School Completion Programme

Ceisteanna (694)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

694. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs his views on a proposed cut of 6.5% to the provision of the school completion programme in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Dublin which is due to come into effect on the 1 September 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21392/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The School Completion Programme (SCP) is a targeted intervention aimed at those school communities identified through the Department of Education and Skills’ DEIS Action Plan for Educational Inclusion. The School Completion Programme aims to retain young people in the formal education system to completion of senior cycle and to generally improve the school attendance, participation and retention of its target cohort.

The school based projects within SCP provide a range of supports and interventions designed to support individual children identified by the Local Management Committee as being at risk of early school leaving within those school communities. This project model approach gives local communities the autonomy to devise creative and innovative approaches to address the needs of local young people most at risk of early school leaving.

In 2014 an allocation of €24.756m has been provided to the Child and Family Agency to deliver this programme. This supports 124 projects and related initiatives which operate across the country, including the St Finian's Project, to which the Deputy refers. I am advised that this project has a budget of €185,000 for the 2013 / 2014 school year to provide targeted supports to students in one post-primary school and five primary schools.

The Agency is responsible for the strategic and operational direction of the School Completion Programme. Within this remit the Agency manages the SCP budget and the allocation of funds to projects within the programme. I am advised that proposals have yet to be formulated by the Child and Family Agency in relation to funding for the 2014/2015 academic year. As an initial step, the Agency has recently invited all SCP Projects to commence planning for the next cycle of the programme within the available funding parameters. Within the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure the SCP is required to achieve cumulative savings of €5.5m over the period 2012 to 2014, of which €1.7m in savings is to be found in 2014.

A briefing on the 14/15 planning template was provided to Local Coordinators at recent Network meetings. Local Management Committees have been advised to examine all elements of expenditure and to prioritise the most effective interventions to support children’s educational outcomes. In addition, projects have been requested to examine means of maximising the capacity of the totality of schools’ DEIS resources, and linkages with area-based supports available through other relevant providers, to realise SCP objectives in the most efficient and economical way possible. The Agency will continue to work closely with management committees, schools and local SCP co-ordinators to assist projects through this process.

The Deputy will wish to note that a planned programme review of SCP has commenced. The objectives of the review are to identify best practice, to clarify roles and responsibilities and to build upon the valuable learning and experience to date across the programme. It is anticipated that the review will assist in identifying the reforms necessary to consolidate the programme on a sustainable footing for the future and ensure that available funds are targeted to those services which provide the greatest contribution to educational outcomes for pupils at risk of educational disadvantage.

Departmental Agencies Staff Remuneration

Ceisteanna (695)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

695. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he will address an issue raised in correspondence (details supplied) regarding Government remuneration policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21483/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I note the issues raised by the Deputy which are highlighted in the correspondence from the organisation concerned. As this is a matter for the Child and Family Agency, I have forwarded the details to the Agency directly for their consideration and response.

Semi-State Bodies

Ceisteanna (696)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

696. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of commercial semi-State companies under the aegis of his Department; the current value of the pension fund assets held by each commercial semi-State company; the latest funding position of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20900/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I can confirm that there are no semi-State companies currently in operation under the aegis of my Department.

Missing Persons Hotline

Ceisteanna (697)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

697. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if members of the public can call the 116000 number if they see a missing child or if they have any information to pass on; and if this hotline will be advertised widely as in other countries. [20978/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Members of the public may call the 116 000 Hotline if they see a missing child or if they have information to pass on regarding a missing child. Information in this regard is published on the ISPCC web page entitled 'Missing Children's Hotline.' It is important to appreciate that the Hotline is a support service rather than an emergency service. Where callers require assistance outside the scope of the services provided by the Hotline, they are referred to An Garda Síochána or whichever branch of the emergency services is appropriate. Staff of the Missing Children's Hotline will also pass on information to the emergency services when it is appropriate to do so.

The 116 000 Hotline was set up to provide advice and emotional support to parents/guardians whose child is missing. This advice and support may also be accessed by the extended family of a child who is missing or, indeed, by the child themselves. A key component of the service is an awareness programme. It is vital that those who could benefit from the service know that it exists and that users are aware of the scope of the service.

During the initial set up phase of the service, the ISPCC focused on community based promotion of the service. This included presentations to local community groups. Subsequently, posters, flyers and business cards have been distributed to all Garda stations from Garda Headquarters, and promotional material has been distributed to a variety of community based projects in various locations throughout the country. Further, the ISPCC makes extensive use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter to advertise this service on an ongoing basis.

The 116 000 Missing Children Hotline website (www.missingchildrenhotline.ie) also serves to promote the service. In the first three months of 2014 the number of hits to this website (16,468) was 182% greater than the total number of hits (6059) during the entirety of 2013. This is a clear indication of the growing public awareness of the service.

Children in Care

Ceisteanna (698)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

698. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs since 2008, the number of Irish children that have been or are in care in other countries for whatever reason, be it for psychological-medical purposes; the amount this is costing the State; and the reason these children cannot be cared for here. [20979/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I have requested the information from the Child and Family Agency and I will revert to the Deputy when this information is to hand.

Sex Offenders Treatment Programme

Ceisteanna (699)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

699. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount it is costing the State annually since the Granada Institute closed down to treat, or to offer treatment to, child sex offenders; the number being treated abroad; the cost of same; and if it would be more effective to treat them at home or look at other alternatives. [20980/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I understand that the Granada Institute was a private charitable organisation established by the Hospitaller Order of St John of God, which provided assessment and treatment services to those who have committed sexual offences involving children. This service discontinued operation in 2011.

In my capacity as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs I am responsible, under Part 10 of the Children Act 2001, for the 3 Children Detention Schools at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin which provide detention places to the Courts for girls up to the age of 18 years and boys up to the age of 17 years ordered to be remanded or committed on criminal charges.

Children may be sentenced to detention by the courts for a range of offences on foot of criminal proceedings under the Children Act 2001. In a small number of cases, these sentences are for sex offences. I wish to confirm that the services of the Granada Institute have not been availed of for children detained in the Children Detention Schools in Oberstown. For any such child in custody a comprehensive care and rehabilitation plan is devised based on the individual needs of each child by qualified child care managers. For children in custody for sex offences, I understand that therapeutic and treatment plans are available based on identified need, either on the Oberstown campus or in the community. It has not been necessary to arrange treatment abroad for any child detained in the Children Detention Schools.

Apart from children serving a sentence on the Oberstown campus, there are other children who may be the subject of social worker involvement who may display challenging behaviour in terms of a possible likelihood to commit child sexual offences. In addition, there may be children found guilty of such offences by the courts but who may have received a community sanction under the Children Act 2001. I am referring the Deputy's question to the Child and Family Agency and the Probation Service for any further information they may have to hand which would be relevant and will be in further contact when a response has been received.

Departmental Records

Ceisteanna (700)

Stephen Donnelly

Ceist:

700. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if any telephone calls in or out of his Department are being or ever have been recorded; if so, if he will provide details of the systems used to record and store such calls, and the cost to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21229/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I can confirm that my Department does not record and has never recorded phone calls. The Department's telephone system has the capability to record voicemail messages.

Child Care Services Funding

Ceisteanna (701)

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

701. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he will support an organisation (details supplied). [21338/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I understand that the preschool service referred to by the Deputy is currently participating in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme which is implemented by my Department and provides a free preschool year to all eligible children before commencing primary school. A capitation payment is provided in respect of each eligible child enrolled for the free preschool provision and total funding of over €86,000 in respect of 44 children enrolled has been paid to this service to date in this academic year. If the service continues to comply with all relevant regulatory obligations and satisfies the eligibility conditions of the programme, funding based on enrolment numbers will continue to be provided.

My Department implements a number of other child care support programmes to assist parents with the cost of child care. For example, the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme provides funding to community not-for-profit child care services to enable them to provide child care at reduced rates to lower income and disadvantaged families. The CCS programme is presently closed to new entrants and new community child care services seeking to enter the programme can only do so if they are in a position to replace an existing community services that has opted out of the programme and support the parents who previously used that service.

The Childhood Education and Training Support (CETS) programme provides funding to support parents who are returning to the workforce or are participating in SOLAS or Education and Training Boards education and training programmes. This programme also supports parents participating in Community Employment programmes.

An After-school Childcare programme was recently introduced and is targeted to support low-income parents returning to the workforce. The aim of this initiative is to ensure that affordable and quality child care is available to disadvantaged families when work opportunities are offered. The CETS and After-school programmes are provided by both community and commercial child care services and the funding provided is used by the services to reduce the weekly fees charged to qualifying parents.

The child care service in question should contact Dublin City Childcare Committee and establish if they are eligible to participate in these programmes.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (702)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

702. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which he anticipates the requirement in respect of prevention of child abuse to be dealt with in the context of the Children First Bill 2014, with particular reference to reportage and follow up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21571/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The aim of the Children First Bill 2014 is to improve the care and protection of children by raising awareness of child abuse and neglect. It aims to make best safeguarding practice the cultural norm for anyone working with children. The Children First Bill provides for a number of key child protection measures, as follows:

- a requirement on mandated persons to report child protection concerns to the Child and Family Agency;

- a requirement on mandated persons to assist the Child and Family Agency in the assessment of a child protection risk, if requested to do so by the Agency;

- a requirement on organisations providing services to children to comply with best practice in child protection as set out in the Children First Guidelines and to produce an organisational-specific Child Safeguarding Statement; and

- statutory arrangements to promote cross-sectoral implementation and compliance with Children First.

The Deputy specifically raised the issue of reporting and how reports will be followed up. Certain individuals who are mandated persons under the Bill will be required to report child welfare and protection concerns in accordance with the legislation to the Agency. Mandated persons will also be required to report to the Agency any disclosures of harm made to them by a child.

The decision to focus the requirement for mandated reporting on a small, qualified cadre of persons who by virtue of their training, qualifications and professional experience are well equipped to recognise harm, is likely to have a positive effect on the process of assessments of risk by the Agency. It is anticipated that reports from these persons are likely to be of a high standard, which will assist the Agency in carrying out assessments of risk in an effective and efficient manner.

As regards following up on reports, the Bill provides that a mandated person may be requested to assist the Child and Family Agency and to give such information and assistance to the Agency as is reasonably required. It is envisaged that only information which is relevant and necessary to assess the child’s need for care and protection should be sought.

The Children First Bill 2014 provides a clear statutory basis for the reporting of harm to children to the Child and Family Agency and sets out clearly the obligations on providers of services to children to protect children.

Legislative Programme

Ceisteanna (703)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

703. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the degree to which he expects youth support services to improve in the wake of his various legislative initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21572/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

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. The funding schemes support national and local youth work provision to some 400,000 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. In 2014, funding of €49.78m is being provided to my Department for these schemes.

Continuous improvement in the provision of safe, effective child and youth centred services is an important priority for my Department and there are a number of recent and current initiatives, including legislative initiatives, which will be of interest to the Deputy in this regard.

The National Quality Standards Framework for youth work (NQSF) was introduced in January 2011. on a phased basis. By the end of 2014, all youth services and youth organisations funded by the Department will be implementing the NQSF. The purpose of the NQSF for youth work is to provide a support and development tool to organisations and projects and to establish standards in the practice and provision of youth work. These standards are helping to ensure an improvement in good practice, that these services and projects are outcomes focussed and that the young people involved are deriving the maximum benefit from being involved in youth work activities. The Quality Standard Guidelines for local volunteer led youth groups, launched in March 2013, are an important resource for local groups throughout the country in delivering quality programmes, which meet the needs of their young members.

The Child Protection Unit and Programme based at the National Youth Council of Ireland and which is funded by my Department, supports the implementation of The Code of Good Practice: Child Protection for the Youth Work Sector. A Child Protection Training Programme has been developed for the sector and awareness of child protection procedures and responsibilities have been enhanced at all levels within youth work organisations. In 2013, the Child Protection Programme developed a new website and training programmes for youth workers on internet safety for young people - http://websafety.youth.ie/. This resource aims to equip youth work practitioners to engage with young people's online life and experiences and to promote their online safety.

Better Outcomes Brighter Futures, the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014-2020, published in April 2014, sets out a framework to coordinate across government, all policies that have an effect on children’s and young people’s lives. In line with the National Policy Framework, my Department is developing a new youth strategy for later this year. The new youth strategy will aim to enhance the role of youth services in contributing to the achievements of the five national outcomes for children and young people i.e that they are active and healthy, achieving, learning and developing, safe and protected from harm, economically secure, and connected, respected and contributing to society. The strategy will, inter alia, promote co-ordination between government departments and youth sector organisations with a view to maximising the effectiveness of the State funding available to support services for young people in future years.

The Children First Bill was published by my Department in April, 2014. The purpose of the Bill is to make further and better provision for the care and protection of children including raising awareness of child abuse and neglect, providing for reporting and management of child protection concerns and improving child protection arrangements in organisations providing services to children.

The youth services are working closely with my Department in preparation for the enactment of the new legislation and to ensure that models of best practice in the care and protection of young people are continuously improved and updated.

Child Abuse Prevention

Ceisteanna (704)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

704. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the degree to which his Department has adequate resources to deal with issues of child neglect or child abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21573/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I would like to refer the Deputy to my response to PQ No. 106 which addresses the issue of adequacy of resources within my Department.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (705)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

705. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of resources available to his Department to deal with issues of physical and mental well-being of children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21574/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to his question today, No. 106, with regard to the adequacy of resources generally.

The recently published "Better Outcomes Brighter Futures" national policy framework for children and young people 2014-2020 represents a whole of government approach to improve the lives of children and young people. The framework gives appropriate priority to the importance of physical and mental well-being with a single national outcome focussed on "Active and Healthy". The key Departmental Sponsor for this Outcome area is the Department of Health. Under this outcome, 15 key commitments are listed, each with a lead Department responsible for implementation. These commitments aim to reduce the risk factors and improve the resilience factors associated with the health and well-being of children and young people. My Department works closely with the Department of Health, the HSE other relevant departments and agencies to progress these issues. My Department has both sponsored studies in this area and collated relevant evidence from other studies to learn more about the issues most likely to impact on the health and well-being of children.

The responsibility for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) lies with the HSE and policy for these is outlined in the Department of Health’s, “A Vision for Change” Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy.

The Child and Family Agency has a key role in supporting some of the most vulnerable children and young people in State care. My Department has introduced reforms aimed at enhancing management and service provision for therapeutic services for children in detention and residential care. These include the establishment of the Assessment, Consultation and Therapy Service, a new integrated clinical team known as the ACTS team, that will liaise closely with CAMHS and other relevant services.

One of the main challenges in the area of physical well being is childhood obesity. In the latter part of 2013 the Minister of Health and my predecessor, Minister Fitzgerald, jointly launched a three year media and social media campaign aimed at giving practical tips to parents on managing their children’s weight.

As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs I have responsibility for Play and Recreation Policy which have been set out in the policy documents, ‘READY, STEADY, PLAY! A National Play Policy’ and the ‘National Recreation Policy for Young People’. The Local Authority Play and Recreation Network (LAPRN) was established to introduce a more coordinated and interagency approach to achieving the main goals of the play and recreation policies at both national and local level. Targeted grants are provided to Local Authorities by my Department to encourage participation across the Local Authority network. Other initiatives being developed at local community level are designed to encourage awareness of the importance of play and recreation throughout the whole of life from early childhood to adulthood and through to later life.

Much work has been done with respect to the development of alcohol and drug policies in youth settings through funding provided by my Department through the Youth Service Grant Scheme and the Young People’s Facilities and Services Fund and through the work of a range of youth work organisations. The National Youth Health Programme is a partnership operated by the National Youth Council of Ireland with the Youth Affairs Unit of my Department and the Health Promotion Unit of the HSE respectively. The Programme aims to provide a broad-based, flexible health promotion/education support and training service including making healthy choices in relation to alcohol, to youth organisations and to all those working with young people in the non-formal education setting.

Child Care Services Provision

Ceisteanna (706)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

706. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which various categories of children at risk continue to be identified and monitored by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21575/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Statutory responsibility for the welfare and protection of vulnerable children in Ireland is vested in the Child and Family Agency. The principles underlying this responsibility are outlined in Child Care Act, 1991 as amended. My Department's role is oversight of effective use of resources vis-a-vis statutory responsibilities. The Department is not involved in the day to day running of services

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.

This oversight 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 services for children in care and at risk, 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.

Bullying of Children

Ceisteanna (707)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

707. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which an early alert and follow-up system is available to his Department to address issues of children deemed to be at risk arising from neglect and bullying, including Internet bullying in respect of children not attending school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21576/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Responsibility for promoting the welfare and protection of children at risk is a key function of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, which was established under my Department on 1 January 2014. The context within which our child welfare and protection services operate today is very challenging. The number of child welfare and protection referrals to social work departments increased by nearly one third to over 40,000 in 2012. My Department has a range of systems in place to ensure it is informed of risk to children and the measures in place to minimise these risks. Monthly, quarterly and annual reports are received from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, in respect of all its functions, including detailed reporting of key performance indicators and protocols are in place to inform my Department of specific issues where risk is identified and to a management response is required.

Inspection reports are also received on an ongoing basis and meetings with HIQA managers and inspectors are held on a regular basis to review key inspection findings in relation to children in detention schools, children in care in residential care including special care, foster care and children in receipt of child welfare and protection services in the community. Reports from the Ombudsman for Children, and the National Review Panel where risk to children is noted, are reviewed to identify issues that require input and progress in the area of policy and operations. I am satisfied that in establishing Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, we now have in place the necessary structure to ensure the provision of a more responsive and integrated service to children and young people at risk.

With regard to bullying, we know from data from the Growing Up in Ireland Longitudinal Study that 40% of nine-year-olds reported being victims of bullying in the past year with boys and girls experiencing similar rates of victimisation. In the case of children who reported victimisation in the previous year, only 39% of their mothers appeared to have been aware that their child had been the victim of bullying. This emphasises the importance of parents talking to their children about bullying and schools having policies on bullying which are disseminated to parents. The Action Plan On Bullying published by the Minister for Education and Skills in January 2013 clearly recognised the need to tackle bullying, including cyber-bullying, in a holistic way through schools but within a much wider social context. Amongst the actions which are being taken are the development of a single national anti-bullying website to provide information for parents, young people, youth workers, sporting and cultural associations and school staff on types and methods of bullying and how to deal with bullying behaviour.

Under my own Department, the Child and Family Agency has a statutory function to ensure that ‘each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education ’ which it delivers through its Educational Welfare Services. Schools are obliged to record and monitor daily attendance and to report absences to the Agency in specific circumstances; such as where a child is absent for 20 days or more, where a child is expelled or suspended for six days or more cumulatively, or where the principal of a school has concerns about the educational welfare of a child. Much of the Agency's work in relation to school attendance involves early prevention and targeted intervention with children and families, in collaboration with schools and other support services.

Child Abuse Reports

Ceisteanna (708)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

708. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of incidents of child abuse reported to his Department in each of the past three years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21577/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

With effect from 1 January 2014, statutory responsibility for the delivery of child welfare and protection services rests with the Child and Family Agency, which is the appropriate body to receive all reports of concerns relating to a child. Prior to this, the HSE had statutory responsibility for this service. These concerns can either relate to a child's welfare or where there is a concern of child abuse, that is, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or neglect.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) received 15,818 reports in 2011 and 19,044 reports in 2012 where there was a concern of child abuse. There were 13,983 reports of child abuse received in the 9 months to the end of September 2013. Work is ongoing on finalising and validating the data to the end of 2013.

Departmental Consultations

Ceisteanna (709)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

709. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which various voluntary groups, bodies and organisations dealing with the rights and well-being of children remain in contact with his Department and vice versa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21578/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department is committed to ongoing engagement and consultation with stakeholders across the community and voluntary sectors, all of whom share our goal to improve outcomes for children and young people in Ireland, including those relating to their rights and well-being.

Communication and collaboration are intrinsic elements of my Department's Statement of Strategy, whose high level objectives include to “collaborate with stakeholders, including across Government, in monitoring and promoting the physical, emotional and economic well-being of children and young people and reducing inequalities.” It is essential that we continue to actively build on these important relationships, in recognition of the fact that such groups, bodies and organisations have much to offer in terms of their experience and the often specialist nature of their work.

It is not feasible to comprehensively set out all levels of engagement. However, recent examples include the co-hosting with the Children's Rights Alliance of a consultative forum to allow the State to complete the Third and Fourth Consolidated Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. My Department is currently providing funding to the Children’s Rights Alliance to assist that body in coordinating the "shadow" NGO Report to the United Nations. In preparing the Children First legislation, my Department consulted with key bodies including EPIC (Empowering People in Care), Barnardos and the ISPCC, whose contributions were very valuable in developing this complex Bill. A number of contributions were also considered in the context of the legislation establishing the Child and Family Agency.

There are a number of committees and advisory groups currently operating under the aegis of my Department. These include the National Children's Advisory Council, which acts in an independent advisory role to me as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and includes representatives of statutory agencies, the voluntary sector and parents. Its overarching role is to contribute to the development of a strong collaborative interface between statutory and non-statutory providers of children’s services. The Council assisted my Department in developing 'Better Outcomes: Brighter Futures: the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014 -2020', which was recently published.

I also wish to acknowledge the work of the National Youth Work Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from both the voluntary and statutory sectors with an interest and involvement in the administration and provision of youth work programmes and services. Its main role is to advise on and assist in the coordination of youth work policies, programmes and services, and to provide a forum to address and progress specific issues.

My Department will continue to emphasise the importance of regular contact and discussion with key stakeholders in relation to policy and services for children and young people. This includes ensuring that, where appropriate, representative bodies and organisations working with children and young people play a role in the formation of policy.

Juvenile Offenders

Ceisteanna (710)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

710. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which facilities of a corrective and rehabilitative nature are available to those involved in juvenile crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21579/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I assume the Deputy is referring to facilities within the children detention school system operating on the Oberstown campus at Lusk, Co. Dublin.

As prescribed under Section 158 of the Children Act 2001, as amended, the principal object of the children detention schools is to provide appropriate education, training and other programmes and facilities for children referred to them by the courts. The delivery of children detention services is focused on education and rehabilitation of those young people detained in order to address offending behaviour and support their early re-integration into the community. The development project which is currently underway on the Oberstown campus to increase capacity and enable the extension of the child care model of detention to all children under the age of 18 ordered to be detained by the courts also includes the provision of new education and recreation facilities as well as dedicated visiting facilities and a medical facility. Along with the existing services already being provided these new facilities will ensure sufficient age and ability appropriate facilities to support the delivery, by the Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Education and Training Board (DDLETB), of the necessary and vital education services to young people in detention.

An individual management plan is put in place for each child on admission to the children detention schools which includes an assessment using a mental health screening tool to determine the need for more specialist assessment or intervention from specialists within the Assessment, Consultation and Therapy Service (ACTS). This is a national service provided by the Child and Family Agency that provides clinical services to children in detention and in special care, as well as short term interventions when the child returns to the community.

The Deputy should note that earlier community based interventions to divert young people from offending behaviour, such as the Garda Youth Diversion Projects and the Garda Diversion Programme, which aim to engage young people in a process of learning and development that enables them to make positive lifestyle choices are the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Poverty Impact Assessment

Ceisteanna (711)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

711. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which the issue of youth poverty affecting the health and well-being of children and youth has been brought to the attention of his Department; the extent to which he expects to meet the demand arising in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21580/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

On 16 April last the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and my predecessor launched 'Better Outcomes: Brighter Futures: the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014 -2020'. The Framework sets out a whole-of-Government approach to policies for children and young people, and is a clear vision of what we want for children and young people in Ireland.

My Department is taking the lead in implementing the Area-Based Childhood Programme. The programme is being co-funded by Atlantic Philanthropies and will have a total funding allocation of up to €29.7 million. The programme is being introduced on foot of the Programme for Government commitment to adopt an area-based approach to child poverty, drawing on best international practice and existing services to break the cycle of child poverty where it is most deeply entrenched, and improve the outcomes for children and young people. The programme will build on and continue much of the work of the Prevention and Early Intervention Programme, for which my Department had responsibility and which was also co-funded by Atlantic Philanthropies.

In relation to youth-specific services, 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. Targeted support for disadvantaged, marginalised and at-risk young people are provided through the Special Projects for Youth Scheme, the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund (Rounds 1 and 2), Local Drugs Task Force Projects and certain other programmes such as the Local Youth Club Grant Scheme and Youth Information Centres. In addition, some 31 national and major regional youth work organisations are supported under my Department's Youth Service Grant Scheme. 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. In 2014, current funding of €49.78 million has been provided to my Department for these schemes.

My Department is developing a new youth strategy for later this year. This new strategy will aim to enhance the role of youth services in contributing to the achievement of the five national outcomes for children and young people set out in “Better Outcomes - Brighter Futures” i.e. that they are active and healthy, achieving, learning and developing, safe and protected from harm, economically secure, and connected, respected and contributing to society. The strategy will, inter alia, promote co-ordination between Government departments and youth sector organisations with a view to maximising the effectiveness of the State funding available to support services for young people in future years.

Child Care Services Funding

Ceisteanna (712)

Pat Deering

Ceist:

712. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he will consider extra supports for parents on the costs of child care. [21606/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Departments implements a number of child care support programmes to assist parents with the cost of child care. These include the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme, the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme and the new After-school Childcare programme.

The Early Childhood Care and Education programme provides a free preschool year to all eligible children in the year before commencing primary school. Children qualify for the free preschool year where they are aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months at 1 September in the relevant year.

The Community Childcare Subvention programme provides funding to community-based child care services to enable them to provide child care at reduced rates to parents in receipt of social welfare payments or on low or relatively modest incomes. The Childhood Education and Training Support programme provides funding to support parents who are returning to the workforce or are participating in Solas or Education and Training Boards education and training programmes. This programme also supports parents participating in Community Employment programmes. An After-school Childcare programme was recently introduced and is targeted to support low-income parents returning to the workforce.

In the region of €260 million is provided annually by my Department to provide for these child care support programmes which assist parents in accessing quality and affordable child care. More than 100,000 children benefit from these programmes each year. There is no additional funding currently available to my Department to enable me to enhance the current support programmes or to provide for new initiatives in the child care sector.

Departmental Bodies Abolition

Ceisteanna (713)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

713. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of State agencies and public bodies that have been merged or abolished in each year since 2011, under the remit of his Department; the annual savings associated with each body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21789/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I would like to inform the Deputy that there are three agencies which are currently funded by the Exchequer through my Department's Vote. These are the Adoption Authority of Ireland, the Child and Family Agency and the Ombudsman for Children's Office.

Up to 31 December, 2013, my Department also funded the Family Support Agency and the National Educational Welfare Board. The new Child and Family Agency which was established on 1 January 2014 now has responsibility for the provision of these services along with children and family services previously delivered by the HSE.

The coming together under one Agency of services previously delivered across three separate organisations provides a platform for the delivery of a more efficient and effective service to vulnerable children and families. The range of responsibilities under the remit of the Agency will contribute to achievement of the overall vision for the Agency which is seeking to bring about greater integration of services with a focus on early intervention and community engagement.

In July 2011, the Government decided that the Family Mediation Service should transfer from the Family Support Agency to the Legal Aid Board. This is in line with the Government’s commitment to facilitate the use of mediation in family disputes in order to speed up the legal process, reduce costs and ameliorate the stress of contested court proceedings. On 26 October 2011, the Minister for Justice and Equality signed the commencement order for Part 16 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 which gave effect to the transfer from 1 November 2011.

At this stage it is not possible to quantify the actual savings to date as a direct result of these developments.

It should be noted that following enactment of the Child Care Amendment Act 2011 the Children's Act Advisory Board was subsequently dissolved by means of the commencement by the Minister of Health of Part 6 of the Child Amendment Act 2011.

Departmental Staff Remuneration

Ceisteanna (714)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

714. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of public servants employed in his Department on a lower pay scale to their colleagues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21818/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Under Circular 18/2010, issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and effective from 1 January 2011, a reduction in pay rates and fixed term allowances of persons to be recruited to certain direct entry grades in the civil service was introduced. This was subsequently superseded by Circular 2/2014 in relation to the implementation of Clause 2.31 of the Haddington Road Agreement.

There have been no new entrant civil servants to my Department impacted by the above circulars.

Departmental Legal Cases

Ceisteanna (715)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

715. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of legal cases that have been served against his Department arising from disputes regarding pay and conditions of public servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21832/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department has had no legal cases served against it arising from disputes regarding pay and conditions of public servants.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (716)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

716. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the current average age of full-time staff in his Department; the way this compares with the average age of public servants in each year from 2010 to 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21843/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The average age of civil servants in my Department is currently 47 years of age. At the end of 2013, the average age was also 47 years, while the average age at the end of 2012 and 2011 was 46 and 45 respectively.