in the Agency to discuss Performance Indicators and to seek in general to maintain and where possible improve the service provided by the Agency to the wider public. The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) inspect Agency Child Protection and Welfare and services for children in care and publish reports of their findings. There are regular and ongoing meetings between my Department and HIQA where HIQA report on their monitoring of services for children at risk.