Road Projects Status

Ceisteanna (295)

Declan Breathnach

Ceist:

295. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the planning permission for the proposed Narrow Water bridge is still valid and effective; the communication he has had with the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland and with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council on the project; if funding will be made available for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5236/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Under Section E of the Fresh Start Agreement of the 17 November 2015, the then Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government agreed to undertake a review of the proposed Narrow Water Bridge project with a view to identifying options for its future development, for consideration by the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC). In this context, following on from consultation with stakeholders, an options paper has been under preparation in relation to a bridge at Narrow Water.

I understand that when the various options have been further developed it is intended to engage in some further stakeholder consultation and it is intended that this will commence shortly.

In the absence of the Northern Ireland Executive the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) cannot meet but it is envisaged that the options paper will be considered once the NSMC is reconvened.

I have no role in relation to the planning status of the previous proposal for a bridge at Narrow Water and this is a matter for the relevant authorities.

Apprenticeship Data

The referred replies were forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Ceisteanna (296)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

296. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of persons enrolled in apprenticeships in his Department and State agencies under his remit, by gender, in tabular form; and if he will list each such apprenticeship. [5264/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

My Department does not provide apprenticeships.

I have asked the State agencies under the aegis of my Department to provide the Deputy with the information requested. If he does not receive a reply from the agencies within ten working days, he should advise my private office.

The referred replies were forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Education Welfare Service

Ceisteanna (297)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

297. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the provisions being put in place in terms of access to schools (details supplied) in County Monaghan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4989/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Tusla Educational Welfare Service (EWS) has advised my Department that it works with the Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROC) throughout the country supporting the provision of education of the children in these centres. The Educational Welfare Officers assigned to the EROC centres work closely with the Educational Welfare Officers in the receiving counties to ensure that applications to schools are made in a timely manner and all children have school places in advance of moving to their new homes.

The EWS also work at a local level with the Steering Committees in the EROCs and Resettlement Committees throughout the country.

With regard to supports for those who wish to participate in third level education, the Department of Education and Skills has advised that the statutory based student grant scheme (the SUSI grant) is the main source of support available for full-time students attending Post Leaving Certificate (PLC), undergraduate and post graduate courses.

Under the terms of the statutory based student grant scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means.

Other supports are available to students however, these can vary depending on the college and course attended. Prospective students should contact the local access office in the relevant institution for details of the various supports available.

Child and Family Agency Investigations

Ceisteanna (298)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

298. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if all private providers of community based residential services operated by or on behalf of Tusla are inspected annually by Tusla registration and inspection services; and if not, the frequency with which such services are inspected. [5012/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The latest figures from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, indicates that, at the end of November 2017, there were 6,182 children in care.  Of these, 348 (6%) were in a residential placement, of whom 199 were in a private residential centre run by a private body. 

The placement of all children in residential  care is governed by the Child Care Regulations 1995. These provide for the welfare of the child, the care practices, care records, accommodation and safety precautions. Under Part VIII of the Child Care Act 1991, non-statutory residential care centres for children are required to be registered by Tusla, on the basis of the standards set out in the Child Care Regulations 1996.

The legislation requires centres to be registered under a three-year registration cycle. Centres are inspected at least twice in each three-year cycle. However, where concerns are identified or where conditions have been attached to the centre's registration, centres will be subject to follow up inspections to assure compliance. Centres are subject to both announced and unannounced inspections.

Child and Family Agency Funding

Ceisteanna (299)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

299. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 1505 of 16 January 2018 and the answer thereto provided by Tusla, the way in which the more than €7 million in funding provided to the service by Tusla in 2015 and 2016 was spent. [5013/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

As the subject matter of the Deputy's question relates to an operational matter, I have again referred the matter to the attention of Tusla for a direct reply.

Affordable Childcare Scheme

Ceisteanna (300)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

300. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps she is taking to ensure that persons on zero and variable hour contracts are eligible for subsidies under the single affordable child care scheme. [5073/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Affordable Childcare Scheme will provide childcare subsidies for both full-time and part-time childcare. For the universal element of the Scheme, up to 40 hours of support per week will be available, regardless of whether parents are working or not. For the targeted element of the Scheme, the number of hours of childcare subsidised per week will be capped at a maximum of 40 hours for families where both parents (or one parent in the case of a one-parent family) is engaged in work or study, and 15 hours per week for families in which a parent is at home and is not engaged in either work or study.

Parents availing of subsidies under the scheme – whether for part-time or for full-time childcare – will be subsidised on the basis of the amount of childcare used, with the subsidy per hour determined by the age of the child and the family income. Recognising the importance of flexibility to families, arrangements in terms of the numbers of hours per day or days per week of childcare that is used will be a matter for parents to decide, depending on the childcare options available to them locally. The scheme will inform parents of their eligibility and the parents will then provide this information to the childcare provider they have accessed to meet their needs. 

The Childcare Support Bill 2017, as published, will give the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs a regulation-making power in relation to the definitions of “work” and “study” for the purposes of the Affordable Childcare Scheme. I intend to prescribe a definition of “work” that is broad and inclusive, recognising the diversity of progression routes towards labour market participation. In particular, as stated in the Heads of Bill and General Scheme published last year, I intend the definition to include people who are required to be available for work even if they do not work regular hours, thus enabling persons on zero and variable hour contracts to benefit from subsidies under the Affordable Childcare Scheme.

The measures put in place last September to make childcare more affordable are currently benefitting the families of more than 66,000 children and will remain in place until the Affordable Childcare Scheme launches.

Internal Audits

Ceisteanna (301)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

301. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her Department has completed an external quality assurance assessment of its internal audit function as required by the Institute of Internal Auditors standards that were introduced in 2012 (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5105/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department has an Internal Audit function which is guided by the Institute of Internal Auditors Standards (IIA) which the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform determined should apply across all Departments and other Vote Holders (November 2012). These Standards require that a quality assurance and improvement programme be developed for the Internal Audit function which involves both periodic internal assessments and external assessments being carried out every five years.  Guidance provided by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform requires that such an assessment should have been undertaken in 2017. 

The Department's Internal Audit Unit completed an internal (in-house) quality assurance assessment in 2017 following the appointment of a new Head of Internal Audit to the Department on 31 July 2017.  This in-house  assessment suggested a number of areas that could be further strengthened to ensure full compliance with the IIA Standards and improve service delivery by the function.  My Department was also part of a pilot study by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) into Internal Audit across a number of Government Departments.  The findings relevant to the function issued to the Department on 26 July 2017.  The findings showed Internal Audit in the Department was in general compliance with most of the key good practice requirements. These findings were accepted by the Internal Audit function and were responded to the C&AG formally by the Secretary General.

The Unit is currently implementing the recommendations arising from both the in-house and C&AG reviews and plans an external quality assurance assessment later in 2018.  The planned external review is included in the Department's Audit Plan for 2018 which was agreed with my Department’s Audit Committee and the Secretary General. The timing of this external review will ensure that maximum value is gained from the exercise and aims to ensure that the Unit will operate to best practice, going forward, as well as compliance with the DPER/IIA requirements.

Child Care Law Reporting Project

Ceisteanna (302)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

302. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the latest report of the Child Care Law Reporting Project; her views on its content; the steps she plans to take on foot of it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5151/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

As the Deputy is aware, the Child Care Law Reporting Project is an independent project authorised under Section 29 of the Child Care Act 1991 (as amended by the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2007), and in accordance with Regulations made under that Section to report on child care proceedings.  The project is supported in this work by my Department.

On 29 January the Child Care Law Reporting Project published its final series of reports on child care proceedings, focusing on exceptionally lengthy and complex cases. These cases reveal the challenges that can arise in child care proceedings, including delays in obtaining appropriate Special Care placements and services for young people with severe psychological and psychiatric needs, examples of extremely prolonged care proceedings, and difficulties in accessing appropriate services in cases involving allegations of sexual abuse. The reports also include examples of successful outcomes for children at the centre of care proceedings, including one young man who on returning from specialist services in the United Kingdom at 18 years of age is doing extremely well in a privately funded placement in an adult psychiatric unit.

Overall, the project has provided a measure of the effectiveness of current systems and policies in the areas of child protection and court administration, and assisted in identifying areas where corrective action may be required.  Ultimately, it has assisted my Department in gaining a greater depth of knowledge and understanding of child care cases and increasing the evidence base on which future policy formulation can be based.

Within the Special Care resources currently available to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, there are 13 places occupied at present. Recruitment and retention of staff is a priority for Tusla to enable this resource to operate at its full capacity of 26. Tusla is also committed to the implementation of a new model of care across Special Care services. It is anticipated that this model’s focus on staff support will make Special Care an attractive employment option, while the model will also assist children and young people and those tasked with caring for them in managing risk-taking behaviours and preventing the breakdown of step-down placements.

In addition, I am currently conducting a fact-finding exercise on how sexual abuse services are co-ordinated in other jurisdictions. I will work with my colleagues across government, including the Minister for Health and the Minister for Justice and Equality, to develop a model suitable for our country.  This will deepen co-operation across health, justice and child protection to improve access to services and to justice, and to minimise the trauma of children who have experienced child sexual abuse.

Child and Family Agency Services

Ceisteanna (303)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

303. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the timeframe for the implementation of a secure, encrypted, online submission facility for Tusla referrals in view of the fact that at present all Tusla referral forms must be printed off and completed manually by the referrer in order to be submitted. [5225/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I am pleased to confirm to the Deputy that Tusla’s online portal for the receipt of mandated reports is live. Mandated reporters can go online, via the Tusla website, register, and are then in a position to submit reports directly to Tusla via the portal.  I have been assured that data protection issues have been fully addressed, and that Tusla have consulted with the Data Protection Commissioner in relation to fully protecting this sensitive information. 

The portal is an efficient and accessible way of ensuring that reports of child abuse can be generated as efficiently as possible, including all the relevant information, and can be sent without delay to Tusla.

Child and Family Agency Services

Ceisteanna (304)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

304. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that some counties do not have access to an automated case management system and are instead relying on spreadsheets and manual records for the co-ordination and provision of Tusla services in their areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5226/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Investment in ICT infrastructure is essential as part of the provision of high quality and safe services to vulnerable children and families, and to support both social workers and other staff in their work. 

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the capital allocation for Tusla this year includes full provision for completion of the roll out of the National Child Care Information System (NCCIS) to all 17 Tusla areas. Tusla has advised that it is on target to complete the roll out of the NCCIS by in mid 2018. At present, the system is live in 8 Tusla areas.

The NCCIS will operate as the central national database supporting the provision of child welfare and protection services and it is a key priority for Tusla.

Access to the NCCIS system will ensure that every social work department has a user-friendly technology solution to record the case history of every child, who is the subject of a child protection or welfare concern, from the point of initial referral to case closure. The system will also have the capacity to facilitate the integration and sharing of information on child protection and welfare cases between Tusla areas where appropriate.  Individuals using the system will be required to have authorised access to ensure access security, data security and client privacy.

Child and Family Agency Services

Ceisteanna (305)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

305. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the timeframe for the implementation of a recommendation by a company (details supplied) concerning the maintenance of all data in regard to a case opened by Tusla in one digital format in view of the fact that the current system of maintaining separate digital and manual case files could lead to the information in the separate files falling out of sync, with implications for the provision of care. [5227/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency has advised that the National Child Care Information System (NCCIS) will be rolled out to all Tusla areas by mid-2018. The NCCIS will operate as the central national database supporting the provision of child welfare and protection services. The system will eliminate the reliance on manual records and spreadsheets.

Access to the NCCIS system will ensure that every social work department has a user-friendly technology solution to record the case history of every child, who is the subject of a child protection or welfare concern, from the point of initial referral to case closure. The system will also have the capacity to facilitate the integration and sharing of information on child protection and welfare cases between Tusla areas where appropriate.