Rail Network

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (573)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

573. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when the rail census for 2018 will be published; his plans to accelerate investment in the heavy rail system in view of the growing potential for passenger growth on the railways and the low carbon footprint of rail travel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8408/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Deputy may be aware, Project Ireland 2040 states that the priority funding objective in relation to mainline rail is the maintenance and renewal of the existing network so that it continues to provide a safe and reliable infrastructure that enables the provision of quality rail services for passengers across the country. The funding I have secured under Project Ireland 2040 means that I am now in a position to provide this steady state level of funding.

In addition to this increase in funding to support the infrastructure, I have also increased the funding available to support expanded services across the rail network through the PSO subsidy. The improved funding framework has allowed the National Transport Authority and Iarnród Éireann deliver improved services for passengers across the network.

The NTA and Iarnród Éireann continue to explore how to enhance rail services and are currently considering ways to secure additional fleet ahead of the bigger increases which will form part of the DART Expansion Programme.

The National Heavy Rail Census is an annual report of the National Transport Authority (NTA) and as such it is a matter for the NTA to advise as to its publication.

In light of the NTA's responsibility on both matters raised by the Deputy, I have referred his question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Departmental Contracts Data

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (574)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

574. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to cost overruns on contracts within his Department with a value in excess of €10 million that came in more than 10% over budget in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; if so, the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8430/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Because of the major cutbacks in funding for regional and local roads during the recession, the Strategic Grant Programme relating to significant regional and local road improvement projects was curtailed from 2013 until provision was made in the 2016 Capital Investment Plan to restart a modest programme. Schemes are being managed on a programme basis with phased implementation taking account of the profile of annual capital allocations. The first projects under the programme reached construction stage in late 2017/early 2018 and to date the Minister’s attention has not been drawn to cost overrun issues.

As regards national road projects, Government approval is required for all projects costing over €100 million and in this context the Minister has brought two schemes to Government for approval – in the case of the proposed Galway City Ring Road this related to approval in principle of the scheme Business Case and in the case of the Collooney to Castlebaldwin road upgrade scheme approval, following the conclusion of the tender assessment and appraisal process, was given for the award of the construction contract.

The Luas Cross City project was completed in December 2017 and was funded through Exchequer and non-Exchequer sources. The final outturn is subject to finalisation of on-going contract resolution procedures.

Sport Ireland has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of the National Sports Campus. I have referred the Deputy's question to Sport Ireland for direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Bus Services

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (575)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

575. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the provision of extra buses and routes to the Swords express timetable will be expedited; if he will contact the NTA regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8494/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The provision of extra buses to Swords Express is a matter for the company itself as it is a private operator holding a passenger licence under Section 7 of the Road Transport Act 1932.

The other issues raised are also a matter for the company in conjunction with the National Transport Authority (NTA) and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Military Aircraft Landings

Ceisteanna (576)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

576. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport further to the Parliamentary Questions Nos. 82 and 83 of 12 February 2019, if the purpose of the review of the Carriage of Munitions of Weapons of War and Dangerous Goods Orders 73 and 89 is to deliver a more efficient and effective processing system with a view to reducing the administrative burden on his Department rather than an independent examination of the oversight functions of the order. [8498/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As stated in previous replies to Parliamentary Questions, the purpose of the internal review is to examine the Statutory Instrument primarily from an administrative and legal perspective. There is no proposal to change the long-standing Government policy of permitting aircraft used by the defence forces of various nations to transit through Irish airspace and airports, subject to appropriate terms and conditions. In the event that the review identifies opportunities to reduce cost and administrative burden on the Department I believe such recommendations should be pursued.

Public Procurement Contracts Data

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (577)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

577. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of State contracts that were not awarded to the lowest tender or bid in each year since 2011 to date in his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department; the reason the lowest tender or bid was not chosen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8807/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being collated by my officials and will be forwarded to the Deputy within 10 working days.

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 42A
I refer to the above PQ, To ask the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport the number of State contracts that were not awarded to the lowest tender or bid in each year since 2011 to date in his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department; the reason the lowest tender or bid was not chosen; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The following table sets out the information requested.

Year

Number of State Contracts over the cost of €500,000 not awarded to lowest tender or bid

Reason lowest tender or bid not chosen

2011

0

2012

0

2013

1

Marginally more expensive than the lowest tender (Approx. 0.8 %).

2014

1

The contract awarded to highest scoring bid across a range of criteria.

2015

0

2016

0

2017

0

2018

1

The contract awarded to highest scoring bid across a range of criteria.

2019

0

The Department, in line with best practice in public procurement tendering, chooses the Most Economically Advantageous Tender. Cost is not always the sole criteria and other qualitative criteria are used.
I have referred the Deputy's question to the agencies under the aegis of my Department for direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Child and Family Agency Funding

Ceisteanna (578, 579, 580, 581, 582)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

578. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount of funding a group (details supplied) receives each year from Tusla through its membership of the new communities partnership; and the reason the funding is provided to the group. [7794/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

579. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the legislation under which a group (details supplied) receives funding from Tusla. [7795/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

580. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if Tusla has a service level agreement with an organisation (details supplied). [7796/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

581. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if Tusla has a service level agreement directly with a group (details supplied); if so, the service provided by the group; and the persons or group for which the service is provided. [7797/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

582. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the role of a person (details supplied) as trustee of a group has been approved by Tusla. [7799/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 578 to 582, inclusive, together.

Tusla has informed me that the New Communities Partnership does not fund the Venezuelan Community in Ireland group.

As the Venezuelan Community in Ireland group does not have a service level agreement with Tusla and does not receive funding from Tusla the question of the legislation does not apply.

In respect of the individual named by the Deputy in PQ 7799/19 is not employed by Tusla or the New Communities Partnership and is not a trustee of either organisation. The role of this individual as a trustee of a group has not been approved by Tusla.

In relation to the Deputy's question about a service level agreement with the New Communities Partnership Tusla does have a Service Level Agreement with this organisation. It is registered as a charitable organisation.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency funds a range of community, voluntary and charitable organisations, under Part 8 of the Child and Family Agency Act, 2013, which provide services to vulnerable children and families.

Funding provided to organisations is governed by Service Level Agreements (SLA) which set out the resources to be provided and the outputs to be delivered. SLAs are signed off at the local service area level to ensure that services are provided to meet local needs.

Child and Family Agency Data

Ceisteanna (583)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

583. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the average waiting time for children referred to social services to be investigated by county. [7804/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I wish to assure the Deputy that all referrals to Tusla are screened in a timely manner. Where appropriate, the referral will be routed to family support services or, in the case of child protection and welfare concerns, to a social work service. It is important to stress that urgent and emergency cases receive immediate attention by the local duty social work team.

Data on key performance indicators, including the number of referrals received and the waiting time for allocation to a social worker, are reported to my Department on the basis of Tusla area, and not by county, as requested by the Deputy. The most recent data available to my Department was reported by Tusla for the end of November 2018 and show that at that time there were 26,136 open cases. Of these, 20,046 were allocated to a social worker and 6,009 were awaiting allocation. Table 1 lays out the average waiting time by Tusla area.

Table 1.

Area

Referrals Jan-Nov 2018

Open Cases

Open Cases Allocated to a Social Worker

Cases Unallocated <1 month

Cases Unallocated1-3 months

Cases Unallocated >3 months

DSE/Wicklow

2018

950

808

38

53

51

DSW/KE/WW

3189

1409

821

73

116

399

DSC

2314

2010

1439

298

212

71

Midlands

6404

1446

1037

75

168

166

DNC

2954

1329

1205

0

6

118

Dublin North

3233

3913

2801

150

237

725

Louth/Meath

3564

2006

1411

125

205

265

Cav/Mon

1662

681

586

3

18

74

Kerry

1083

602

489

32

31

50

Cork

6366

3690

3076

213

155

246

CW/KK/ST

3462

1510

999

130

77

304

WW/WX

4309

1707

1284

161

136

126

Donegal

1034

1041

755

28

53

205

Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan

1049

370

346

20

0

4

Mayo

1044

402

402

0

0

0

Galway/Roscommon

3075

1619

1406

134

44

35

Midwest

4428

1451

1191

31

109

120

Total

51188

26136

20046

1511

1620

2959

Of the cases awaiting allocation to a social worker, 994 were categorised as high priority. The priority level assigned to the case is based on the need for intervention in the case, rather than on risk to the child.

It should be noted an unallocated case refers to a case involving a child which has been assessed as requiring a social work response, but which has not yet been allocated to a social worker. These cases are monitored and may be further progressed by the duty team. This can include checks with relevant professionals, home visits and gathering additional information.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Ceisteanna (584)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

584. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her policy priorities in relation to supporting the provision of early childhood care in crèches; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7928/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My policy priorities in relation to supporting the provision of early learning and care is articulated in First 5, Ireland’s first ever whole-of-Government strategy to improve the lives of babies, young children and their families. This 10-year strategy sets out a roadmap for development and investment over the next decade and builds on recent and very substantial developments in early learning and care. These developments include the extension of the universal pre-school programme which now provides two years of free pre-school education to all children, schemes that subsidise the cost of early learning and care to parents and extra supports to ensure children with additional needs, including children with a disability, homeless children, programme refugee children and children in low income households, can access early learning and care. I have also given priority to a range of initiatives, including regulations, to improve the quality of provision. These developments have been made possible by an unprecedented 117% increase in investment since 2015.

Over the next decade and through First 5, this work will intensify, however, the focus on accessibility, affordability and the quality of early learning and care will remain. Initial actions include:

- introducing the Affordable Childcare Scheme, which will alter the landscape of early learning and care provision in Ireland - providing financial support for parents and establishing a sustainable platform for additional investment for decades to come ;

- developing a strategic capital investment plan to deliver the large-scale capital investment of €250 million earmarked under Project 2040;

- developing mechanisms to provide additional supports to early learning and care settings where there are high proportions of children who are at risk of poverty to mitigate the impacts of early disadvantage

- piloting a meals programme in early learning and care settings to address food poverty among young children;

- extending the award winning Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), which currently supports children with a disability to access the universal pre-school programme;

- extending regulations and supports to all paid non-relative childminders and school-age childcare;

- moving progressively towards a graduate-led professional early learning and care workforce with high quality CPD in the national quality and curriculum frameworks and setting standards for initial professional education at higher education and further education level qualifications;

- developing a new funding model for early learning and care that will support improved quality of provision for children while ensuring improved affordability for parents through mechanism to control fees and sustainability for providers; and

- doubling investment in early learning and care over the next ten years.

A three-year implementation plan for this Strategy will be published in the coming months by my Department. This will set out a timetable for delivery of these and other First 5 actions.

My Department will monitor and report on the implementation of First 5 on an annual basis.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Ceisteanna (585)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

585. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her policy priorities in relation to supporting parents of preschool children who opt to care for them full-time at home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7929/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department has recently led the development of First 5, a Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families. First 5 identifies a range of measures to support families given their fundamental importance in shaping children’s experiences and outcomes. The vision for babies and young children articulated in First 5 is of a healthy childhood starting in pregnancy; time together with parents especially in the first year in a nurturing and playful home environment where material needs are met; high quality play-based Early Learning and Care experiences; positive transitions to primary school; and supportive community contexts.

The Government is committed to supporting parents in caring for young children at home in a range of ways.

Within the remit of my Department, the policy priorities are to provide access to Early Learning and Care supports to parents of young children, whether they work full time, part time, or look after their children at home full-time. These policies seek to support children’s early development and to support their families.

An example of supports for Early Learning and Care provided by my Department is that, from September of this year, all children are eligible to avail of two years of universal pre-school, without cost, through the Early Childhood Care and Education programme (ECCE) prior to beginning primary school. Some 107,000 children are already benefitting, many of whom are children of stay-at-home parents.

Furthermore the current targeted Early Learning and Care subsidy schemes are available to families where parents are in receipt of certain social welfare payments, medical cards, or GP Visit cards, again many of whom are stay-at-home parents.

A universal subsidy is available to all parents of children under the age of three, or whenever the child becomes eligible for the universal preschool programme (ECCE), regardless of whether parents are working or not. The Affordable Childcare Scheme, ACS, which will be launched later this year will make Early Learning and Care subsidies available on the basis of family income and will be available to stay-at-home parents. This is underpinned by the Childcare Support Act 2018.

My Department also provides funding for local parent and toddler groups to organise activities for parents and young children in the community to support their development through play. Both working parents and stay-at-home parents participate. 449 groups were supported in 2018.

In the coming years my Department will also be leading on developing a new model of parenting services from universal to targeted provision, covering key stages of child development and taking account of parents and children in a range of contexts and parenting relationships.

More widely across Government, there are various initiatives that support stay-at-home parents. A child benefit payment of €140 per child per month is available for all children. Budget 2019 announced an increase to the home carer tax credit to €1,500 per year.

There have also been a number of new measures to support parents to spend time at home with children in their early years. Two weeks of paternity leave and benefit for fathers was introduced in 2016. In 2017, there was an extension to maternity leave and benefit to mothers of babies born prematurely. Budget 2019 also announced the introduction of a new parental leave scheme which will be available to both fathers and mothers. First 5, the Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families sets out Government's commitment that by 2021, parents will each have an individual entitlement to seven weeks of paid parental leave, to potentially allow children to benefit from an additional 14 weeks parental care in their first year.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

Ceisteanna (586)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

586. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to address the issue of redress for the small number of survivors from the Bethany homes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7951/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

When the Ryan Report was published in 2009 there were a number of calls for the Residential Institutions Redress Act to be extended to include additional institutions, including the Bethany Home.

As the Deputy will be aware, my colleague the Minister for Education and Skills is responsible for the Redress Act legislation and related arrangements and that the scheme has been closed to new applications since 2011. Eligibility for the scheme has been reviewed on a number of occasions and it has not been extended to any additional institution since 2005.

In its second Interim Report the Commission suggested that eligibility for the Redress Scheme be re-examined. I raised this over a period of weeks with government colleagues. and the Attorney General. Subsequent to those discussions, the Government decided not to extend the scheme.

The Commission had made no findings to date regarding abuse or neglect, within Mother and Baby Homes, including the Bethany Home, and colleagues believed it would not be appropriate to deal with the question of redress in advance of any conclusions by the Commission.

At that time, the Government made a further decision that. in light of the Commission's commentary, consideration would be given to provide supports to former residents. It was on this basis that I established the Collaborative Forum of former residents, and Bethany Home survivors are represented in the membership. The Forum has produced a report that includes a series of recommendations on matters of priority to them and their families.

I will be bringing the report to Cabinet shortly to facilitate its detailed consideration by Government.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Ceisteanna (587)

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

587. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of childcare service providers that closed their services in 2018 and to date in 2019, or have indicated that they are not reopening in September 2019; the number of childcare places which will be lost due to these facilities closing by county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8137/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

In order to best answer the Deputy's question, and to provide a context, my Department looked at both the number of early years services that closed over 2018 and to date in 2019 and the number of new services that opened for business in the same period. The following tables outline the number of service provider closures or those who have signalled their intention to close in 2019 notified to Pobal, and the number of service provider closures notified to Pobal in 2018. Accompanying this is a count of all children still enrolled at the services on the date of closure. The majority (66%) of the services had zero children enrolled at the date of closure.

2019 Closures: Year to date

County

Services

Children Enrolled

Donegal

1

0

2019 Closure Notifications

County

Services

Children Enrolled

Cork

1

0

Dublin

2

24

Grand Total

3

24

2018 Closure Notifications

County

Services

No of Children Enrolled

Carlow

1

0

Clare

2

1

Cork

13

74

Donegal

3

11

Dublin

15

56

Galway

9

0

Kerry

3

0

Kildare

4

37

Kilkenny

1

0

Laois

2

0

Limerick

1

0

Louth

4

1

Mayo

2

32

Meath

5

75

Tipperary

5

43

Wexford

4

1

Wicklow

4

20

Grand Total

78

351

It is important to mention that during this same time, 153 new services opened in 2018, providing childcare places for 2593 children and a total of 8 have opened so far in 2019 with childcare places yet to register. It is evident from these figures that new services exceed the services that closed.

Please see the following tables for a county breakdown of new services.

2019 New Services Registered

County

New Services

No. of Children Enrolled

Cavan

2

0

Cork

2

0

Donegal

1

0

Dublin

1

0

Kilkenny

1

0

Mayo

1

0

Roscommon

1

0

Wexford

1

0

Grand Total

8

0

2018 New Services Registered

County

New Services

No. of Children Enrolled

Cavan

2

12

Clare

6

51

Cork

16

230

Donegal

6

353

Dublin

40

616

Galway

10

185

Kerry

2

3

Kildare

4

35

Kilkenny

2

57

Laois

6

175

Leitrim

3

47

Limerick

9

156

Longford

2

39

Louth

5

87

Mayo

8

9

Meath

4

67

Roscommon

1

18

Sligo

4

21

Tipperary

8

111

Waterford

4

124

Westmeath

1

15

Wexford

4

51

Wicklow

6

49

Grand Total

153

2,593

My Department has secured €6.1 million in capital funding for early learning and care and school age capital programmes in 2019. The focus of this funding is to continue the expansion of early learning and care places for 0-3 year olds and school age childcare places where this is most needed.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Ceisteanna (588)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

588. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if consideration has been given to the proposal made by an organisation (details supplied) to split the historical investigations of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes from its redress considerations; and if and when same will be carried out. [8149/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was established by Government in February 2015 to investigate concerns related to the institutional care of unmarried mothers and their babies during the period 1922 to 1998. The Commission is tasked with providing a full account of what happened to vulnerable women and children in these institutions.

The scope of the Commission’s remit includes several specific areas of practice and procedure in the care, welfare, entry arrangements and exit pathways for the women and children who were residents of 14 named institutions and the representative sample of County Homes identified by the Commission.

The Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 provides an effective mechanism to investigate complex and sensitive matters of significant public concern. The Act gives the Commission robust powers to compel persons to produce information and answer questions. It is important to recognise that a statutory Commission is fully independent in the conduct of its investigations. The precise approach to examination of evidence are matters for the Commission to decide and progress.

The Deputy may wish to note that the Commission's terms of reference do not require the Commission to make any findings or recommendations on redress.

While I am aware of calls for redress as an interim step, the Government has already clarified that it is not possible to consider such matters in advance of the findings and conclusions of the Commission. When the Commission delivers its final report, its conclusions on all matters regarding the treatment of former residents of Mother and Baby Homes will be taken into careful consideration when determining the State's response.

In the interim, the Government has agreed to consider supports and services to respond to the identified health and well-being needs of former residents. In July of last year I established the Collaborative Forum, as a progressive response to the theme of “nothing about us without us” which emerged from my consultations with former residents of these institutions. This innovative approach has empowered former residents to actively contribute to the Government's deliberations on matters of concern to them and their families.

The Forum has recently submitted its first report to me and I will be bringing my recommendations to Government in the coming weeks.

Child and Family Agency Services

Ceisteanna (589)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

589. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will address a matter regarding an application by a centre (details supplied). [8151/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Family Resource Centre (FRC) Programme is administered by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

I am aware that the organisation to which the Deputy refers made an application for inclusion in the Programme last year but was unsuccessful.

I have secured an increase of €34 million in funding for Tusla in 2019, which will include targeted funds for the further investment and development of the Family Resource Centre Programme this year. However, there are currently no plans to establish any new Family Resource Centres in 2019.

Tusla has advised me that the centre’s application has been retained on file in the event that additional funding becomes available for the establishment of new Family Resource Centres.

Tusla will continue to support the organisation to which the Deputy refers through its local office.

Tusla has identified, and continues to monitor the need for family support services in specified areas of the country, including the Dublin 12 area. Tusla plans to allocate future funding according to the results of needs analysis projects across the country.

Tusla continues to work with Family Resource Centres and other family support organisations throughout the country and will discuss service needs and funding resources with centres, where appropriate. Tusla is committed to using all available resources for children and families in the most efficient, equitable, proportionate and sustainable way.

Child and Family Agency Remit

Ceisteanna (590)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

590. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will address a matter in relation to the statutory obligation on Tusla to prepare an aftercare plan for each eligible child and young person in care, which can also include direct financial support in the form of the aftercare allowance (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8203/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Aftercare services are support services which build on and support the work already undertaken by many including foster carers, social workers and residential workers in preparing young people for adulthood. Everyone has a role to play in preparing young people to reach their developmental milestones. Thus the provision of aftercare services should not be regarded as an event, but as a continuum of service building on the skills and capacity young people have developed during their time in care.

A comprehensive aftercare service relies on the full participation and informed consent of young people in the development and implementation of their aftercare plan. It also relies on cooperation and partnership with other key stakeholders, including the Health Services Executive, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Department of Education, SUSI, voluntary groups, and community groups.

Legislative provision for aftercare has been strengthened by the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015, which imposed a statutory duty on Tusla to prepare an aftercare plan for an eligible child or eligible young person, following an assessment of need. The Act created an explicit statement of Tusla’s duty to satisfy itself as to the child’s or young person’s need for assistance by preparing a plan that identifies those needs for aftercare supports. An eligible child for the purpose of this statutory entitlement is any child who has spent 12 months in the care of the State in the 5 years between the ages of 13 and 18 years old, while an eligible adult is any young person aged 18, 19 or 20 who has spent at least 12 months in the care of the State between the ages of 13 and 18 years. Note that this eligibility is not contingent on the child or young person being in care on their 18th birthday. Specific legislative provision is in place for aftercare to continue until a young person is 23 years of age where they are finishing a course of education.

In response to the new legislative provision, Tusla has developed a suite of policies and guidance documents for aftercare support, which includes guidance on direct financial support.

The most prominent form of such support is the aftercare allowance, which is provided to cover a young person’s day to day costs as they progress in education or accredited training. Under current Tusla guidance, an eligible adult will qualify for an aftercare allowance where they have turned 18 in the care of Tusla, having spent the previous 12 months in care, are attending an accredited education course, third level course or training programme as outlined in their aftercare plan, and agree to engage with Tusla aftercare and provide updates on their progress.

For those young adults who are not in education / training at 18 years, aftercare services support them in accessing any relevant financial allowances and support to which they may be entitled from the Department of Social Protection or other agencies. The amount of financial support an adult will receive at 18 years and the relevant agency or Department will be specific to each adult’s circumstances.

While this policy provides the basis for the standardised aftercare allowance, Tusla recognises that some particularly vulnerable adults (which can include young people with mental health issues, addiction issues, etc.) will need tailored support as part of their aftercare plan and this may include tailored financial support. Current policy provides for decisions in such instances to be made by principal social workers and area managers on a case by case basis.

It is important to note that the financial guidance in relation to financial support to young adults in aftercare is currently under review following 12 months’ implementation and a consultation process with key stakeholders is currently underway.

Departmental Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (591)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

591. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to cost overruns on contracts within her Department with a value in excess of €10 million that came in more than 10% over budget in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; if so, the details of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8417/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I can confirm that my attention has not been drawn to any cost overruns on contracts engaged within my Department that meet the criteria set out by the Deputy.

Schools Facilities

Ceisteanna (592)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

592. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the funding schemes available to national schools for the improvement of playgrounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7669/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

Primary responsibility for the development of school facilities rests with my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills.

From my own Department's perspective, the CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale projects in designated rural areas that have experienced significant levels of depopulation. The types of projects which have been supported since I re-launched the programme in 2016 include safety measures around schools and community facilities, and the provision of play areas.

Under the 2018 CLÁR programme, national schools applied to their Local Authority for improvement works to playgrounds and, in turn, the Local Authorities submitted a list of projects to my Department for consideration.

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

Community Enhancement Programme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (593)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

593. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the community enhancement programme does not allow schools to apply for funding in view of the fact that the rural equivalent and the CLÁR programmes allow same; his plans to change same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7733/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Community Enhancement Programme helps community groups to improve facilities in their area. It is aimed at addressing disadvantage as outlined in each area's Local Economic and Community Plan.

Under the 2018 programme, schools could apply for funding as long as they were not a commercial or for-profit organisation, and on the condition that the grant was for something available to the entire community.

In 2018, over €200,000 of the programme allocation funded school related projects including pre-school, after-school, Parents Associations on behalf of schools, National/Primary and Community Schools.

The details of the 2019 programme are currently being considered and will be announced in due course.

Community Services Programme

Ceisteanna (594)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

594. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if Pobal will be requested to provide three full-time positions under the community services programme to a group (details supplied) in County Kerry following the submission of a business plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7809/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Community Services Programme (CSP) supports around 400 community organisations to provide local services through a social enterprise model with funding provided as a contribution to the cost of a manager and an agreed number of full-time equivalent positions (FTEs). Some €46 million will be provided under the programme in 2019.

A business plan was submitted by the organisation in question as part of the CSP Recontracting Process in 2017. Unfortunately, the plan did not establish a strong enough case for the level of support sought and the organisation was advised that support would reduce from one manager and four FTEs to two FTEs from 1 July 2018.

My Department extended this deadline to end-December 2018 pending submission of a revised business plan to Pobal. A revised business plan was submitted; however, this also failed to establish a strong enough case for the level of CSP support sought.

The organisation has since appealed the decision and provided additional information to support its business case. My Department has upheld the appeal and support will be provided for three FTEs to end-December 2019 pending a progress review to inform support levels post-2019.