I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for selecting this matter for debate.
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Local Area Plans
Not for the first time.
Not for the first time is right, and we will come to that during the discussion.
I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Phelan, for coming to the House to take the debate and I acknowledge the absence of the Minister of State, Deputy English. He contacted me as he had planned to be here but there was a diary clash. He has discussed the issue with me in the past. This is the third occasion in the past 15 months on which I have raised it.
The matter at hand relates to land identified in the local area plan, under the county development plan and regional planning guidelines, as an area of key strategic development. It is also an area identified for a master plan to be carried out. Due to how zoning has been carried out and identified in Celbridge in the local area plan, quite a bit of land referred to in submissions from the Department cannot be developed or built on until the necessary infrastructure is put in place. We accept and acknowledge this and we must learn from the mistakes of the past. We must have development in parallel with infrastructure and services being put in place. This is why the issue is so important and why I have raised it here for debate.
This is seen as key strategic land for development. It does not rely on a lot of infrastructure or services. It is right beside Hazelhatch train station. It is close to schools and in walking distance of Celbridge GAA club and the tennis club. There is fast access to the M7 and M8 motorways and from there to the M50 and a good road network. It has all the positives. It is on this basis, and because the land identified in the recent local area plan cannot be built on or developed because of the lack of infrastructure, that for now we are trying to get this prioritised and pushed on.
When I debated this two months ago with the Minister of State, Deputy English, he acknowledged in the Chamber that the Department would be supportive of this and would engage with the local authority. While the Department cannot tell the local authority what to do, it would acknowledge this is an area for key development and would be supportive of the local authority progressing with the master plan. It is also worth noting that all the key stakeholders are willing to implement the master plan at no cost to the local authority but under direct guidance and in partnership with the local authority. Everyone is on board. It just needs to be progressed.
In October, the Minister of State, Deputy English, gave a solid commitment that he would correspond, liaise and communicate with the local authority. To my knowledge, this has not happened. Hence, we have to discuss the matter again today. I hope I will not have to raise it in the new year. I have no reason to believe that the Minister of State, Deputy English, is changing on the commitment he made because so far he has been very positive about the project. I ask for a strict timeline for when communication will happen between him and the local authority so we can get this much needed master plan progressed. Once it is signed off and agreed, we can progress to the various stages.
We have a housing crisis. Celbridge has a population of 22,500. It is on the periphery of Dublin, as are Leixlip, Maynooth, Kilcock and Clane.
What is the population?
It is 22,500 people. People want to live there. Funnily enough, according to the figures I obtained from the National Transport Authority, NTA, Hazelhatch train station has been identified as one of the least used stations in the country. This is because it is outside the town. A development such as this would be very advantageous because it would advocate for full use of public transport as the site is a five-minute walk from the train station. It is also worth noting the Kildare line, which Hazelhatch train station is on, is identified as one of the priority lines for getting extra carriages when the new carriages come in 2021.
I thank the Deputy for raising the matter. As he pointed out, I am taking the debate on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy English, who had a prior commitment. The advancement of housing development in Celbridge and the continued planned growth of this important town in tandem with the supporting infrastructure and amenities required is an important issue. I remember when Celbridge was a village and I am not that old. As the Deputy pointed out, 22,500 people now live there. It has a unique location in terms of motorways, rail infrastructure and proximity to Dublin.
The Celbridge local area plan for the period 2017 to 2023 was adopted by the elected members of Kildare County Council on 17 August 2017 and came into effect on 14 September that year. I welcome the fact that the plan supports the provision of substantial new housing development in a key urban area close to Dublin. Kildare County Council, in its current county development plan, has earmarked Celbridge to grow in population by approximately 10,000 people over the next five to ten years. We need to plan for this increase and to ensure that Celbridge grows in a coherent fashion with the timely delivery of the new infrastructure that will be needed for this expanded population. The provisions in the plan enabling future housing growth on the southern side of the town, in proximity to the existing commuter rail station at Hazelhatch, are particularly welcome. This development strategy is consistent with established national and regional planning policy, which encourages new housing accessible to such high-quality public transport facilities in the interest of sustainable development. The local area plan did not identify the lands adjacent to Hazelhatch train station for immediate development due, primarily, to flood management issues. Kildare County Council has engaged consultants to address the issue, with a final report due early next year.
Notwithstanding this, the local area plan also identifies the key pieces of strategic infrastructure that are required to be delivered as part of the planned new housing development areas. The phasing arrangements set out in section 13 of the local area plan include requirements on the provision of new road, bridge, open space and other facilities that will support the new homes to be constructed. Design briefs are also provided for the five key development areas earmarked for future housing development, which will further assist in ensuring the construction of quality residential neighbourhoods that are integrated into the existing urban fabric of the town.
As part of the roll-out of the local area plan and in the interests of supporting the integrated development of housing within it, Kildare County Council is committed to preparing a transport mobility management plan to support the sustainable growth of the town. State agencies, along with the Department and, I understand, the NTA will be active in their support of the development of such a plan, which will inform future infrastructure delivery.
I understand that Irish Water is in the process of upgrading the Leixlip wastewater treatment plant which serves Celbridge, and is also actively working to address identified constraints in the local waste water system, in particular the upgrading of the local pumping station. These measures will actively support the ongoing and future delivery of housing in Celbridge.
Furthermore, the Department is administering the urban regeneration and development fund, URDF, launched as part of Project Ireland 2040. The fund is designed to support the compact growth and sustainable development of Ireland's five cities, regional drivers and other large urban centres and to leverage a greater proportion of residential and commercial development, supported by infrastructure, services and amenities, within the existing built-up areas of our larger urban settlements. The Department has responsibility for implementing the URDF, which has an allocation of €2 billion over ten years.
In 2018, bids were invited from public bodies for funding support from the URDF under category A, for projects that were proposed as being ready to be initiated, or under category B, as projects that required further consideration and development. On 26 November 2018, initial URDF support of €100 million was provisionally allocated to a total of 88 projects throughout the country. As part of the first tranche, Kildare County Council was allocated support of €400,000 towards its category B proposal to progress the technical and preparatory element of the Celbridge southern relief road and second Liffey crossing. The advancement and completion of this category B project is, in the first instance, a matter for Kildare County Council. It will also be a matter for the council to consider the advancement of subsequent elements of the wider project, and whether additional funding support should be sought for them under future URDF funding calls.
While the URDF is not intended to provide direct support for particular housing projects, some of the projects it is currently supporting, including the Celbridge southern relief road and second Liffey crossing, will enable a significant proportion of residential and mixed-use development to be delivered within the existing built-up footprints of our cities and towns. The Department will continue to work with Kildare County Council to support it in developing appropriate housing in key locations, such as Celbridge and other key urban centres in County Kildare, in accordance with the adopted statutory plans.
I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive reply. In each contribution I have made on this issue I have acknowledged the role of the Minister of State, Deputy English, working with me and my colleague, Deputy Durkan, in allocating the funding to take the second bridge in Celbridge from concept through to design and tender. The tender process for consultants is under way, with a view to consultants being appointed early in the new year. The second bridge will help to address the existing gridlock in the town and support future development. It will also assist in the development of lands included in the submission from the Department, which seeks balance in the town in terms of future development. All of this is very welcome, as I have acknowledged in the past in this House.
The lands under discussion are in a different location and they are not reliant on the aforementioned infrastructure. They are shovel-ready, once the master plan has been agreed. The current local area plan identifies this land as a key area for strategic development. It also outlines that the master plan should be completed. The land is zoned residential but it cannot be built on for the reasons mentioned, such as lack of infrastructure and so on. While these issues are being addressed, it will be some time before the process is complete. I am asking that in the meantime the master plan be progressed. For this to happen, we need the Department to communicate to the local authority that it should support the advancement of the master plan, which is identified as a requirement during the lifetime of the current local area plan, such that much-needed development and housing can be built in Celbridge on this particular site, which is located beside all of the amenities and services referenced earlier, in particular the train station.
The Kildare railway line, which services Hazelhatch train station located adjacent to this site, has been identified for additional carriages in early 2021. It has also been identified as a line to be electrified in 2023, which means the DART will be coming to Celbridge. It makes perfect sense for this development to progress. What I need from today's discussion is an update on when the Minister of State, Deputy English, will communicate with Kildare County Council to advance and support the progression of the master plan.
I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy English, to correspond or engage directly with the Deputy on the matter. I do not want to enter into any commitments on his behalf, other than to say that he has not changed his view, as pointed out by the Deputy in his initial contribution, on the strategic importance of the development of Celbridge. This is a classic case in the sense that the national development plan speaks to the need to develop our towns within their existing footprint. This is a new site, which is of huge strategic importance, but we have to marry that with the need for our town centres to be reinvigorated and invested in into the future.
I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy English, to correspond with Deputy O'Rourke on when he or his officials will make contact with Kildare County Council on the master plan.
I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this issue today. I acknowledge that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, was before the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs earlier today, where she agreed to make available a programme support payment of, as I understand it, approximately €1,500 to childcare providers. In many cases, insurance costs are increasing twofold, tenfold and, in some instances, 20-fold, in particular for non-members of Early Childhood Ireland. A provider in my constituency who paid €550 in 2019 is being quoted €2,100 for next year by Arachas. The operator has been told that if she pays €245 to join Early Childhood Ireland, which is partly funded by the Government, she will only have to pay €1,500. The risk profile of this service has not increased and it has passed all of the regulatory rigours. It is vital that services that are not members of Early Childhood Ireland are not penalised.
If Deputies adhere to the one-minute allocation, they will be given another minute later. If they do not, they might only be given 30 seconds later.
The comments of the Minister of State, Deputy Michael D'Arcy, this morning that there is nothing the Government can do to intervene in regard to increasing insurance costs struck fear into many people. Basically, what the Minister of State said is that the cost will either result in the closure of crèches or in the cost being passed on to parents. I have been contacted by many crèches in my area over the last week. The Minister is aware of one of them and she has agreed to meet some of them, for which I thank her. I will give an example. Two parents, both earning €30,000 per annum, pay rent of €1,350 per month - they think they are doing well at that level - and up until recently €1,100 per month for childcare. Owing to changes demanded by Tusla, the cost of their childcare has increased to €1,250. If the insurance cost is added to that fee, they will be in very serious trouble. The woman told me that two weeks into the month, having paid their rent and childcare costs, the couple have no money left. We need to do something. In this regard, I would suggest an increase in subsidies and the establishment by the State of a not-for-profit insurance entity to provide reasonable insurance for childcare providers.
This issue was raised this morning by two party leaders. The Taoiseach's response was underwhelming. Yesterday, the Minister, Deputy Zappone, said she was shocked and stunned by the hikes in insurance premia. I have been contacted by a number of providers in my area who are overwhelmed by what they are being quoted. One operator of a crèche on Wainsfort Road is facing closure as the quote she received is a 400% increase on what she paid last year. I have heard similar stories from other crèches.
My preference is for public childcare services in this country. I cannot understand why, as a Deputy, I can get public liability insurance for approximately €300 per annum and that when I was a member of Dublin City Council I could get public liability insurance in regard to putting up posters at a cost of approximately €120 per annum. We need to put in place a facility to enable childcare services to link into public liability insurance that is affordable.
The cost of insurance for the childcare sector has come into focus in the past few weeks. This has arisen following the withdrawal of an insurance provider from the Irish market and the confirmation that another could not be found. This is undoubtedly causing distress to providers and worry to parents.
I acknowledge there are many providers who are facing increased insurance costs. Until recently, there were two insurance underwriters offering insurance to the childcare sector in Ireland. On 6 December, one of these, Ironshore, notified its 1,300 clients that it would be withdrawing from the market. On 17 December, Padraic Smith and Company Limited, the broker which had provided the Ironshore underwriting services, informed its customers that it had failed to get a new underwriter to take over its client base. This leaves only one underwriter currently offering insurance to the sector, namely, Allianz.
The Government is limited in what it can do in this situation. It cannot compel a private business to remain in the market and it cannot directly intervene in the pricing of insurance offered to childcare providers. However, officials in my Department are working hard to find a way to support those services that have been impacted. We have engaged with Allianz, which I understand has confirmed that it will offer quotes to all but the most high risk services. Allianz, through the broker Arachas, is willing to consider quotes for all affected services. Quotes are being processed within 24 hours in the majority of cases. Some 1,100 quotes had been issued by midday today to previous Ironshore clients.
This leaves 200 providers who have not yet received quotes. I will receive an update on this tomorrow, which will be made available.
There may be a very small number of very high-risk services that will not receive quotations. The press has reported that some providers are reporting significant increases in premiums. I understand that the premiums charged by Ironshore were considerably lower than the market average, which is leading to the increases. I also understand that the average cost of Allianz insurance for full-time childcare is €60 per year per child. The average cost for sessional services, such as the early childhood care and education, ECCE, programme is €25 per year per child. This equates to 0.5% to 0.75% of the turnover of a service.
I understand that the increase is causing difficulties for providers. My Department and the city and county childcare committees are offering a number of supports for providers, including a case management system for services experiencing sustainability difficulties. For community providers, who are one in four of all childcare providers, financial supports can be made available after an assessment through a process managed by the childcare committees and Pobal. I would encourage services to contact their local childcare committee to access a range of supports, including advice or business planning.
With regard to the issue of insurance, I am liaising with my colleague, the Minister for Finance, to consider a review of insurance in the childcare sector as part of the ongoing independent review of costs in the sector. Consequently, we need to make the market more attractive to both existing insurers and to new entrants to increase competition, which in turn should lead to a reduction in pricing and an increase in capacity. For the childcare sector, this includes compliance with regulations. Compliance helps to manage risk. Managing risk is important for children and should also make childcare facilities safer places. I agree with the CEO of Tusla when he says that the childcare sector is largely compliant.
I am glad that I am in a position to make a once-off payment averaging €1,500 to providers to reflect their commitment, especially in a difficult year. This is under the programme support payment I established in 2017 to recognise the administrative burden on providers. This support will come from existing resources available to me in 2019 , and payments will be made by 28 December. The range of payments will be from small amounts right up to €26,000 for the very large providers, depending on the number of children being cared for. It is a fast-moving situation but I am committed to supporting the sector appropriately, and above all to protecting children.
I appreciate the statement the Minister has made on the average payment of €1,500 per provider. There needs to be greater interrogation of how that scheme is proposed to be rolled out. The question is whether it will give comfort to the provider that I referred to earlier. I do not buy the argument made by the insurance sector that risk profile has increased. If people, providers and owners have been compliant up to now, either through the HSE or through Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, I do not understand how their risk profile has all of a sudden increased to the point where their insurance premiums are being increased to the extent of they are.
I go back to the point that I made about one provider who is now being penalised, even though that provider's risk profile has not increased. This provider is being told that if it joins Early Childhood Ireland, it pays €240, the €2,100 that is being quoted now through Arachas is reduced to €1,500. That blows the risk profile argument out of the water. I am hopeful that the Minister will have regard to that.
In the Committee on Children and Youth Affairs meeting today, Deputy Rabbitte called for a dedicated Oireachtas helpline so that we can work through cases like that and bring them directly to the Minister's Department. I also support the call here that Irish public bodies or some other such institution should now be able to step into the breach to cover the risk.
The private insurance industry are rip-off merchants. That is what we have learned from the Central Bank. Some of us have been saying that for quite a long time, by the way. The Government said it was all fraudulent claims, particular risks, etc. They are rip-off merchants. We cannot allow the fate of childcare to be dictated by rip-off merchants. We need a not-for-profit insurance entity. That is not radical socialism, by the way. They have done this in Canada in motor insurance. Because motor insurance premiums were going through the roof, the state set up not-for-profit insurance entities. It seems to me that we should have that for childcare, and for other sectors, for that matter.
We have to ensure that administrative, insurance and other costs are not passed on to the already unaffordable cost levels of childcare. In my area, they are the highest in the country, but they are unaffordable everywhere. How is the couple that I mentioned earlier supposed to manage? The national childcare scheme will only give them €20 a week. I made this point to the Minister last week.
Did the Deputy check that?
That is from the calculator on the Minister's website. It is €20 a week against those costs.
The €1,500 additional support payment is in recognition of the additional administration that childcare providers were tasked with in 2019. This is the statement that issued from the Minister herself today. This will go to administration and will not necessarily go anywhere else.
We have to consider deeply what sort of society we are in at the moment. We are dependent on children being looked after in childcare and early learning supports. It is a fundamental requirement for families now to have this. We are leaving it to the vagaries of the insurance market as to whether crèches will survive. Either we have a public insurance body that provides insurance to childcare and other targeted areas or we bring in something like what I and every other Deputy in this Chamber has, which is the ability to get public liability insurance for about €300 a year, or the ability, which I have, through Dublin City Council to get insurance to cover my posters for the year for approximately €120. Why can we not introduce something like this so that crèches can link in and get insurance at affordable prices to cover themselves?
I thank the Deputies for their comments. I take the points that Deputy Sherlock is making on the differences in the costs of Early Childhood Ireland members and those who are not members and how the risk profile is not necessarily different. These are good questions which I will raise as part of the ongoing considerations.
On other issues, including the call from Deputy Rabbitte for an Oireachtas helpline, we need to get such a helpline set up so that there can be access to this information as this is a fast-moving situation. More information is coming in on insurance quotes that are being offered to as many crèches as possible. My overall objective is that there are no closures. In the very short-term, one of the things we have done is to provide a programme support payments of, on average, €1,500 to providers. We will make provision as to how that is determined. The formula for each crèche is the same formula we have used in the past for programme support payments, which is in respect of the number of children and whether they are in full or part-time childcare. It will differ from smaller to larger crèches. The payment will be made by 28 December and the providers will not have to do any more administration to get this payment.
I have also identified a sustainability service that Pobal also offers to ensure that facilities will not close. The not-for-profit element is certainly part of that, for which there is potentially additional funding.
On Deputy Boyd Barrett's point, I am hopeful that because of the things we are doing to support the providers in a difficult year, the cost rises across the board, insurance being part of those, will not escalate. We need to look at that, which I fully accept.
I take his point and that of Deputy Joan Collins on there being other kinds of not-for-profit models of insurance provision in other jurisdictions. I am going to feed those into the work on insurance, which is happening in the Department of Finance. We are looking for more data, particularly in the way that insurance premiums are rising, and will be feeding that data into the engagement with our colleagues. There is perhaps a better way for our sector compared with others.
Mental Health Services Provision
Jigsaw has operated youth mental health services in Moorfield, Clondalkin, for several years. The services are well regarded in the community and those who have availed of them speak highly of them. This year, unfortunately, we learned that Jigsaw in Clondalkin is to relocate with Jigsaw in Tallaght, based in a new premises there. In discussions with my colleagues, Deputies Ó Broin and Gino Kenny, and the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, and Jigsaw, we were guaranteed there would remain a substantial outreach service for north Clondalkin. The service has been widely availed of and there is great demand for it.
Unfortunately, however, the director of services at Jigsaw stated this week that the Clondalkin service was to relocate to a new premises at the end of the week and that outreach services have not been secured. She went on to state that, therefore, there is now likely to be an interim period during which all appointments will take place in Tallaght. That is not acceptable or workable. We have been promised, and as a community we expect, a substantial outreach service to continue in north Clondalkin.
It has been nine months since Deputies from Dublin Mid-West first raised the issue of Jigsaw's youth mental health services in Clondalkin and their possible closure. Since then, we have had two meetings with the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, and three with senior clinical staff at Jigsaw, we have engaged with the wider community, and there was a successful community vigil, all of which were about ensuring there would be a physical presence for Jigsaw in Clondalkin and the wider Dublin Mid-West area.
In recent months, we believed there was a solution. There was the possibility of co-locating Jigsaw with one or two other services, and negotiations were under way. As Deputy Curran noted, we learned on Monday of this week that the options have not proved successful and that from next week there will be no physical presence for this vital mental health service for young people in the constituency. The Jigsaw lease on the current premises will not expire until April and there is still time to resolve the issue. We ask the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, to intervene directly to ensure that every effort is made between now and April to maintain a physical presence of Jigsaw services for young people in Clondalkin.
Jigsaw's statement earlier in the week was very disappointing, to say the least. It would be an understatement to say that the matter has been handled very poorly by Jigsaw management since it arose. It is a question of maintaining mental health provision in north Clondalkin and the wider Dublin Mid-West. If the Jigsaw service in the area falls through, Dublin Mid-West, including Clondalkin and Rathcoole, will not have any mental health service provision, which will be a bad day for young people in the area.
We call on the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, to intervene, given that 84% of Jigsaw's funding comes from the HSE. That is a great deal of money, yet it has made a decision that is good for the centre rather than for young people. The decision is deeply regrettable.
Jigsaw in Clondalkin offers a free and confidential mental health support service for people in Clondalkin, Lucan, Newcastle and the surrounding areas in Dublin Mid-West. The service, with which I am personally familiar, was born out of necessity following a spate of youth suicides, not least in north Clondalkin. I have been accused in the past of taking the issue personally, which I do. Many of the young people who have died were children of friends and neighbours of mine. One such person, to whom I spoke on the phone before I came to the Chamber, is Susan Doyle, whose son, Robert, passed away by suicide. Susan reiterated to me her belief that her son, Robert, would still be alive today if a service such as Jigsaw had been available to him when he needed it most. If there is another youth suicide in Clondalkin or Lucan after the service is removed from the area, we will be left to ask ourselves whether the person would still be alive if Jigsaw had maintained the level of service it now has. The decision is a direct attack on the young people of Clondalkin. I urge the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, in the strongest way possible, to intervene.
I thank the Deputies for raising this important issue. I also welcome Deputy Ward to the House, given that it is my first time responding to him in the Chamber, and congratulate him. It is a great honour and privilege to be elected to the House for the first time and to represent one's community, and it is appropriate that he spoke on this important issue.
Mental health continues to be a priority for the Government and we recognise that mental health service users are among the most vulnerable in society. Accordingly, €39 million has been added to the mental health services budget for 2020, increasing the annual allocation to €1.026 billion. This represents an increase of €315 million, or 45%, since 2012. The funding has helped to enhance prevention and early intervention services such as Jigsaw. As part of this, funding has been provided to open new Jigsaw sites next year in counties Tipperary and Wicklow. The HSE has provided approximately €10 million this year to support Jigsaw services nationally.
The HSE has indicated that a decision was taken in 2018 to integrate services in Tallaght and Clondalkin under one management structure. There is no intention to reduce the number of front-line staff. The objective is to make the service more sustainable, flexible and accessible to young people throughout south-west Dublin. Any suggestion that the service will be withdrawn in Clondalkin is unhelpful and may cause uncertainty for young people and their families. The main hub for the improved service will be a new, larger premises in Tallaght. The main base of the Jigsaw Dublin south-west team will move at the end of the week to the new, bespoke premises in Tallaght. The plan was communicated at local level several months ago. It is intended that Jigsaw will continue to use the Moorfield premises for the next few months. Appointments for young people will continue to take place there, after the move date, to complete their therapeutic intervention with minimal disruption. Jigsaw is considering other premises and co-location options in order that it can ensure a presence and accessibility for the entire catchment area, and it has moved to reassure everyone who avails of the service by posting "business as usual" messages on its social media.
Jigsaw's commitment to long-term service delivery in Clondalkin, which it has given in writing to the local Deputies, remains firm. It has sought the Deputies' support to help identify and secure a suitable location. Jigsaw is actively pursuing two options for premises, co-located with other agencies, that will enable clinicians to deliver appointments to young people in Clondalkin. It is hoped that one of the options will come to fruition to continue service delivery in Clondalkin with minimal delay. In line with trends among Jigsaw's network, there was a 15% surge in demand for its services in south-west Dublin last year. Jigsaw will continue to be responsive to this demand to the best of its ability. There will be no reduction in its day-to-day work with young people or the community throughout Clondalkin, Lucan, Newcastle and Palmerstown. The Minister of State, Deputy Daly, the HSE and Jigsaw have been in regular contact with all the local Deputies in recent months, with the most recent meeting held on 2 October. Jigsaw subsequently met Deputies on 23 October and sent them a written update on 7 November. Of course, I will convey the issues raised by the Deputies to the Minister of State, Deputy Daly.
Let us get straight to the point. We are not creating any uncertainty. The director of services at Jigsaw stated there is likely to be an interim period during which all appointments will take place in Tallaght. While the Minister of State said the service will be available to young people from Clondalkin, Lucan, Palmerstown and so on, it will not be based in Clondalkin, which is the concern. As for the point that alternative premises are being sought, a cost is involved and I do not believe that Jigsaw has factored that in. It is important that it has the funding to maintain a physical presence in Clondalkin. The outreach service is not intended to bring people from Clondalkin and elsewhere to Tallaght. It is supposed to provide a local service.
It will not be business as usual if people cannot access the service at the location closest to where they live. In many cases, the young people in question are very vulnerable and are at risk of self-harm and suicide. The idea that accessing a service in Tallaght, where there is not even a direct bus service, would be business as usual is simply not the case.
We are pleading with the Minister of State to ask his colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, to intervene to reverse the decision to move the staff to Tallaght next week. Another three months, at least, should be provided for to allow the two other options that are on the table to be explored and to enable Clondalkin and the wider area of mid-west Dublin to retain the service that is so desperately needed by its young people.
If it were not for Jigsaw, which provides a great service in Dublin and across the country, many people would not be here at this time. This decision has been a bad one from the outset. It cannot be overturned without Government intervention. I reiterate that 84% of Jigsaw's funding comes from the Government. The Government has a say. It must override Jigsaw's decision to pull out of Clondalkin.
The reality is that it is not business as usual. When Jigsaw was providing a comprehensive service to the people of Clondalkin, Lucan, Palmerstown and Newcastle, it was business as usual. That comprehensive service is being ripped away. The hole in the youth mental health service provided to the people of this area will not be filled unless there is intervention. I urge the Minister of State to use all of his powers to intervene in this instance to ensure that the people of Clondalkin enjoy the service they are used to. It has saved many lives. As Deputy Gino Kenny has suggested, we are talking about Jigsaw because it provides a really good service. We will not know the damage caused by not having this service until it has gone. I urge the Minister of State to intervene as soon as possible.
I thank colleagues for raising important issues during this debate. I accept Deputy Curran's point about the need for a local-based service in Clondalkin. Deputy Ó Broin has asked me to talk the Minister of State, Deputy Daly. I assure him that I will do so. Deputy Gino Kenny mentioned that it was Jigsaw's decision to pull out of Clondalkin. He made the strong point that 84% of the money for Jigsaw is public money. We accept that it continues to provide a good service. Deputy Ward made the important point that we cannot allow a hole to develop in these services. We accept that Jigsaw has saved lives. The validity of the arguments is credible.
Deputies will appreciate that the HSE has a statutory responsibility for the planning and delivery of health and personal social care services at local level. In this case, the HSE and Jigsaw strive to deliver services in the best possible manner in line with the availability of resources and taking account of evolving service requirements. The Minister of State, Deputy Daly, has had several meetings with the HSE and Jigsaw recently to ensure local public representatives and other groups are kept apprised of the need to integrate Jigsaw's services in Clondalkin with other services in the wider south-west Dublin area. Deputies can rest assured that the Minister of State will continue to monitor this issue carefully. I will bring the valid arguments that have been made by Deputies during this debate to the attention of the Minister of State.
If the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport were to use the 16.33, 17.33 or 18.35 service from Connolly Station to travel to any of the towns along the Wicklow and Wexford coast that are served by the Rosslare rail line, it is unlikely that he would get a seat after the train has left the station. As someone who has used the service, I am aware of the regular problems caused by people having to stand as far as Wicklow town or beyond. There is no service later in the evening than 18.35. It has been announced that Irish Rail is to get 41 new carriages, but not one of those additional carriages will be used on the Rosslare line. There have been problems on the line for many years because it has been allowed to run down, in effect. We need an immediate solution to address the current problem of overcrowding on trains. Additional services are needed to allow people to travel later in the evening.
We need to deal with a longer-term challenge in this context if we are to help commuters and others who travel from counties Wexford and Wicklow to Dublin. The M11 resembles a car park at certain times of the morning and evening. It is becoming more and more clogged. It has been suggested that additional lanes should be developed. It would make far more sense for us to invest in the rail network to provide a realistic alternative for commuters. It makes sense to use the rail service from an environmental point of view and from a social point of view. I have two questions for the Minister. What immediate measures can be taken to address the overcrowding problem on this service and to expand the service in the evening? What are the Minister's long-term plans for the development of the Rosslare rail service to make it a viable alternative to driving on the M11?
The railway line between Dublin and Rosslare has not been invested in or upgraded for many decades. It is not fit for purpose in its current form. Just five trains travel through County Wicklow to Dublin each day. By the time the two trains that leave Arklow at 6.03 a.m. and 6.57 a.m. get to the station in Wicklow town, there is barely any standing room left. Unfortunately, thousands of commuters in County Wicklow are being forced into their cars because suitable and affordable public transport is not available. According to the 2016 census, some 1,750 people from Arklow and 4,339 people from Wicklow town commute to County Dublin each day. They have to find work in Dublin because Wicklow has been neglected by this Government and previous Governments when decisions have been made on investment in jobs.
The Government's approach to addressing the gridlock that is being created on the M11 by commuters who have been forced into their cars seems to involve a plan that may or may not come to pass until 2027 at the earliest. The plan, which involves upgrading the M11 to a six-lane motorway, is absolutely ludicrous. The 41 carriages that have been ordered will not arrive until late 2021, at the earliest. The rail line through County Wicklow will not get any of those carriages.
It is absolutely crazy that Irish Rail has responded to numerous requests for Leap card fare-capping to be extended as far as Arklow by saying that it will not consider the extension of the short-hop zone because too many people might avail of it. Irish Rail does not have the capacity to cater for such increased numbers. It is an absolutely crazy situation.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has two minutes.
I will just finish on this, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.
No. It does not matter. The Deputy will have another minute after the Minister's response.
The short-hop zone goes as far as Kilcoole railway station, but the necessary infrastructure is not there to enable people to use the station to avail of fare-capping.
I have called the Minister, Deputy Ross.
We need investment.
The Minister has two minutes.
We need to get real about public transport.
No, we cannot overrun like this.
I thank the Deputies for their questions about overcrowding on the Rosslare rail service. As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and for the overall funding of public transport. The operation and provision of services on the rail network is a matter for Iarnród Éireann in the first instance, in consultation with the National Transport Authority, NTA. I acknowledge that some rail services, including services on the Rosslare-Dublin route, are crowded at certain times of the day due to the level of demand. The Deputies can be assured that the safe operation of the rail network and of rail services is the overriding priority at all times for the company and for the Commission for Railway Regulation, which is the independent statutory body that is charged with overseeing the safety of the network.
Since the economic upturn, there has been a significant increase in demand for rail services across the network. The Iarnród Éireann fleet is fully deployed on scheduled services at peak times to cope with the current high levels of demand. The company is maximising the use of its rolling stock to meet demand. It has sought further investment to increase capacity. As the Deputies will be well aware, there is a considerable lead-in time from the point at which funds are made available to the point at which new carriages are brought into operation. At present, five return services are in operation between Rosslare-Wexford and Dublin Connolly on weekdays. Approximately 688,000 journeys were made on the route in 2018, representing an increase of 4.9% on the previous year. The service is primarily operated by InterCity rail cars, with the busiest peak services operated by commuter rail cars.
The ability to increase frequency on the railway line between Rosslare and Dublin is limited for various reasons, including the single track south of Bray, the tunnel sections between Bray and Greystones and the intensity of DART operations on the line between Greystones-Bray and the city centre, on which DART services operate every ten minutes. I understand that in 2020, the NTA and Iarnród Éireann will examine options for the enhancement of the frequency of train services.
I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the Government recently approved for the NTA and Iarnród Éireann to proceed with the proposed purchase of 41 additional intercity rail cars to increase capacity on the rail network. The additional stock will cost approximately €150 million and is expected to commence entry into service by 2021, providing 34% increased capacity at peak times.
A few more sentences and then I will stop.
I am being criticised all week for giving too much time.
The new fleet will allow for redeployment to benefit other routes and Iarnród Éireann will examine the scope for enhancing capacity on rail services on the Rosslare line.
The Minister will have another two minutes later. Deputy Malcolm Byrne has one minute.
I thank the Minister but I am afraid that his answer is a bit of a cop-out. It is great that we will see him announce 41 new trains and I am sure he will be smiling beside them when that happens, but the problem is that we are not even getting any of those shiny new trains on the Rosslare route-----
They are all going to Mallow.
-----we are getting what might be left over. I am not asking the Minister to drive the trains, I am asking him to drive rail policy. He has outlined some of the challenges we have with the single-track issue, the tunnels and the DART line, but this is about setting out a long=term vision to ensure that the people use the train and it is a viable alternative for people in counties Wexford and Wicklow. We can talk about the M11 if the Minister wants, but we have to provide a real alternative. I am asking the Minister to take on a leadership role on this to ensure that we have investment in those railways and that, within the next four to five years, we have the sort of service that will take people out of their cars.
If the Government is serious about meeting its obligations to reduce carbon emissions, it needs to get serious about public transport. The Minister's response this evening shows no commitment or desire to meet those targets. He will be aware that there is an existing strategic paper carried out by Jacobs Engineering on the Greystones service improvement. There are proposals to increase the capacity of the DART service to three trains per hour, reducing the cycle to 20 minutes. That requires investment immediately but it does not even appear in the national development plan. It will not be progressed any time soon. It needs to be advanced immediately. If we are serious about this, we need to look at job creation within Wicklow. Thousands are forced out of Wicklow daily, onto the carpark that is the N11. In a survey carried out by Wicklow County Council, 70% of those said they would work in Wicklow if there were jobs there.
The Minister to respond.
Finally, the N11-M11 upgrade scheme-----
The Minister has two minutes. Others are waiting.
-----is not due to come to pass until 2027 at the earliest. We need to move away from building six-lane motorways.
The Deputy cannot continue to take advantage. I apply the rules and they are the same rules for all.
Deputy Brady referred to the environment. He might be interested to know that in May, the NTA and Iarnród Éireann commenced pre-qualifying in relation to a ten-year procurement framework for a minimum of 300 battery electric units with the potential for that to increase to 600 over the life of the procurement framework. The proposal forms part of the DART expansion programme. I expect to receive a business case on the overall programme next year.
I do not dispute for a moment what both Deputies are saying on overcrowding. They are not on their own saying it, there is overcrowding on trains all over Ireland. It is the result of an upsurge in demand. The Deputies will be well aware that an upsurge in demand cannot be met by buying carriages and delivering them overnight. That is not the way it works. It takes time with procurement, delivery and putting them into action. I have explained to the Deputies the orders that we have made.
This is a bit surreal.
This is what will happen. I would have thought the Deputies would be pleased that we have acknowledged demand and that more people are using trains, buses and public transport. Public transport in this country is a great success. The downside is that there are crowded trains, but we have moved to sort that out and we will, but the Deputies should not expect it to happen overnight or immediately after Christmas, which is what they seem to be looking for. There are alternative forms of transport. The N11 is being addressed. There is also Bus Éireann. I am sure the Deputies are familiar but I have the figures here. The Dublin-Wexford has 14 services a day in each direction.
They are effectively stuck in a car park.
Deputy Brady, please.
Deputy Brady got a lot of extra time.
Absolutely. Let us not end on an acrimonious note, Deputy Brady.
He is taking time from me now. Wexford Bus also operates services from Wexford to Dublin. This is a commercial service. Commercial operators can apply to the NTA at any time to increase services. Both Bus Éireann and Wexford Bus also run services between Wexford and Rosslare. There are also Local Link services operating on the route. We acknowledge the problem, are addressing it and will sort it out.