Air Services Provision

Ceisteanna (572, 573)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

572. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to commence direct flights between Ireland and Egypt; the efforts made to date by him or his officials in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5592/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

573. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he or his officials have had formal meetings with Egyptian officials or airlines regarding commencing direct flights between Ireland and Egypt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5593/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 572 and 573 together.

The Government recently approved the text of a bilateral Air Service Agreement with Egypt. Dail approval has also been secured to allow Ireland sign and ratify the Agreement. It is understood that the Agreement will be formally signed by both States in the very near future.

Any decision made with regard to the operation of air services between Ireland and Egypt would be a commercial matter for the airlines concerned. My Department has no role in business decisions of airlines and no meetings have taken place with officials from Egypt on the matter.

Taxi Regulations

Ceisteanna (574)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

574. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to ensure taxis facilitate digital payment by customers; the expected timeline in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5600/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The regulation of the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry, including fare payment methods, is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013.

Given the role of the NTA in this regard, I have referred the Deputy's question to the Authority for direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

Rail Network

Ceisteanna (575)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

575. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to change the existing level crossings in the Dublin 15 area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5610/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The issue raised is a matter for Iarnród Éireann and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Driver Test Waiting Lists

Ceisteanna (576)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

576. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of persons waiting for driver licence tests at centres in Cork, Mallow and Skibbereen, County Cork and Killarney, County Kerry; and the number of testers assigned to these test centres. [5750/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

This is a matter for the Road Safety Authority. I have referred the question to the Authority for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response is not received within 10 days.

Child Abuse

Ceisteanna (577)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

577. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the instances of child abuse non-investigation (details supplied) by county in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5074/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I must inform the Deputy that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on individual cases. I have referred the matter to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, for their appropriate attention.

However, I have been informed by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, that, in keeping with their statutory obligations under the Child Care Act 1991, the Child and Family Agency Act 2013 and the Children First Act 2015, allegations of child abuse are assessed by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, irrespective of the age of the child.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (578)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

578. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the funding mechanisms available to early year providers, in particular Naoínraí, for the purchase of play equipment; the process to apply for such funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5095/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department's annual capital offering for childcare has supported the development of early learning and care and school age childcare services in terms of capacity, maintenance and quality. Each annual capital programme differs in priorities. In recent years, all providers could apply for grants relating to expansion and quality, while grants for essential maintenance were accessible to community providers only. Beyond this, there has been no particular distinction for services type, such as naoínraí.

The purchase of play equipment was specifically provided for in 2017 and 2018 under the natural outdoor play area grant.

The total Capital allocation for Early Years in 2018 was €6.86m. From a budget of €6.36m , the 2018 Early Years and School Age Childcare Capital Programmes achieved the following:

- 85 applications approved for the creation of 1,950 new early years places: 697 0-3 places, 1,253 ECCE places;

- 57 Essential maintenance and repair projects funded for community early years services;

- 157 Natural outdoor play areas built in early years services;

- 45 applications approved for the creation of 807 new school age childcare places;

- 54 Essential maintenance and repair projects funded for community school age childcare services.

In 2017, the total capital outturn for the Early Years and School Age Childcare Capital Programmes was €11.757m . These programmes achieved the following:

- 93 applications funded for the creation of 2,357 new early years places: 610 0-3 places, 1,747 ECCE places;

- 130 Building improvements and maintenance projects funded for community early years services;

- 452 Natural outdoor play areas built in early years services;

- 114 grants approved for building new school age childcare services, creating 3,390 new school age childcare places

- 112 grants approved for expanding existing school age childcare services, creating 1,934 new school age childcare places;

- 263 Improvement of existing school age childcare services projects funded.

My Department also offers a total of €0.5m under the Childminding Development Grant (€0.25m) and the Parent & Toddler Grant (€0.25m ) annually.

The total capital budget for Early Years in 2019 has been confirmed at €8.86m. Of this, €6.106m has been allocated to the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare Capital programmes.

It is intended that this funding will be used to support necessary improvements to childcare infrastructure and to support childcare providers in preparation for the launch of the Affordable Childcare Scheme.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (579)

Pat Buckley

Ceist:

579. Deputy Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the key workers employed by her Department or organisations under her aegis; and the respective catchment areas in which they operate under or services they are assigned to. [5181/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I understand that the Deputy is referring to Social Workers in this instance.

I can inform the Deputy that there are no key workers, within the meaning of the word, employed in my Department. However, regarding the four agencies within my remit, the information required by the Deputy is set out as follows:

The Adoption Authority of Ireland:

There is 1 Principal Social Worker and 5 Social Workers (6 Headcount) employed by the Adoption Authority of Ireland. These key workers operate on a national basis and are assigned to services arising from information and tracing queries on historic adoptions and in response to matches generated by the National Adoption Contact Preference Register. I understand that these Social Workers are also assigned to regulatory functions relating to national adoption service providers accredited by the Adoption Authority.

Oberstown Children Detention Campus:

There is 1 Social Worker employed by Oberstown to provide for the needs of the young people detained on the Campus.

Child and Family Agency - Tusla:

Social Workers December 2018 Headcount

Child Resident Service

7

National Services

132

Dublin Mid Leinster

359

Dublin South Central

70

Dublin Sth East\Wicklow

99

Dublin Sth West\Kildare West Wicklow

89

Midland

75

Regional Services DML

26

Dublin North East

343

Cavan\Monaghan

38

Dublin North City

101

Louth\Meath

91

North Dublin

81

Regional Services DNE

32

South

383

Carlow\Kilkenny\Sth Tipperary

73

Cork

172

Kerry

43

Regional Services South

4

Waterford\Wexford

91

West

367

Donegal

71

Galway\Roscommon

100

Mayo

40

Mid West

117

Regional Services West

1

Sligo\Leitrim

38

Grand Total

1591

I can also inform the Deputy that there are no Social Workers employed by the Ombudsman for Children's Office.

Child and Family Agency Services

Ceisteanna (580)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

580. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which adequate protection remains available to children exiting residential care facilities in the public or private sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5207/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Every year more than 500 young people reach adulthood and leave the care of the State. These young people are offered a wide range of services from different State actors including income supports, health supports, accommodation and education.

The aftercare provisions of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015 came into force on the 1st of September 2017. This means that there is now a statutory obligation on Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to prepare an aftercare plan for each eligible child and young person. This plan encompasses the range of supports that a young person may need from all service providers, including Tusla, to help them make the transition to independent adult life.

This support can also include direct financial support in the form of the aftercare allowance, which Tusla provides to young people in aftercare to enable them to pursue further education and training.

The majority of young people who leave the care of the State each year upon turning 18 do so with stable accommodation in place. A significant number of young people leaving care remain living with their former foster carers. Those who do not have family support from a foster carer or family base are assisted in finding accommodation in supported lodgings, sheltered housing or independent accommodation.

This planning and support process is offered to each eligible child and young person, regardless of whether they are leaving residential care, foster care, or another form of care.

Foster Care Supports

Ceisteanna (581)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

581. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if a review of the foster care allowance has been considered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5208/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I have no plans to change the rate of the Foster Care Allowance at this time. However, my Department has begun an extensive review of the Child Care Act 1991, and will examine foster care arrangements as part of this review. This will have regard to all relevant matters including income support measures available to foster families.

I acknowledge foster carers as the backbone of our child care services. Foster care is the preferred option in Ireland for children who cannot live with their parents or guardians, and over 90% of children in care in Ireland are looked after by foster carers. More than a quarter of these children are placed with relative foster carers.

The Foster Care Allowance is currently €325 per week per child under 12 years of age and €352 per week per child aged 12 and over. This payment was protected during recent economic hardships, and it is tax free. It is paid in respect of the child and is provided in order to allow foster carers to meet all of the child's daily living needs including food, clothing, basic travel, education costs and hobbies and sporting activities. The allowance is not considered as means for Social Welfare purposes.

Foster carers receive a number of targeted supports to ensure they continue to function as a recognised and valued part of the alternative care system. Key elements of this support include a link social worker, access to training and support group meetings and the allocation of a social worker for each child in care. It is important that foster carers have access to specialist services to meet the child's identified needs. Respite care for children may be arranged, if it is part of their care plan.

Pre-assessment and ongoing training is compulsory for foster carers in order to equip them with the skills and knowledge to provide high-quality care. Recognising the specific dynamics and the personal nature of relative care, Tusla addresses the training needs of relatives who are foster carers separately. In addition, Tusla provides funding to the Irish Foster Care Association, which offers a range of supports to carers, including advocacy, mediation, training and a phone advice service.

Child and Family Agency Data

Ceisteanna (582)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

582. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs his views on the recent HIQA review of Tusla services in the Dublin region which identified long delays in referrals, poor management of waiting lists and safety plans and other reported deficiencies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5431/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I believe the Deputy is referring to HIQA’s inspection of child protection services in the Dublin South Central Tusla region, which was published on the 17th January. I am concerned about the issues raised in the report, which found that most of the standards against which the area was inspected were not met. The report found that Tusla had identified the majority of problems that needed to be solved prior to HIQA’s inspection, but that the planned improvements were not happening fast enough, and I agree with that assessment.

It is important to note that the report did show that appropriate action was taken in urgent cases, and there was no evidence of harm to children.

A significant factor outlined in the report which influenced the quality and capacity of the service to deliver safe, consistent service is the shortage of social work staff. In the Dublin South Central area one of the two duty/intake offices which deals with child protection referrals was operating, in the period prior to inspection, with only two social workers, instead of the six required. These vacancies were coupled with the staff gaps at team leader level in the area.

I am advised that additional principal and social work posts have been assigned to the area, and managers are charged with driving service improvements forward. A principal social worker has been appointed to oversee the work of two teams that deal with referrals and early assessments, and another principal social worker has been appointed to drive forward the improvement plan.

All open child protection and welfare cases within the areas are being reviewed, to ensure that interim safety plans are adequate. The new service improvement principal social worker will conduct quarterly sample audits of safety plans, and prepare reports highlighting areas of good practice and areas for improvement.

I can assure the Deputy that I will be monitoring the progress made on implementing the improvement plan closely.

Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme Expenditure

Ceisteanna (583)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

583. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the amount approved by a company (details supplied) in an area which is delivering the SICAP programme under the community development and social enterprise grants since 1 January 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5746/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The company referenced delivers the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP 2018 - 2022) in Galway County. The table below contains data in relation to grants awarded to Local Community Groups and Social Enterprises by the company in the areas referenced by the Deputy. Grants were not available to Local Community Groups under the previous programme (SICAP 2015 -17) and therefore a nil amount appears for 2017.

.

2017

2018

Beneficiary Type

No. of Grants

Amount

No. of Grants

Amount

Local Community Groups

-

-

17

€17,906.27

Social Enterprises

1

€584.00

1

€1,209.38

Community Services Programme Funding

Ceisteanna (584)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

584. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the system for paying the salary of a person (details supplied). [4946/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 528 of 29 January 2019 which sets out the position in this matter.

Seniors Alert Scheme

Ceisteanna (585)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

585. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to introduce grants for the installation of intruder alarms for older persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5240/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

My Department is responsible for the Seniors Alert Scheme which encourages community support for vulnerable older people in our communities through the provision of personal monitored alarms to enable them to live securely in their homes with confidence, independence and peace of mind. Funding is available under the scheme towards the purchase by a registered community-based organisation of a personal alarm or pendant.

Following a review, a new version of the scheme came into effect on 1 November 2017. A number of changes were introduced under the new scheme including the provision of free monitoring for the first year and a revision of the living alone requirements. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the revised scheme has been a resounding success with unprecedented levels of demand for the new package.

The issue of the introduction of funding for the installation of intruder alarms is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality.

CLÁR Programme

Ceisteanna (586)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

586. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when the next round of CLÁR funding for 2019 will open. [5453/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The CLÁR programme is an important part of the Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development and provides funding for small infrastructural projects in rural areas which have suffered high levels of population decline.

The aim of CLÁR is to support the sustainable development of designated CLÁR areas with the aim of encouraging people to continue live and work in those areas. The funding provided under CLÁR works in conjunction with local funding and on the basis of locally identified priorities.

The CLÁR programme was closed for new applications in 2010. However, I re-launched the programme in the second half of 2016 and since then, over 1,200 projects have been approved for total funding of €25 million.

The type of projects which have been supported include safety measures around schools and community facilities, the provision of play areas, supports for emergency First Responders, and a measure to provide vehicles to transport people to cancer care and respite centres.

I intend to launch a further call for proposals under CLÁR this year and I will be making decisions regarding the specific measures to be supported in 2019, in the coming weeks. I anticipate that the programme will be opened for new applications shortly.

CLÁR Programme

Ceisteanna (587)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

587. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if a CLÁR funding application will be accepted from a community organisation the catchment area of which is partially in a CLÁR area and the other part is not; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5454/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The primary objective of the CLÁR Programme is to support the sustainable development of designated CLÁR areas with the aim of encouraging people to continue live and work in those areas. It provides funding for small scale infrastructural projects in designated rural areas that have experienced significant levels of depopulation.

In the normal course, CLÁR eligibility is based on the project in question being physically located within a designated CLÁR DED. However, given the nature of the activities and the need to travel considerable distances, in some cases, and the need to maintain vehicles/equipment in practical/convenient locations, in the case of Measure 3 (First Response Support) and Measure 4 (Support for Mobility and Cancer Care Transport) under CLÁR 2018, eligibility was based on the ‘catchment area’ being served by the equipment and by demonstrating that the majority (at least 80%) of the need could be attributed to CLÁR DED’s.

I initiated a review of the CLÁR programme on the 23rd of November 2018 with a targeted consultation meeting with a number of people who are recognised for their background and expertise in relation to rural development issues. The review will examine CLÁR areas by reference to the 2016 Census of Population data and will also help to determine the most appropriate measures to be included in CLÁR programmes in 2019 and beyond. I hope that this review will be completed during 2019.

I intend to launch a further call for proposals under the CLÁR Programme shortly and applications will be accepted based on their compliance with the eligibility criteria. I will be making decisions regarding the specific measures to be supported in 2019, in the coming weeks.

Scheme to Support National Organisations

Ceisteanna (588, 589)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

588. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if additional funding will be sourced through Pobal for services (details supplied) which face possible closure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5457/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

James Browne

Ceist:

589. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if he will consider the need of a society (details supplied) for additional funding for regional advocacy services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5514/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 588 and 589 together.

The Scheme to Support National Organisations in the Community and Voluntary Sector (SSNO) is a key element of my Department's support for the role of the sector in contributing to the development of strong and vibrant civil society and in improving outcomes for those most disadvantaged.

The scheme provides multi-annual funding towards core costs of national organisations in the sector, with a focus on organisations that provide supports to those who are disadvantaged. The current three-year scheme concludes on 30 June 2019 and the next iteration of the scheme will commence on 1 July 2019. A total of €16.7m has been allocated under the current scheme to 71 different organisations.

As with the current scheme, national organisations such as the one in question can apply to be considered for funding, which will be allocated through a competitive process. This competition was advertised on 12 December 2018 and the closing date for receipt of applications is 31 January. An appraisal of the applications will be conducted by Pobal on behalf of my Department and final recommendations will be sent to my Department for approval. Applicants will be informed in due course of their success or otherwise in qualifying for funding.

The organisation in question was allocated €269,700 over the 36 month period of the current SSNO scheme.