Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Child Abuse

I am not joined by my colleague, Deputy Rabbitte, as she has been unavoidably detained in RTÉ studios. We had an agreement that I would take the issue and we speak with one voice on this matter.

I want to raise the issue of ongoing matters in Scouting Ireland in respect of historical child abuse cases. According to The Irish Times on 21 February, 313 alleged victims and 237 alleged abusers in Scouting Ireland have been identified. We have raised this issue today because there has not been any mechanism since the Minister's last appearance at the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs to articulate our concerns in respect of the drip-feeding of reports to the media without a parallel process in respect of these issues in place in the House. A mechanism must be found to ensure the Minister reports back to the House on these matters regularly.

I also wish to ask the Minister specifically when Mr. Elliott's report will be finalised and made public. This is a matter of grave public concern. Mr. Elliott was brought in by Scouting Ireland. He is a safeguarding expert whose bona fides are without question. However, it appears as though the lines of public communications seem to be between Mr. Elliott internally, the chief executive, presumably, and the line Department. We are concerned that this is quite a linear process which needs to be expanded. We need to see greater transparency around this.

I am also concerned that Scouting Ireland itself is managing the phoneline for those with concerns. Is it through Scouting Ireland, the Garda or Tusla that people should go? I do not believe that is right if a person is a victim or alleged victim, or that person wishes to report something. If a person has been traumatised by an organisation historically, it is very hard to have the confidence to return to that organisation to report allegations of abuse. I want to put that on the record as it is an issue that must be addressed. There are people who do not have confidence in Scouting Ireland, notwithstanding the bona fides of the child protection expert who has been brought in. They must have confidence that their issues will be dealt with through Scouting Ireland as the phoneline is currently constituted. There is a danger of revictimising people who have been traumatised.

Will the Minister consider an organisation such as One in Four being brought in to examine the mechanisms being used to deal with the historical cases? It could liaise with the external expert who has been hired as an internal adviser on child protection in Scouting Ireland. This liaison could take place through the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and-or Tusla.

Like all in this House, I share the great concern of parents about safeguarding issues in Scouting Ireland. As Minister responsible for the safety, protection and care of children and young people, I have given the highest priority to the very serious concerns raised in 2018 about scouting. This has included face-to-face engagement with the leadership of the organisation to set out my concerns in person.

With this in mind I wish to inform Members and, most importantly, parents throughout the country about information of which I have become aware in recent hours. In recent days Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has written to Scouting Ireland highlighting serious concerns about that organisation. I intend to put that letter into the public domain today both through my Department’s website and by circulation to all Members of this House. In the letter, Tusla outlines issues about the implementation of Children First within Scouting Ireland. I wish to inform parents and Deputies immediately of eight recommendations which the child safety and protection experts of Tusla have made to the chief executive of Scouting Ireland.

First, it is imperative that a proposed meeting between Scouting Ireland board of management is progressed without delay. Second, the actions of key personnel holding a role in safeguarding within Scouting Ireland may have been comprised and further consideration may have to be given to this. Consideration should be given to nominating the CEO of Scouting Ireland to be the principal liaison in work on Children First. A sub-committee should be put in place to review the child safeguarding statement and procedures throughout the organisation. An urgent review of the manner in which Scouting Ireland manages current child protection concerns and disclosures from children should commence. There should be an immediate review of the supervision of children involved in scouting. Scouting Ireland should consider the viability of continuing with overnight trips. Consideration should be given to ensure the personnel manning the helpline are independent of Scouting Ireland.

I have placed these recommendations in the public domain because I believe that parents have a right to know the views those who are charged with protecting and safeguarding our children and who work with no other agenda. As I stated these concerns have only come to light. They require urgent consideration and, with this in mind, I will be meeting the chief social worker in my Department to consider what further actions may be required.

I know that all in this Chamber, including the Deputies who tabled this Topical Issue question, share my view that we must never compromise on the issue of child safety and protection. Children must at all times come first whatever the implications for any club, body or organisation. I will be in further communication with Members in the coming hours. There are serious concerns about the issues raised within scouting. I am fully aware of this and, as a result, I have placed this as a top priority for me and have been fully engaged with the issues involved. Most recently I met representatives of Scouting Ireland on 28 January to be updated on the independent barrister’s report into issues surrounding an allegation of sexual assault by an adult volunteer against another adult volunteer. My officials met Scouting Ireland on 7 February to discuss the detail and actions taken on the latest available figures on the allegations of abuse.

I will conclude given that some of my statement which was circulated to Deputies was covered by Deputy Sherlock. Today we send a unified message as public representatives to those who suffered abuse and who continue to suffer in silence that help and support are available. To those victims I say that they should contact Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, or An Garda Síochána.

I welcome the Minister's response. We are hearing of this almost as it has happened. However, I have a concern about the Minister's reply. Notwithstanding her openness and transparency, I asked specifically that in historical cases the helpline be operated by an independent organisation acting outside Scouting Ireland. That is important. The Minister did say that consideration should be given to ensure that the personnel manning the helpline are independent of Scouting Ireland. There is a mechanism to bring in an organisation such as One in Four. There is a lack of confidence in Scouting Ireland's ability to deal with its own affairs.

I am concerned by the Minister's statement that consideration should be given to nominating the CEO of Scouting Ireland to be the principal liaison to work on Children First. We need to examine the dynamics that exist within Scouting Ireland regarding its governance. Notwithstanding the Minister's robust reply, the Government needs to take this completely out of Scouting Ireland's hands for it to be dealt with wholly independently if there is to be confidence among the parents whose children are part of scout troops throughout the country. A great shadow is being cast across Scouting Ireland as a result of these revelations. Speaking as a parent myself, I am very concerned about Scouting Ireland as constituted, notwithstanding the issues around governance and child protection that it is going through. Scouting Ireland does not command the support of those its seeks to represent and the Government needs to intervene further to remove it from their hands entirely to deal with these issues.

I appreciate and acknowledge Deputy Sherlock's strong response. I have put Tusla's recommendations to Scouting Ireland on the record of the House in the context of its role in implementing the protections for children in terms of the Children First legislation.

What the Deputy is referring to is what Tusla has stated.

I have also indicated that there are a number of actions in which I will be engaged in the next couple of hours in order to provide what I believe is the most appropriate response to the information I received in the past couple of hours. I appreciate Deputy Sherlock's concern that we need to take robust action and I will do that as soon as I have had the opportunity to have a little bit more advice from the chief social worker as well as consider what is being placed in front of me.

The information I have received emerged as a result of meetings between Tusla and Scouting Ireland that began at the beginning of this year whereby Tusla began a process to support Scouting Ireland in implementing the requirements of Children First, including its proper procedures and policies and that its safeguarding statement is compliant. Meetings were held. The Tusla principal social worker analysed sample cases of child protection and welfare reports that were received by it from Scouting Ireland and an examination of practices relating to the helpline was carried out. As a result, Tusla laid out the recommendations I have just outlined.

I assure the House that, as Minister, my concern relates first and foremost to the children. I will give that my attention. I will do everything in my power to ensure that this concern and priority regarding the children is what will be addressed in the next couple of hours and as we continue to work with Scouting Ireland.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

I submitted this matter on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. It is being taken today, but it was tabled on the back of the strike action taken on 18 January. The Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, will be well aware of the situation.

The 1,250 workers - community employment, CE, supervisors and assistant supervisors - to whom this matter relates are affected by not having occupational pensions. The Labour Court recommendation of 2008 stated that they should have such pensions. Some 11 years later they are still waiting for those pensions. In 2015, the workers in question received a commitment from the then Government to the effect that the issue would be resolved. That Government left office and, in 2016, the current Government, of which the Minister of State is a member, came into power with Fianna Fáil. The matter to which I refer has been stuck in limbo during that period. Fianna Fáil committed to ensure a pension scheme as part of the confidence and supply agreement and that has not happened yet either. Both unions involved, SIPTU and Fórsa, have written to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform about this matter on numerous occasions.

Some 250 supervisors have retired since 2008. These 250 individuals are on statutory redundancy payments only. Up to 40 supervisors retire each year. It is disgraceful that these workers do not have a pension other than the statutory pension. The supervisors and assistant supervisors have a clear pay link with managers, instructors and administrative staff in community training workshops and they are seeking a defined pension scheme similar to that which applies to these grades.

The Government is ignoring the Labour Court recommendation. Those on the opposite side of the House have always stated that they support the Labour Court recommendations, as has proven to be the case in the context of the issues relating to nurses, midwives and psychiatric nurses. I ask the Minister of State to provide a commitment that he will meet these workers and their representatives to discuss how this matter can be dealt with.

The Department cannot keep hiding behind the fact that these are independent groups and acting as a shadow employer. It is bad practice to hide behind the structures of the CE schemes. The existence of employer sponsored occupational pensions marks out decent employers. I am raising with the Minister of State the fact that the Government is being a bad employer by not addressing the issue that these workers desperately need addressed.

I thank Deputy Joan Collins for agreeing to reschedule this matter to today. It was picked on Thursday last and, because I was obliged to attend a funeral, it was postponed with the Deputy's consent.

I am taking this matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, and I will bring any points raised to his attention. I am aware that the issue has been a source of concern to supervisors for a long time. I am also aware that it has been raised here in the Dáil by successive Deputies to successive Ministers. The commitment, dedication and hard work of CE supervisors and assistant supervisors, who are employees of organisations in the community and voluntary sector, is greatly appreciated by the Government and all sides of the House.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection assumed responsibility for the CE programme from FÁS in January 2012. In July 2008, IMPACT and SIPTU brought a claim to the Labour Court seeking Exchequer-funded pension provision for community employment supervisors and assistant supervisors. The outcome was a Labour Court recommendation that FÁS, as the recognised funding agency, should fund the pension provision. In the context of this recommendation, the position has always been that neither FÁS nor the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is the employer and it is not possible for the State to providing funding for such a scheme to employees of private companies even if those companies are, or were, reliant on State funding.

The community sector high-level forum, which was reinstated in 2015, includes representatives from Departments and statutory agencies and union representatives. The forum has since met on several occasions.

At a meeting in April 2017, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform outlined its intention to conduct a detailed scoping exercise in order to comprehensively examine and assess the full potential implications of the issues that Deputy Joan Collins and others have raised. This scoping exercise was carried out with input from the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service, IGEES, on the potential costs of providing Exchequer support for the establishment of such a pension scheme for employees across the community and voluntary sector. The exercise clearly illustrated that the matter presents extremely difficult and significant issues for the Exchequer, with a potential cost to the State of €188 million per annum in respect of funding to enable an employer pension contribution in State-funded community and voluntary organisations, excluding any provision for immediate ex gratia lump sum payment of pension as sought, which could, depending on the size of the sector, entail a further Exchequer cost of up to €318 million.

While the issue at hand relates to CE supervisors and assistant supervisor who, I recognise, feel aggrieved, these are a group within the wider community and voluntary sector. Any provision of funding for such a scheme in respect of employees could have a knock-on effect for other schemes. Therefore, the question of the pension provision for employees in the community and voluntary sector is one which is of relevance to a potentially large number of individuals far greater than those who, I know, are anxious in this sector.

Finally, it is worth noting that the issue has been dealt with by successive Ministers for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform in three Governments since 2008. I will bring to the attention of the Minister the points that Deputy Joan Collins has raised and of which I have made note. If it would be of benefit for the Deputy to have a meeting with officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, I will arrange it.

I would definitely take up that offer. I thank the Minister of State.

The Labour Court not only made a recommendation in 2008, it also made one on 16 March 2016 in respect of an employee who worked for Tipperary Hostel Limited. The Labour Court gave a ruling in that case as well. Having considered the oral and written submissions from both parties, the court recommended an ex gratia payment of three weeks' pay per year of service over and above the statutory redundancy payment already paid should now be paid to the claimant. The Labour court also noted that due to the financial circumstances of the organisation, it did not have the funds to pay this amount out of its own resources and recommended that the parties should co-operate in seeking the necessary funds from the funding agency to discharge the amount recommended.

There is a responsibility on the Government. The Minister of State cannot say that the Government cannot pay these workers proper pensions because it will cost too much. It is either right or it is wrong. They are either entitled to their pensions or they are not. That is what we have to deal with here. If it will cost money, then so be it.

I do not accept the Department hiding behind the fact that these are private companies, etc. The workers are paid by the State. The CE schemes are run on behalf of the State in some of the most vulnerable areas. As the Minister of State indicated, those involved do good work. They do not need tea and sympathy. They need hard bucks because, as good workers, they are entitled to them. Ms Patricia King came out strongly on this matter last week.

She said it was bad employer practice not to respect workers and give them the pension they deserve. I would like to meet representatives in the Department about this. System supervisors have a clear pay link with managers, instructors and administrative staff in community training workshops and they get a pension, so why are these workers not getting a pension? It is something we could look at in more detail.

The Deputy referred to a 2016 case and I will bring it to the attention of the Minister. I am sure the Deputy has heard the reply umpteen times from successive people who have had to stand up and respond to the question, and it relates to the definition of "public servant". That relates to the issue of how people are paid. I omitted to say that in the aftermath of the community sector high level forum being established under the Lansdowne Road agreement in 2015, there were discussions with Fórsa, which was then IMPACT, PSEU and CPSU. It was chaired by an assistant secretary and membership included a wide range of Departments, including those relating to employment affairs, social protection, health, education and skills, housing, planning and local government. Pobal, as the agency responsible, and others were also involved.

As I said at the outset, I am here to listen and respond on behalf of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Donohoe. I have noted the issues raised by the Deputy and suggested that an engagement between her and officials in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform might be of benefit. I will take back the issue, discuss it with the Minister, and we will revert to the Deputy in due course.

Public Transport Provision

I raise this topic as it is one that will have most impact on people living in Dublin in the coming years and decades. There are two aspects and I will speak both to the local and the general elements. If the Minister bears with me, I will begin by speaking specifically about my local constituency of Dublin South-West, particularly Templeogue. Some people may be aware, as it has been mentioned in the House already this week, that there have been public meetings in the constituency, with hundreds of people attending them. These people live in the area on the affected roads or surrounding roads.

The principal argument about what the National Transport Authority, NTA, and BusConnects are doing is that they are addressing the issue, as they should, of people who commute through the area. Is the NTA taking account of communities in the area through which the commuting takes place? I am in favour of public transport and an enhanced bus service. I am in favour of enhanced cycle lanes and allowing for the development of our city for environmental as well as good commuting reasons, facilitating the taking of people out of cars and providing them with proper public transport. I am not in favour of a system that BusConnects reflects currently, which has basically no regard of the impact on existing communities through which it would go.

At Templeogue village, the inward-bound lane would be closed at Terenure so people would not be able to drive towards the city centre. That is not just at peak times but 24-7, as there is a real necessity at 3 a.m. to have that rule in place. Parking is to be reduced substantially in the village but there has been no consultation with local businesses, which exist on the basis of people being able to park for a few minutes to go into a shop to buy a local product from a local person running a local business. Those businesses will not survive and plonking some big car park down the back of the village will not enable them to survive either. They need to have access to local parking.

This route through Templeogue village is a local road for the people living on it, although it may be a main road to some people. It is proposed to have what amounts to a "hyperlane", consisting of two car lanes, two bus lanes and two cycle lanes, running through the village. How are people supposed to cross from one side of the village to the other with that type of structure in place? There is currently one lane in either direction and a cycle lane interacts with the footpath. The other joke is they say it is a necessity because the proposal is for full continuous lanes; in the middle of Templeogue village, however, we can see the insanity of what is proposed because the lane just stops and vanishes without a trace. The route reverts to a regular road, with the cyclists having to leave the cycle lane and the buses having to leave the bus lane. Everybody gets to a point in the middle of the road because there is no more bus or cycle lane. If that does not undermine the logic of the project by itself, I do not know what would.

I will come back to the general principle as the NTA must look again at how it is doing this and particularly the public consultation. This is where we get to the general point for all of Dublin. We need to be honest and upright with people. The NTA needs to say it is either the needs of the commuter that outweighs the need of the community or there can be a balance between them. The feeling is overwhelmingly that in the communities through which BusConnects plans to plough, they will be the sacrificed so we can have an enhanced bus service in the city. I ask the Minister to reconsider this as it is possible to devise a system that is fair to both.

I thank the Deputy for raising this important matter. I sympathise with much of what he said but the remedy is in our hands. Let me make two statements which all sides of this House can agree upon. We need to transform public transport in Dublin, and we need to consult with communities as we embark upon that transformation. I understand the clash portrayed between communities and commuters and, although I do not accept the point, I understand the argument that there is a conflict between them and their interests at certain hours of the day. I sincerely hope those are not the only two points of agreement today but if they are to be, at least they are fundamental to our discussion.

BusConnects is designed to transform our bus system and our cycling network, as the Deputy referred to. It will radically increase the number of bus services available and radically improve the journey times for passengers on those services. It will deliver approximately 200 km of largely segregated cycling tracks and lanes. BusConnects will transform the lives of Dubliners and the city itself, and that transformation will be for the better. That is the ambition of this project, and that ambition forms an integral part of Project Ireland 2040. Everyone in this House knows we need to transform public transport.

If we are going to make Dublin the type of sustainable, liveable city we all want it to be, then better public transport and better cycling and walking infrastructure need to be at the heart of the city. As I said in the House just last week on another matter, this type of major transformative project will always cause an impact. The ambition - indeed the stated intention - is that this impact will ultimately be positive, but along the way there will be temporary disruptions and inconveniences. That is why we need to engage with communities and citizens throughout the process. We must hear their views and listen to their concerns, and that is exactly what the NTA has been doing all along as it develops BusConnects.

The NTA first consulted with citizens on these proposals way back in 2015 as it drafted the transport strategy for the greater Dublin area. That strategy first set out the ambition to overhaul our bus network and ensure more Dubliners have greater access to better bus services than ever before. Since the launch of BusConnects, the NTA has engaged in an extensive consultation process with citizens and community groups across the city. I know there are some who allege this consultation has not been sufficient but it has been a significant in terms of its scale, reach and the depth of engagement. A wealth of information has been published online and in the press for each and every one of the 16 corridors, as well as a significant volume of detail provided last summer on the proposed new network as it was first published.

Even more importantly from my perspective, there has been active and sustained personal engagement with communities and citizens across the city to explain the proposals but also, of course, to listen to people's views. The NTA holds local information sessions during each consultation period for each for the corridors, including the ones referred to by the Deputy. In addition, local community forums have been established, or will be established, for each of the corridors, which seek to bring together community groups to discuss issues of common interest. On top of all that, the NTA has written to each and every individual property owner who might be personally impacted by the proposals and has offered a one-to-one meeting to explain, in person and in detail, the implications, the timelines and the process involved. Let me be clear that the NTA is engaging with local communities as it embarks upon this transformation. I reiterate that this is the start of a process. This is why the NTA is seeking people’s views.

I want to see a bus system that connects more Dubliners to more job opportunities and more social and leisure activities and saves Dubliners up to 40% to 50% of their time on their bus journey, time saved that they can spend doing what they want to do and not sitting in traffic.

I thank the Minister for his reply. As he was able to agree with me regarding some aspects of the reply, I am able to agree with him, but the devil is in the detail. I want to put one or two of those details into play. The NTA is engaged in a consultation process but has not yet contacted everybody. A public meeting on Monday night heard that one owner had received no communication from the NTA. The very first interaction the owner had with the NTA was at a public meeting about a compulsory purchase order of land owned by that person. This is a disgrace.

The NTA is making an effort on one level, but on another level it started a consultation on a route process and has not finished. It has moved to the second phase of a consultation about another part of the plan. Many people, and the Minister might think them cynical, might be a bit worried about an organisation that has not even replied to the phase one consultation about the routes but is ploughing on with phase two. Perhaps there is predetermined outcome and we are just being talked to. Are we being listened to? When the NTA comes back, we will have to see how much it has really listened because if it really listens, some of what is being proposed cannot go ahead.

If roads are closed on a 24-7 basis, as currently proposed by the NTA, there will be traffic gridlock in Dublin city. We cannot reverse that overnight. If we destroy communities by building these hyper-lanes down roads that do not need to be built, we cannot reverse that overnight. We have major decisions to make and we need a much greater consultation process and far more involvement from communities. Otherwise, we will have a partial transport solution that does not meet the needs of the commuter and will destroy the communities through which it goes. The NTA needs to slow down and think.

I understand the Deputy's frustration because a large number of people will be inconvenienced by what happens. To some extent, it is a matter of the greater good because of the chronic traffic situation in Dublin and the need to improve public transport and make journeys by public transport faster and more efficient.

I am surprised that the Deputy can mention a case where the NTA has not informed someone because my understanding is that all property owners who could be impacted by the new bus lanes were notified by registered letter by the NTA immediately before the public launch. That letter explains the proposal, the overview map of the road and the potential impact on their property, and it offers one-to-one meetings with the NTA to discuss the specific implications for property owners. If the Deputy has a specific case in mind, he should give it to me and I will be delighted to refer it to the NTA and ask it about it, but I do not think there is any kind of deliberate decision or effort to bypass people in any way. There may have been a problem or misunderstanding or the registered letter may not have been served properly. There is a commitment by the NTA, which I believe is a firm and genuine commitment, to contact anybody affected.

My understanding is that the take-up of the one-to-one meetings is disappointingly low. I think it is about 12%, which is low, but the NTA is open to that. The Deputy must acknowledge that there was a very wide consultation about the BusConnects routes and network last summer. The NTA received 30,000 submissions from the Dublin area, which it is looking at. The Deputy said that the proof of the pudding will be in the eating and I agree with him. The NTA will come back in the next few months with a new plan for a further public consultation and we will see where we go from there and what changes are being made. It is probably unfair and certainly premature to say that the NTA is not serious about public consultation. It is engaging in a series of public consultations and we will see what the results will be.

National Dementia Strategy Implementation

I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Jim Daly, for taking this Topical Issue matter, which is very important to the people of north Kildare. I, along with Deputy Micheál Martin, who was on a visit recently to the constituency of Kildare North, met those looking for a dementia-specific day care centre in north Kildare. These people are very concerned about the lack of services in that area, which has a population of approximately 120,000. I will go into the detail of the need for services and the argument for putting such services in place.

The policy, which I think the Minister of State would support, involves supporting those living with dementia to allow them to live in their homes in the first instance and in the wider community and to ensure this can continue for as long as possible. There is no day centre in north Kildare for people with dementia. There are 1,229 people with dementia in Kildare so it is quite a significant number of people and the required service is not in place. It has also been recognised that three family members are directly affected by someone who is living with dementia and, as a result, they provide care for them on a day-to-day and voluntary basis, so there are many supports given within the immediate family. However, there is a need for other supports and services to assist those living with dementia.

Providing a two-day-per-week care centre to help people living with dementia in north Kildare has been costed at approximately €70,000. This is relatively reasonable money and I hope the Minister can accept that in the hope that we can provide such a service. This costing has been produced through the Alzheimer Society Of Ireland, so it is on a sound footing and based on good information. People living with dementia in north Kildare are starved of services at the moment because they are not in place. As a result, most people living with dementia in this region must travel to other locations like Dublin and south Kildare to get services. As the Minister of State is aware, people living with dementia are sometimes not in a position to travel because of their condition. People qualified in this area tell me that ideally, services should be located within a 30-mile radius. If we look at north Kildare, which encompasses Celbridge, Leixlip, Maynooth, Kilcock and Clane, we can see that services do not exist within a 30-mile radius of that region. The Alzheimer Society of Ireland feels that its requests are not being listened to properly and are not being taken on board by Government.

I have engaged with the HSE, which is very supportive of what needs to be provided in north Kildare and is assisting and supporting the Alzheimer Society of Ireland in a positive way. Obviously, what is needed is funding, which would need to be approved and allocated to allow this two-day per week day care centre to be set up to assist people living with dementia.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. Many people with dementia are able to live long, fulfilling lives following their diagnosis, and fostering compassionate and inclusive communities can greatly improve the quality of life for persons with dementia and their families. It is Government policy that people should live and receive care in their own homes and communities for as long as possible.

To support future development of services and supports for people with dementia, the National Dementia Office and the Alzheimer Society of Ireland undertook a joint project in 2016 and 2017 to map dementia-specific community-based services across the country. Information from the project is included in an online service finder on the Understand Together website so people can find out what services are available in each county. In north Kildare, the HSE offers a psychiatry of later life service in Naas, providing specialist mental health services to older people through a multidisciplinary team. This team works with GPs, hospitals and other local healthcare and social services, and St. John of God's, Liffey region, operates an intellectual disability memory clinic in Celbridge. As a population, the risk of developing dementia is much higher among those with an intellectual disability and among those with Down's syndrome in particular, and this service provides an early warning.

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland runs a dementia-specific person-centred day centre in Kildare town, and day care centres in Maynooth and Monasterevin. People with dementia are also able to access generic day care services from a centre in Kildare. The Alzheimer Society of Ireland also operates one of its branches in Monasterevin, providing support and information at a local level, as well as support groups in Clane, Kilcock and Newbridge, a social club in Maynooth, Alzheimer cafés in Leixlip and Naas, and four dementia carer support groups across the county.

While there are gaps in access to services and a variation in what services are provided, efforts are ongoing to address this. To address the gap, and to meet the national dementia strategy objective that people with dementia should be facilitated to remain living in their own homes, €2.2 million has been secured through the 2018 dormant accounts action plan to test the concept of community-based resource or meeting centres for people living with dementia, offering a range of services, including day care services, information and advice services, peer and carer support, post-diagnostic support programmes, education and training, and psychological interventions. The National Dementia Office met senior HSE officials in CHO 7 to highlight service gaps and to provide guidance and support on dementia service planning and development. A dementia needs framework has been developed to support existing services. On a national level, as part of the national dementia strategy implementation programme, a range of supports have been introduced to assist people with dementia and their families and carers, including dementia-specific intensive home care packages and a training programme for GPs and primary care teams to help them to diagnose and manage dementia.

Assistive technology can play a role in the helping people manage their daily lives following a dementia diagnosis. A national network of memory technology resource rooms has been established with funding from the Dormant Accounts Fund, including one in County Kildare. These rooms allow people with dementia and their families to explore and test appropriate equipment which may assist them, enhancing independence, well-being and safety.

The Department of Health and the HSE are committed to ensuring that community services will continue to develop integrated working arrangements across health and social care settings. Specific services for people with dementia are included in this, and work will continue to ensure the provision of effective services to support people with dementia, their carers and families.

I thank the Minister of State. I had acknowledged the policy was to support people living with dementia in their own homes and in communities. While he highlighted the services that are in place, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and the day care centre group acknowledge they fall short, given the number of people living with dementia and the lack of other supports and services. We are trying to fill the gaps and improve the services.

I am not coming into the House to be critical of the Minister of State. I want to highlight the deficiency and to put forward a costing from the Alzheimer Society of Ireland which seems reasonable. I hope this can focus attention to deliver this day care centre. The day care centres in south Kildare to which he referred are a journey away, and the logistics of trying to get people there is difficult, as transport is not always available and the reality of living with dementia means it is not always possible for people to travel that distance. Given the demographics of north Kildare and its population, in particular the number of people living with dementia, I am trying to get the supports put in place to provide a day centre in the area which would start off by providing services on two days a week. The day care centre group, with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, has stated that if this was put in place, it would assist in a positive way people living with dementia and their families.

I want a commitment that this can happen. As the Minister of State said, the HSE is very supportive of this group and it acknowledges the good work being done. It also acknowledges that this service is required and it supports the call for it to be provided in north Kildare.

I thank the Deputy. I acknowledge his earnestness in this regard and his efforts to support people with dementia living in north Kildare, which I genuinely appreciate. As the Minister of State with responsibility for this area, I believe every Deputy's endeavours to highlight the lack of services available to the people they represent are always a positive, given we are here to try to address such matters and I wish to acknowledge that.

I confirm that I will speak with the HSE and the National Dementia Office, which is an integral part of implementing the strategy. I do not make the decisions on what goes where and it is not within my gift to decide that. However, I can focus attention on a particular issue and seek answers from the service delivery agent, which is the HSE, and from the National Dementia Office in order to get its view. The Deputy made compelling case regarding a gap in services in Kildare North and he pointed out that the services in Kildare South require people to undertake a journey. I presume a proposal has gone to the HSE for funding for this service.

Yes. The proposal is for funding of €70,000 per annum, which would deliver a day care centre on two days every week, which would be brilliant.

I am happy to follow up that application with the HSE and I will revert directly to the Deputy.