Park and Ride Facilities

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

Ceisteanna (578)

John Curran

Ceist:

578. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he or the NTA will source alternative public park and ride facilities to serve passengers from the Newcastle-Rathcoole areas who use the Luas at Citywest following the proposed closure of the Luas park and ride facility at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11951/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The National Transport Authority (NTA) have statutory responsibility for the development and implementation of public transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area, including the provision of Luas Park & Ride facilities.

Noting their responsibility in relation to this matter, I have forwarded your query to the NTA for their consideration and direct reply. Please notify my office if you have not received a reply within 10 working days.

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

Sports Capital Programme Applications

Ceisteanna (579)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

579. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of a sports capital application by a club (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12049/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The 2018 round of the Sports Capital Programme opened for applications on Friday 7 September and the application period closed on Friday 19th October. By that deadline, a record 2,337 applications were submitted seeking a total of €162m in funding.

186 of these applications were for projects that were deemed invalid under the 2017 round of the programme that subsequently submitted corrected documents. These applications were assessed first and approximately €7m in allocations to 170 projects were announced on the 17th January.

Work is now underway in assessing the new 2018 requests and I can confirm that an application has been submitted by the organisation referred to by the Deputy.

For the first time, applicants who have submitted incorrect documentation under this round will be given the opportunity to correct their application during the assessment period. While there will be no undue delay in completing the assessment process, in view of the opportunity to correct documentation, the record number of applications received and the detailed information contained in each application, it is likely to take a number of months to have all applications assessed. Accordingly, I expect that it may be the third quarter of this year before the full set of allocations under this current round of the programme are announced.

Public Transport Provision

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

Ceisteanna (580)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

580. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to ensure there is better synchronisation between rail services on the Dublin to Maynooth line and the 39 Dublin Bus service in order that passengers can better interchange between the two services and do not face lengthy waits after disembarking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12058/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with Iarnród Éireann and Dublin Bus 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

Road Traffic Legislation

Ceisteanna (581)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

581. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on making dashboard cameras mandatory in all motor vehicles. [12073/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The introduction of a mandatory component or separate technical unit for a new vehicle type would require an amendment to Directive 2007/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council. This Directive established an approval system for all vehicles registered within the EU and it ensures that a vehicle must be manufactured in compliance with a wide range of safety standards before it can be placed on the market. This ‘type-approval’ system is regularly updated to account for improvements in safety standards and to allow advanced safety features to become mandatory requirements. Amendments to Directive 2007/46/EC are scrutinised, evaluated and voted upon by a number of different EU-level technical committees and working groups attended by representatives from the State.

The type-approval system is transposed into Irish law by S.I. No. 158 of 2009 – the European Communities (Road Vehicles: Type-Approval) Regulations 2009. These regulations have been amended several times to account for the continually improving safety standards that have become obligatory for vehicles in the European fleet.

Making the use of dash cameras a mandatory requirement for all existing vehicles in the national fleet is not considered to be a practical measure at present.

Electric Vehicles

Ceisteanna (582)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

582. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the targets for the use of electric vehicles nationally; the targets and dates associated with achieving same; the measures he is leading on an all-of-Government approach to achieve the targets; the level of electric vehicle usage, trends and projections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12089/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The transition to alternatively fuelled vehicles, including electric vehicles (EVs), is a necessary step-change to effect a substantial reduction in transport emissions. While there are no certainties in predicting future technologies, the full electrification of the national car fleet represents a feasible option. Indications from car manufacturers and energy market analysts suggest that mass market adoption of EVs is probable.

Accordingly, Ireland's National Policy Framework on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport in Ireland: 2017-2030 set an ambitious target that from 2030, all new cars and vans sold in Ireland will be zero emission capable. In addition, Ireland has a national target of 20,000 EVs on Irish roads by 2020 and an ambitious longer term target of 500,000 by 2030.

In order to expedite the deployment of low carbon technologies, especially the uptake of EVs, my Department and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment jointly convened an interdepartmental Low Emission Vehicle Taskforce. The Taskforce includes representatives from across the public sector and has consulted widely with industry, stakeholders and representative groups. Phase one of their Work Programme focused exclusively on EVs and their recommendations were considered ahead of Budgets 2018 and 2019. A suite of continued and new EV supports has subsequently been established (see below) and a Progress Report has been published on my website (available at this link.)

There has been a substantial recent increase in EV sales; in 2018, a total of 1,972 new EVs were registered, bringing the total number on Irish roads to almost 7,650 by the end of December. 2019 is seeing a continued rise in EV numbers - in the first month of the year 1,112 EVs were registered compared to 213 in January 2018. By the end of February, there were almost 9,500 EVs under taxation.

Suite of EV supports currently available:

Purchase Grant Scheme - A grant of up to €5,000 towards the purchase of a new BEV or PHEV

VRT Relief - VRT Relief of up to €5,000 for BEVs (until end 2021), up to €2,500 for PHEVs (until end 2019) and up to €1,500 for conventional hybrids

Domestic Charger Grant - A grant of up to €600 towards the installation cost of a domestic charge point for new and second-hand BEVs or PHEVs

Low Motor Tax - BEVs qualify for the lowest tax band of motor tax at €120 per annum, while a PHEV is typically taxed at circa €170 per annum

Toll Incentive Scheme - As of July 2018, BEVs and PHEVs qualify for 50% and 25% toll reductions respectively up to a maximum €500 annual threshold for private vehicles and €1,000 for commercial vehicles

Lower fuel and maintenance costs - Studies show that you can save circa 70% annually on fuel costs in comparison with a diesel alternative

Comprehensive public and on-street charging network - ESB e-Cars rolled out and are further investing to enhance a network of EV charging points throughout Ireland, including almost 80 fast chargers. This network is complimented by charge points provided at locations such as hotels, shopping centres, visitor attractions, places of employment and private car parks

0% Benefit in Kind (BIK) Rate - BEVs qualify for a 0% Benefit in Kind rate up to €50,000 without mileage conditions

Accelerated Capital Allowance - BEVs/PHEVs and their associated recharging infrastructure qualify under the ACA scheme. This scheme enables businesses to identify and buy the most energy efficient equipment including electric charging infrastructure and write down the cost of such equipment in the year of purchase rather than over the traditional 8 years

eSPSV Grant Scheme - A grant of up to €7,000 or €3,500 towards the purchase of a BEV or PHEV respectively for vehicles in the taxi/hackney/limousine sector

Public Engagement Programme - A National Awareness Campaign was launched in April 2018 as part of a wider public engagement programme which aims to increase awareness and familiarity with the technology of EVs

Test Driving an Electric Vehicle - An online interactive map shows the availability of dealers throughout the country and enables a test drive to be booked online

Road Signage

Ceisteanna (583)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

583. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of an issue previously raised with him directly in correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12150/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

It is set out in S.I. 181 of 1997, Road Traffic (Signs) Regulations, 1997 that markings for bus lanes should be in white.

There are two main reasons why white is chosen over yellow for bus lane markings:

The first is retro-reflectivity which is a measure of the reflection of light and which is relevant when driving at nighttime. Higher values of retro-reflectivity can be achieved with white road markings than with yellow markings and therefore it is easier to see white markings at night.

The second reason is luminance which is a measure of the brightness of a colour. Higher values of luminance can be achieved for white markings than for yellow markings.

Overall white road markings have better conspicuity than yellow markings and It is for this reason that white is used for most road markings including for bus lane markings.

Road Traffic Legislation

Ceisteanna (584)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

584. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status on an issue previously raised with him directly in correspondence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12188/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

There is nothing set out in Road Traffic law that specifically requires motorists to clear the way for emergency vehicles. Section 51A of the Road Traffic Act 1961, however, clearly states that there is a duty of care on all road users to use public roads with care and consideration for others. This principle is carried through into Section 12 of the Rules of the Road which lays out what to do when approached by an emergency vehicle.

As stated in the Rules of the Road, Gardaí, fire fighters and ambulances save lives in the course of their work and every second counts when they are responding to an emergency. Motorists are required to familiarise themselves with the Rules of the Road and respond to emergency situations accordingly.

There are no plans to introduce further legislation in this area.

Road Safety

Ceisteanna (585)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

585. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will request Transport Infrastructure Ireland to investigate major safety issues arising on a national primary route (details supplied). [12341/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the improvement, maintenance and operation of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Noting the above position, I have referred the question to TII for a direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Fáilte Ireland Staff

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

Ceisteanna (586)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

586. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of persons now employed on the Hidden Heartlands Fáilte Ireland project; and if it is planned to provide further personnel in order to ensure the project comes to fruition as soon as possible. [12345/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The staffing of the Hidden Heartlands Brand Experience is a matter for Fáilte Ireland and I have asked them to reply directly to the Deputy. I should point out that as well as the development work on the brand, Ireland's Hidden Heartlands also benefits from a range of other supports provided by Fáilte Ireland including capital investment, festivals, business tourism and events, enterprise development, business development, marketing, and training.

Please contact my private office if you do not hear from Fáilte Ireland within ten working days.

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

Rural Transport Services Provision

Ceisteanna (587)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

587. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to provide a rural transport scheme for south County Roscommon following the removal of Bus Éireann stops at a location (details supplied). [12346/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The issue raised is a matter for 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.

Early Childhood Care and Education Standards

Ceisteanna (588)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

588. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of on-site audits carried out by her Department or on its behalf on ECCE providers in each of the years 2015 to 2018; the attendance records of those children for which payment was made; the proportion of providers audited in each of the years in question; and if she will provide a detailed analysis of the results of these audits. [11478/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department funds a number of early learning and care (ELC) and school age childcare (SAC) programmes. Given the large amount of public money that is used in funding these programmes, there needs to be an appropriate level of oversight and accountability. The largest programme, both in terms of public funding and children registered, is the Early Child Care and Education (ECCE) programme.

The ECCE scheme is administered by Pobal on behalf of my Department. Pobal conducts unannounced compliance visits to participating service providers. The purpose of compliance visits is to assess whether a service is operating the ECCE programme in accordance with both the ‘ECCE Funding Agreement’ and ‘Rules for DCYA childcare funding programmes’, the most recent of which was published on 9th August 2018.

Over the course of a compliance visit Pobal will typically check all of the schemes operated by a service against the corresponding rules. Rules are designed to not only protect public money but also to ensure that certain quality and operational standards are met by the service provider. This is vital in order to make sure that the goals of the ELC schemes, funded by my Department, are being met.

In relation to attendance records, this requirement is not just a means of safeguarding public money; it is also an issue of child safety and a requirement of the statutory regulator, Tusla's Early Years Inspectorate.

The number of children participating in ECCE, the number of services providing ECCE, and the number of compliance visits varies from each programme cycle. Each year the Department agrees a new compliance service offer with Pobal. While the specifics may change each year, the underlying principle of the compliance approach remains to effectively address risk, ensure the ELC schemes are operating as intended and provide assurance that the significant public investment in ELC is being protected.

In each programme cycle since 2015, the approach, coverage and categories of compliance have changed to some extent.

Prior to 2017/2018, major non-compliance referred to any breach of specific programme rules, such as incorrect PIP registrations. Previously, any incorrect PIP registrations would result in a finding of major non-compliance. This was revised in 2017/2018 to ensure that major non-compliance referred to cases where a breach of the rules resulted in a significant risk to exchequer finances. For example, a small number of incorrect PIP registrations will now result in a finding of moderate non-compliance, while a large number of incorrect registrations will result in a finding of major non-compliance. This change ensures that the finding of major non-compliance is now a more accurate and proportionate categorisation.

As a consequence, it is important to note that the compliance outcomes are not directly comparable with the previous programme cycles.

In the 2015/16 programme cycle there were 4,178 ECCE contracts. Pobal reviewed 2,075 of these representing 49.66% of all ECCE contracts. In the 2015/16 programme cycle Pobal found that 38% of all contracts reviewed were recorded as major non-compliant with ECCE programme rules. However, only 2% of ECCE contracts were found to be major non-compliant in relation to attendance records.

In the 2016/17 programme cycle Pobal reviewed 1,644 ECCE contracts out of 4,260, representing 38.59% coverage of all ECCE contracts. 45% of ECCE contracts reviewed were found to be major non-compliant in the 2016/17 programme cycle. 10% of ECCE contracts were found to be major non-compliant in relation to attendance records.

In the 2017/18 programme cycle Pobal reviewed 1,598 ECCE contracts out of a total of 4,246. This represented 37.64% coverage of ECCE contracts. The level of major non-compliance fell to just 7% of ECCE contracts reviewed ( note the statement above re the re-categorisation at the beginning of this year).

Further, in 2017/18, only 2% of ECCE contracts reviewed were found to be major non-compliant for not delivering sufficient free access to ECCE. This shows that 98% of services are meeting the core goal of ECCE; to provide access to 3 free hours per day of ELC to children. This represents a positive outcome for ECCE which will continue to run in parallel with National Childcare Scheme (NCS) into future programme years.

I am not in a position to provide the attendance records for children registered in the ECCE programme and my Department does not routinely collect such records from services. During a compliance visit, Pobal reviews attendance records on site but may also take copies and remove the records from the premises if necessary.

In summary, it is a key priority of my Department to ensure that providers fully comply with all programme rules in an effort to ensure the programmes are operating as intended and to safeguard public funds.

One of the most significant developments in the childcare area in recent years will be the introduction of the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) later this year. The NCS is a legislatively based ELC scheme, that will provide great opportunities to children, families and service providers. Building on existing schemes, the NCS will contain rules that will be child-centred, fair and proportionate, clear and consistent. They will recognise the need for flexibility for parents. They will not disadvantage services for what can be considered minor non-attendances. At the same time, they will recognise the need to protect State finances by ensuring that Exchequer funds are used to support the maximum number of families in need of financial support, represent value for money for taxpayers, and are managed and allocated in accordance with robust and appropriate procedures.

Early Childhood Care and Education Programmes

Ceisteanna (589)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

589. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if it is the policy of her Department, or the agents under the remit of her Department, to check all PPS numbers of children supplied by ECCE providers with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to confirm that the numbers quoted are correct and that the children are eligible and resident here; if so, the number of PPS numbers checked in each of the years 2015 to 2018; and the number of cases which required additional investigation. [11479/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

In order to register a child for the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, the parent/guardian must supply their chosen childcare service provider with the child's PPS number.

The PPS number is then checked by Pobal, who administer ECCE on behalf of my Department, via the Department of Social Protection and Employment Affairs database on the Programme Implementation Platform (PIP) to ensure that the PPS number supplied is valid and matches the child's details as supplied, and that the child is in the eligible age bracket to register for ECCE. If this PPS number check fails, the registration is returned to the service provider who informs the parent/guardian. Pobal does not investigate further.

This process must be completed for every registration made on the PIP system by childcare providers.

All figures are taken from the PIP CRM and are correct as at the 11th of March 2019.

Total Registrations ECCE 2014

-

-

-

-

71,683.00

Programme Call

Approved

Declined

Deferred

Provisional

Grand Total

ECCE 2014

68,333.00

3,307.00

41.00

2.00

71,683.00

Total Registrations ECCE 2015/2016

81,251.00

Programme Call

Approved

Declined

Deferred

Provisional

Grand Total

ECCE 2015

77,449.00

3,797.00

-

5.00

81,251.00

Total Registrations ECCE 2016/2017

132,935.00

Programme Call

Approved

Declined

Deferred

Provisional

Grand Total

ECCE 2016

128,497.00

4,432.00

-

6.00

132,935.00

Total Registrations ECCE 2017/2018

132,153.00

Programme Call

Approved

Declined

Deferred

Provisional

Grand Total

ECCE 2017

126,470.00

5,652.00

-

31.00

132,153.00

Total Registrations ECCE 2018/2019

117,121.00

Programme Call

Approved

Declined

Deferred

Provisional

Grand Total

ECCE 2018

113,662.00

3,415.00

-

44.00

117,121.00

Early Childhood Care and Education Programmes

Ceisteanna (590)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

590. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if it is the policy of her Department, or the agents under the remit of her Department, to check all PPS numbers of children supplied by ECCE providers with the Department of Education and Skills to confirm that the children are not also registered as pupils in a national school; the number of PPS numbers checked in each of the years 2015 to 2018; and the number of cases which required additional investigation. [11480/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Neither my Department, or Pobal, who operate early years schemes on behalf of my Department, supply the PPS numbers of children registered on the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme to the Department of Education and Skills for the purpose set out by the Deputy.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (591)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

591. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of staff in her Department engaged on the audit of funded programmes; the level of qualifications of each, for example, part or fully qualified accountants; and the number of on-site audits carried out for each of the programmes managed by her Department in each of the years 2015 to 2018. [11481/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

There are three staff members in situ in the Internal Audit Unit in the Department:

1) The Head of Internal Audit – CIMA Qualified (Professional Accountant Grade 1)

2) Higher Executive Officer – Certificate in Audit Skills (IPA) with 4/5 years of experience working in the Internal Audit Unit in the Department.

3) Executive Officer – Accountant Technician (ATI) and Certificate in Audit Skills (IPA)

All staff in the unit are involved in the audits of funded programmes.

Internal Audit also has access to internal audit services provided by Internal Audit Consultants under the management of the Head of Internal Audit. These consultants were procured under the OGP (Office of Government Procurement) Framework for the provision of Accounting, Audit and Financial Services. As part of the requirements a senior consultant is appointed for each project and is required to be a qualified accountant/auditor.

Oversight of the Internal Audit function is provided by the Department’s Audit Committee.

A list of audits completed by Internal Audit in the Department is listed in Table A:

Table A

Name of Audit

Audit Issued

2015 (5)

Desktop Review of Policy and Procedures

January

Support Services Audit

January

Programme Integration Programme - POBAL

July

National Children Detention Facility

July

Children Referendum 2012

October

2016 (6)

Transactions Audit

March

Review of Policies and Procedures

July

Governance Arrangements in respect of Tusla

June

Technical Security Assessment

April

Review of Appropriation Account Preparation

November

Data Protection Assessment

November

2017 (8)

CCS Audit 2016 - Lookback Exercise

February

Affordable Childcare Scheme Project

March

Transactions Audit

March

Tusla Payments

June

Youth Affairs Grants

October

Bank reconciliations, Petty Cash, Credit Card in DCYA

November

DCYA Governance Arrangements

December

Financial Processes in Oberstown Campus

December

2018 (14)

DCYA Internal Report into Incident of Theft

January

Risk Management Policy and Process in DCYA

March

Review of Governance Arrangements in respect of Tusla

April

Review of Implementation of Recommendations in relation to Honesty Box Procedures

May

Review of Bank Reconciliation, Petty Cash & CC Controls

June

Procurement Processes and Controls 2017

June

Desktop Review of Documented Financial Policies and Procedures

September

AIM (Access and Inclusion Model) Review

September

Transaction Audit 2018

September

SLAs for Commissioning Arrangements - ABC (Area Based Childhood) Programme

September

SLAs for Commissioning Arrangements - Early Years

September

SLAs for Commissioning Arrangements - Youth Organisations & Services

September

ECCE and PIP High level follow up review on 2014 and 2015 reports

December

Review of Business Continuity and Technical Disaster Recovery Management

December

Early Childhood Care and Education

Ceisteanna (592)

John Brassil

Ceist:

592. Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if a decision will be overturned regarding the provision of an overage exemption for a person (details supplied) for an ECCE scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11496/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Overage exemptions were introduced at the onset of the ECCE programme in 2010. At that time ECCE operated for a 38 week period, or one programme year. For some children with special/additional needs, attending preschool five days a week was not feasible and so therefore an allowance was made. Their ECCE place was split over two years, e.g. a child may have availed of three days ECCE provision in year one and two days in year two. In order to facilitate this, in the cases where the child would have been overage for ECCE in the latter year, an overage exemption was granted. It is important to note that this provision of an overage exemption by my Department for the ECCE programme was never intended as a mechanism to delay a child’s entry to primary education or to address any issue of non-availability of a school place.

This Department does its best to ensure, in so far as possible, the equitable treatment of all children and families who apply for childcare funding under the ECCE Programme. In order to ensure objectivity and fairness, it is essential that clear rules exist for the scheme and that they are applied evenly. The child in question has utilised their full allocation of two years of the ECCE programme.

It should be highlighted that the Early Childhood Care and Education programme (ECCE) is a two year pre-school programme. There is no routine provision for a third year which may not be in the best interests of a child and could have the capacity to lead to breaching the statutory school starting age.

In the past, the operation of the system of overage exemption has caused confusion where some parents and providers have mistakenly assumed that an overage exemption approval from the DCYA represented a derogation from age requirements attaching to the statutory requirement that a child attend primary school before the age of 6 years.

The application process for an exemption from the upper age limit for the ECCE programme was introduced within a context where:

- The ECCE programme was for a year only; and

- The Access and Inclusions Model (AIM) did not exist.

Given the extension of the ECCE programme in 2016/2017, the further extension of the programme to two full years from September 2018, and the introduction of AIM in June 2016, the rationale underpinning the policy intent of the system of overage exemption came under review as the initial premise for the provision of an exemption might have been considered to be no longer valid, i.e. an overage exemption as originally designed allowed for a child to avail of one programme year of ECCE over two years, whereas the standard provision is now a full two programme years.

The overage exemption process has recently been the subject of a consultation process and report by the National Disability Authority (NDA). Officials from my Department are now considering policy options following on from this report. The new policy will consider the future of the system of exemptions and how best to support parents and children in the important transition from pre-school to primary school. It is worth stressing that the only rationale underpinning these considerations is what is in the best interests of the child and research shows broad agreement that it is in the best interest of the child to start school with their peers.

As regards the specific case you have raised, I would stress that each application for an exemption is considered on its own merits and never in the context of the outcome of any other case. In this instance, the application was declined on the basis that the full ECCE entitlement had already been availed of.

I regret if this process and decision has caused any upset to the parents involved, but I can only seek to assure you that the decision was taken with due regard for the best interests of the child, especially as it relates to research showing broad agreement that it is in the best interest of the child to start school with their peers. We will be happy to assist the family, if requested, to make contact with the NCSE to ensure that adequate preparations are in place for the child to start school in September 2019. The family should make immediate contact with their local school to make sure it has appropriate arrangements in place to support the child from September 2019.

UN Conventions Ratification

Ceisteanna (593)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

593. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when the second optional protocol of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child will be ratified; the reason Ireland is the only EU member state yet to ratify the convention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11541/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I am strongly committed to the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol. Preparations to ratify the protocol are at an advanced stage and my Department is currently finalising a submission for the attention of the Attorney General, proposing the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol. Once approved, I will seek a Government decision on the ratification of the Convention at the earliest opportunity.

To date, ratification has been pending to ensure that all of the necessary measures have been put in place to fully comply with the obligations of the convention. The recent enactments of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 and the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 by the Department of Justice and Equality have fulfilled a number of the protocol’s requirements.

I greatly look forward to advancing progress on this important area of work and moving towards the confirmation of Ireland’s ratification of the Second Optional Protocol in the near future.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Ceisteanna (594)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

594. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to issues with the ECCE scheme by which childcare providers are prioritising children whose parents are paying for full day-care services over children whose parents are seeking to enrol them for half day care which they are entitled to under the scheme; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that such an approach by childcare providers is making it extremely difficult for parents to identify and secure childcare services under the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11694/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Childcare service providers are private enterprises and are therefore free to set their own policies, including their admission polices which can include prioritising full day places . However, my Department actively seeks to ensure adequate capacity to allow service providers latitude to accommodate all children. If a gap in capacity is objectively identified, we can consider a range of measures to address this in collaboration with the local Childcare Committee.

If the Deputy is aware of any specific case of a parent who is having difficulty in accessing a childcare place I would recommend that they make contact with their local city or county childcare committee who will be able to assist. Contact details for all of the CCCs and details of the services they provide may be found on www.myccc.ie

With regard to capacity generally in the system, my Department provided a total of €4.61 million in Capital funding in 2018 specifically for the creation of new childcare places. This represents the creation of some 1,950 additional early years childcare places, of which 1,253 are for ECCE. In addition, my Department is currently taking applications for the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare Capital 2019, for which I have secured €6.106 million funding.

Unaccompanied Minors and Separated Children

Ceisteanna (595)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

595. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the position regarding separated children seeking asylum; the number Ireland has committed to accepting; the number accepted to date; when the procurement process to provide residential beds was completed; if additional beds have been made available since 2016; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11835/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Separated children who come to Ireland to seek asylum are taken into the care of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. Separated children seeking asylum are defined as “children under eighteen years of age who are outside their country of origin, who have applied for asylum and are separated from their parents or their legal/customary care giver”.

As the  Deputy may be aware, the majority of separated children seeking asylum present at ports, airports or points of entry to Ireland and are referred to Tusla under the International Protection Act 2015. In addition unaccompanied minors are received into the care of Tusla through programmes such as the Calais Special Project (CSP) and Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP).

In December 2018 there were 67 separated children seeking asylum in the care of Tusla, which includes young people arriving through the IRPP programme and those presenting at ports, airports and points of entry.   All children and young people in this service have an allocated Social Worker. All young people and young adults in the service who are entitled to Aftercare services have an allocated Aftercare Worker.

Young people in the IRPP were brought in under the following programmes:

Calais Special Project (41)

EU Relocation Programme (6)

Malta Programme (4)  

Tusla is currently engaged in a further mission to Malta, to carry out interviews with the young people with a view to relocating a further 5 unaccompanied minors to Ireland this year.

My colleague Minister Flanagan has written to Greek authorities to inform them of our intention to accept an additional 36 separated children seeking asylum from the refugee camps in Greece, under the IRPP programme. Tusla has begun to liaise with the agencies responsible for unaccompanied children in Greece, with the support of the IRPP and the Irish Embassy in Athens, for the identification and nomination of unaccompanied children who fit the profile for relocation to Ireland.

I would note that there has been a existing service for separated children seeking asylum for a number of years.  Capacity to meet commitments of Government has been put in place.

A tendering process took place in 2017 to award private providers a contract for three 6-bed residential centres. The same tendering process allows for provision of further  residential places, if needed, where the provider would be asked to provide one 6-bed centre.   However, in 2017 two of Tusla’s statutory children’s residential centre’s changed their purpose and function to become centres for separated children seeking asylum.  In total these two centres are providing 9 placements and no additional places have been sourced to date under the new contract.

Domestic Violence Refuges Provision

Ceisteanna (596)

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

596. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of domestic refuge centres here in tabular form; the number of spaces available by centre; the number of persons who availed of the services of each centre in 2018; the periods during 2018 when each of these centres were full to capacity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11861/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has responsibility for the provision of funding, co-ordination and support to 21 organisations which provide emergency refuge and emergency non-refuge accommodation to victims of domestic violence and their children. In addition to this Tusla maintains a refuge facility in South Dublin which has been temporarily closed for essential refurbishment works. This facility is expected to re-open as a domestic violence refuge in Quarter 2 of this year. In total, 155 family units of emergency accommodation are provided - 145 in emergency refuges and 10 in emergency non-refuge accommodation.

Table 1 sets out the location and capacity of emergency refuge and emergency non-refuge accommodation throughout the country.

Tusla receives activity data from service providers retrospectively on an annual basis. Data on 2018 occupancy will be available later in 2019. Information on specific periods when the occupancy of accommodation exceeds capacity is not currently available.

There are challenges in ensuring that there is an appropriate configuration of spaces available to all women and children who require emergency refuge accommodation. Tusla seeks to achieve the optimum use of specialist emergency accommodation while also focusing on prevention and effective community based services to avoid, in so far as possible, the need for use of refuges or emergency non-refuge accommodation by vulnerable women and families.

It is important that the needs of victims of domestic violence are met in the best way possible, with due attention to the quality, accessibility, and outcome of services. I am committed to supporting Tusla in meeting the needs of individuals who experience domestic violence. I will engage with Tusla, and with stakeholders from the sector, regarding the most appropriate use for the €1.5m in additional funding secured for DSGBV services in 2019.

Table 1: Location and number of emergency refuge and emergency non-refuge accommodation family units

County

Emergency Refuges Funded By Tusla

No. of Units

Clare

Clarehaven Services

6

Cork

Cuanlee Refuge

6

Donegal

Donegal Domestic Violence Services

4

Dublin

Saoirse Women's Refuge, Tallaght

6

Dublin

Sonas, Dublin

15*

Dublin

Aoibhneas Women & Children's Refuge, Coolock

10

Dublin

Rathmines Women's Refuge (Operated by Tusla)

9**

Galway

COPE Galway

6

Kerry

ADAPT Kerry Ltd.

6

Kildare

Teach Tearmainn Refuge

4

Kilkenny

Amber Women's Refuge, Kilkenny

7

Limerick

ADAPT Domestic Abuse Service, Limerick

14

Louth

Drogheda Women's and Children's Refuge Centre

11

Louth

Women's Aid Dundalk

5

Mayo

Mayo Women's Support Services Refuge

5

Meath

Meath Women's Refuge and Support Services

5

Sligo

Women's Domestic Violence Service

3***

Tipperary

Cuan Saor Women's Refuge And Support Services, Clonmel

4

Waterford

Oasis House Women's Refuge

14

Westmeath

Esker House Women's Refuge And Support Services, Athlone

4

Wexford

Wexford Women's Refuge

4

Wicklow

Bray Women's Refuge

7

Total

155

Explanatory Text on Table

* The overall figure of 15 includes 8 family units of emergency refuge accommodation, and 7 family units of emergency non-refuge accommodation.

** As Rathmines Women's Refuge has temporarily closed, the availability of these units is currently on hold. The facility is expected to re-open as a domestic violence refuge in Quarter 2 of this year.

*** These 3 units are provided in the form of emergency non-refuge accommodation only.

Court Orders

Ceisteanna (597)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

597. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if a person who has undergone a parental capacity assessment can be required to undergo a second one immediately or shortly after the first despite there being no issues of process or otherwise with the first one. [11862/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I can advise the Deputy that I am not in a position to comment on matters which are subject to court decisions. Parental capacity assessments are requested by the courts to assist their decision making. Matters relating to the operation of the courts are more appropriate to my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Child and Family Agency Reports

Ceisteanna (598)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

598. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 519 of 5 March 2019, if the reason she did not seek a copy of the report in question was due to the fact that she was informed by Tusla that it was an internal management report; and the circumstances in which Tusla informed her of same. [11940/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I can confirm to the Deputy that the primary reason that I did not seek a copy of the report in question was that I was informed by Tusla that it was an internal management report.

I received correspondence from the sub-committee of the Board of Tusla, which indicated that the report was to review management, structures and processes in the Midlands. I was informed that this report was not intended for publication. I had separately sought assurances as to the improvements implemented by Tusla to address issues in the Midlands and have outlined these in previous correspondence with the Deputy in November 2018.

There are a number of reasons why I may or may not seek a report from an agency under my remit. I continue to seek assurances from Tusla and other statutory bodies through regular engagement on routine and specific matters. Such assurances are supported by information from a number of sources including performance data, reports and engagement with key stakeholders.

The Deputy will be aware that I have sought written clarification from Tusla in relation to a number of matters regarding the report, and will also be part of an investigation which is being overseen by a sub-committee of the Board of Tusla.

Child and Family Agency Reports

Ceisteanna (599)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

599. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 519 of 5 March 2019, when her attention was drawn to the fact that the report in question had been received by Tusla in May 2016. [11941/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Deputy tabled a Parliamentary Question in relation to this report on 11 September, 2017 that suggested that the report was concluded in July 2016. Tusla's reply indicated that the report was under legal review and a date for publication had not been set but did not say when the report was received.

I received correspondence in May 2018 from the sub-committee of the Board of Tusla that is responsible for the oversight of the investigation into matters raised in the correspondence of December 2016, and includes matters relating to this report. This correspondence indicated that the report was with Tusla in May 2016. I corresponded with the Deputy in November 2018 on matters relating to this report when it was clear that the information provided to the Deputy in September 2017 was incorrect.

The Deputy will be aware that I have sought written clarification from Tusla in relation to a number of matters regarding the report, and will also be part of an investigation which is being overseen by a sub-committee of the Board of Tusla.

Child and Family Agency Staff

Ceisteanna (600)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

600. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the estimated full year cost of recruiting 30 additional full-time early years inspectors for Tusla; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11945/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The total estimated cost of recruiting 30 new full-time Early Years Inspectors in Tusla would be €2,504,820.

This includes pay and non pay costs and is made up of a cost of €83,494 per Inspector

- Total Pay Costs: (basic salary of €61,415 plus employers PRSI @10.95%)

- Non Pay Costs (Overheads): €15,354

The Tusla Early Years Inspectorate is currently in the process of recruiting nine new Early Years Inspectors from an expanded pool of professional backgrounds. Previously, Early Years Inspectors were required to hold a level 9 QQI qualification (Masters Level) and be registered as a Public Health Nurse. Recent changes to the recruitment criteria mean that these posts are now also open to graduates with suitable qualifications in Early Years Care and Education, Social Care, Social Work, Psychology and Education.

This development reflects the on-going professionalisation of the Early Learning and Care sector, and it is intended that the recruitment of these posts will compliment and strengthen the work of the Inspectorate in promoting the quality, safety and appropriate care of children in Early Learning and Care services. Of these new posts currently being filled, three have already been appointed, six have accepted, and one remains to be filled.

The current pay scale for an Early Years Inspector ranges from €56,452 to €64,812. The costings above are based on mid-point of this pay scale.