Córas Iompair Éireann

Ceisteanna (662)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

662. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the assets owned by CIÉ by category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29900/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

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

Road Network

Ceisteanna (663, 664, 665, 666)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

663. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to invest in the N63 in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29904/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

664. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to invest in the N65 in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29905/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

665. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to invest in the N84 in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29906/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

666. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to invest in the N17 in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29907/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 663 to 666, inclusive, together.

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 planning, design and construction 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.

Question No. 667 answered with Question No. 82.

Greenways Development

Ceisteanna (668)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

668. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the development of the greenway from Galway to Dublin; the status, timeline and expected completion date of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29909/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Over the Easter weekend, Westmeath County Council constructed an underpass in Athlone to extend the Galway to Dublin Greenway towards the banks of the Shannon, it is expected that work from the Underpass to the banks of the Shannon will be completed in early 2020. Separately I am pleased to announce that works in County Kildare and Meath will conclude next month so that it will now be possible to cycle from Maynooth to Athlone completely off-road.

West of the Shannon I am following up on the commitment in the Strategy for the Future Development of National and Regional Greenways to develop a Code of Practice. To deliver this, discussions are taking place with various state bodies and the farming representative bodies. The Government remains committed to achieving the goal of a coast-to-coast Greenway with the agreement of landowners and communities along the route.  I am not setting a deadline for the completion of this work as I do not believe that would be conducive to achieving agreement.

Recreational Facilities Provision

Ceisteanna (669)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

669. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the development of the walkway from Portumna to Aughrim; the status of signage, styles and grass; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29910/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

My Department's role in relation to tourism lies primarily in the area of national tourism policy.  It is not directly involved in the development, management or promotion of particular tourism initiatives, which are matters for the tourism agencies.

In regard to the walkway in question, I undertand that it would form part of the Beara-Breifne route when completed. While Fáilte Ireland would have a role in promoting the Beara-Breifne route experience to tourists, neither the Department or Fáilte Ireland are involved in its development.  I understand that funding may have been provided to the local development company by the Department of Rural and Community Development in regard to this walk and my colleague the Minister for Rural and Community Development may be able to provide further information.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (670)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

670. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his Department has ceased the purchase and use of single-use plastics; the public bodies and agencies under his remit to which he has issued an instruction to cease the purchase and use of single-use plastics; when the instruction issued; the bodies which have confirmed that they no longer purchase and use single-use plastics; the bodies which have not provided such confirmation to date; when they will confirm; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29993/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The Government decision of 03 January 2019 was aimed at reducing the use of single use plastics, as well as introducing measures to cut waste in food and paper, and to improve efficiency in the use of energy and water, reducing waste generation and maximising recycling. My colleague the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment is the lead Minister on this matter.

I can confirm that my Department has ceased the purchase and use of single use plastics.

The Government decision also required that all public bodies and agencies were to cease purchase of single-use plastic beverage cups, cutlery and drinking straws after 31 March 2019, as well as reviewing waste management and recycling measures. All public bodies under the aegis of my Department will be required to report by end November 2019 on their compliance with this decision.

Road Projects

Ceisteanna (671)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

671. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of tenders received for the N22 Macroom bypass; the names of the tendering parties; if, upon review of the tenders, he or the Cabinet will have a role in approving the tenders and releasing the funding; and the timeline of same. [30032/19]

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.  Once funding arrangements have been put in place by my Department with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design and construction, including procurement and distribution of the Capital roads budget allocation for individual national roads, is a matter for 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.

Hotel Accommodation

Question No. 673 answered with Question No. 643.

Ceisteanna (672)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

672. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which adequate hotel accommodation remains available to meet the requirements of the tourism sector nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30053/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

2018 was a remarkable year for Irish tourism, with Ireland continuing to appeal to holidaymakers from home and abroad. Overseas visitor numbers continued to grow and contributed over €5 billion to the economy.

Fáilte Ireland monitors the performance of tourist accommodation through regular occupancy surveys.  This analysis indicates that while the country as a whole has sufficient stock of tourist accommodation, there are capacity constraints in areas of high tourist traffic at times of peak demand and additional capacity is required in certain parts of the country, particularly Dublin city.

In this context, Fáilte Ireland commissions periodic assessments of hotel accommodation in Dublin, most recently August 2018.  Although the latest results confirm the current shortage, they expect that approximately 5,400 hotel rooms will come on stream in the coming years, including over 3,000 already under construction.  Present projections are that this activity will still be outpaced by growing demand but this is a dynamic situation and additional room stock may be developed in response to this demand. 

Last year Fáilte also commissioned a new study of accommodation capacity in three key non-Dublin destiations - Cork, Galway and Kilkenny.   The report highlights the need to develop new accommodation stock and opportunties for investment in Kilkenny, where 41 new rooms are likely to come on stream by 2022 to add to the current supply, an increase of just 4%.  Galway will have an estimated 17% increase in hotel bed stock over the next five years, 500 new hotel rooms, but this increase is likely to fall short of expected demand growth.  In regard to Cork, current figures project a 35% increase (over 920 new hotel rooms) by 2022, which positions the city well to take full advantage of all future growth potential.  As in Dublin, these are dynamic markets and the supply of room stock may change in response to demand.

Question No. 673 answered with Question No. 643.

Road Network

Ceisteanna (674)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

674. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the degree to which he expects to achieve sufficient improvement in the national arterial road network with particular reference to ensuring adequate distribution routes to meet the demand arising from increased job creation through the regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30055/19]

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 maintenance, improvement and construction of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. 

The overall plans and priorities for the upgrading the national road network are set out in Project Ireland 2040 which encompasses the National Development Plan (NDP) and the National Planning Framework. TII are responsible for delivering the national road priorities set out in the NDP.

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.

Tourism Industry

Ceisteanna (675)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

675. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he expects the hotel and accommodation sector to enhance the image of Ireland as a conference location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30056/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The hotel and accommodation sector is a key component of Irish tourism.  A good stock of attractive high-quality hotels, operating to best international standards, is essential for the effective performance of the industry.  The quality of Ireland's hotels is a key part of Ireland's national business tourism offering and instrumental in attracting international conferences to Ireland.

Business tourism overall, including conference tourism, has been an area of growth in recent years and one where Ireland continues to compete very successfully internationally.  The tourism agencies, which have operational responsibility for the development and promotion of this sector, have been very active in competing for and securing the hosting of international conferences in Ireland.  Fáilte Ireland is responsible for developing business tourism strategy and, internationally, it works with Tourism Ireland under the Meet in Ireland brand to support the positioning of Ireland as a world-class conference destination.  The Meet in Ireland team works collaboratively with key stakeholders and through its Conference Ambassador Programme to secure high profile conferences for Ireland.  It also offers training and trade supports for Irish and international businesses planning to host their conferences here.

I am very supportive of the ongoing efforts of the tourism agencies to attract international conferences to Ireland and am most encouraged by the latest statistics.  In 2018 Fáilte Ireland supported and converted 385 conferences worth €204 million for current and future years. The broader business tourism sector is currently worth €760m to the Irish economy and supports 22,000 jobs and Fáilte Ireland has ambitious targets to grow that to €1 billion by 2025.  

Tourism Industry

Question No. 677 answered with Question No. 651.

Ceisteanna (676)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

676. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the degree to which opportunity exists for winter holidays here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30057/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As set out in the Tourism Action Plan 2019-20211, lengthening the season is an essential part of developing a sustainable tourism industry into the future.  Both tourism agencies, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland are very focussed on increasing the seasonal spread of tourism across the country.

I have asked both agencies to reply directly to the Deputy with further information on this matter. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Question No. 677 answered with Question No. 651.

Sports Capital Programme Applications Data

Ceisteanna (678)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

678. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the funding allocated to various sporting and recreational bodies by way of capital grant nationally in the past three years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30059/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Details of all allocations under the Sports Capital Programme (SCP) since 1998 and all payments since 2007 are available on my Department's website at http://www.dttas.ie/sport/english/sports-capital-programme.   

In relation to the  2018 round of the SCP, this closed for applications on Friday 19th October last.  By the 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. 

619 equipment only applications were assessed next and 466 allocations with a value of €9.8m were announced in May.

Work is now underway in assessing the remaining applications for capital works and I expect that it will be towards the end of the third quarter of this year before these final allocations are announced. All details will be published on the Department's website.

Sports Events

Ceisteanna (679)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

679. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he sees opportunity to attract major sporting events here thereby promoting Ireland as an attractive location for these events internationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30060/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The hosting of major sports competitions, both participative and spectator sports, can provide great opportunities to showcase Ireland and drive international visitor numbers.  In addition, the media coverage of sports events helps to put Ireland onto travel itineraries as a holiday destination. 

Accordingly, I am very supportive of the work of the tourism agencies and the national governing bodies of sport to attract international events, subject, of course, to an assessment of the costs and benefits involved in any State financial support, in particular the number of overseas visitors. 

Fáilte Ireland provides financial assistance, subject to eligibility criteria, to applicants who are proposing to bid to host international events (including sporting events) in Ireland that would attract significant numbers of international visitors.  When an event with international tourism appeal is confirmed for Ireland, Tourism Ireland would then promote it in relevant markets overseas. 

In terms of forthcoming sporting events, Ireland will host four games as part of the UEFA EURO 2020 football tournament in June 2020 - three group games and one round of 16 game.  The bid to host was a collaborative effort between the Football Association of Ireland, Dublin City Council and my Department.  Depending on qualification, up to 160,000 overseas visitors may attend Euro 2020 matches in Dublin. 

Minister Ross and I also support efforts to explore possibilities to host other major sporting events.  With regard to soccer, we welcomed the announcement by the FAI and IFA of their intention to submit a joint bid to host the UEFA European Under 21 Championships in 2023.  In addition, the national football associations of the United Kingdom and Ireland are in discussions about the feasibility of bidding to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup.  This consideration is at an early stage.  

In the sport of golf, Minister Ross and Department officials met with representatives of the PGA European Tour at the Ryder Cup in Paris last year to discuss the possible hosting of a future Ryder Cup in Ireland.  The PGA European Tour subsequently visited Dublin and met the Taoiseach and Minister Ross.  The purpose of these meetings was to explore the opportunities that may exist for hosting the Ryder Cup in the future and considerations are ongoing in this regard. 

Sport Ireland and Fáilte Ireland have both supported the bid to host the European Cross-Country Championship which was successful and now will be hosted in Dublin in December 2020. 

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (680, 683)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

680. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he remains satisfied that adequate travel provisions remain available in the air travel sector to meet the requirements of air passengers in the aftermath of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30061/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

683. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he is making provision for the eventuality of Brexit with particular reference to its implications for air and sea travel in view of the necessity to ensure easy travel access to continental Europe for Irish customers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30064/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 680 and 683 together.

Brexit has been identified as my Department’s highest strategic risk and the Department, along with other Government Departments and key Agencies, has been preparing for Brexit for three years. This preparation is continuing through extensive contingency planning and stakeholder engagement. While planning continues for both a no-deal Brexit and the ‘central case’ scenario, the Government is focussing its preparations on a no-deal Brexit on 31st October 2019.

While the full implications of Brexit for our air and maritime transport are not yet clear, I do not anticipate that direct maritime or direct air services by community air carriers between Ireland and continental Europe will be affected, even in a no-deal Brexit scenario. 

That said, a significant proportion of our goods destined for EU markets are transported via the UK landbridge to access these markets. Brexit could impact on the efficiency of the landbridge route particularly where there are increased border and custom procedures and associated delays, or were the UK to subsequently apply differing standards, road charging or regulatory regimes. The landbridge is the fastest route to continental Europe and as such is relied upon for the transport of time-sensitive products, such as those in the agri-food/perishable goods sector, just-in-time and high value goods. Any delays or barriers to this key route to European markets will be detrimental for certain sectors. Significant work has been and continues to be undertaken through the Landbridge Project Group, chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in seeking to ensure continued access through the landbridge to markets in continental Europe.

In relation to shipping, in the past shipping operators have responded to economic developments and increased or reduced capacity in response to market demands. Following a series of meetings between my officials and the major ferry companies operating at Irish ports, I am confident that shipping services can be expected to adapt to changing market demands that may arise and we have seen the evidence of this over recent months with the increase in shipping capacity on direct routes to continental ports. These services include the MV Celine which was last year launched from Dublin Port and will serve routes to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge and the MV WB Yeats, which is operating between Dublin and Cherbourg since March 2019. Additionally, a new ferry route to Santander in Spain commenced from the Port of Cork in 2018.

If disruption to the landbridge does arise, it is likely to be most acute in the immediate period following the UK exit. My Department, along with IMDO, will be implementing a number of mitigating actions to encourage a market response in a timely manner. These will include a focussed awareness campaign from early September aimed at shipping companies, importers and exporters to create a dialogue between them to identify new market demands as early as possible.

In relation to infrastructural requirements, the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 recognises the role and infrastructural plans of ports and airports in supporting continued enhancement of Ireland’s high-quality international connectivity. Key actions planned include a new runway for Dublin Airport, continued development of Cork and Shannon Airports, investment in Ireland West Airport Knock, and for smaller airports under the Regional Airports Programme. There will also be major development of Dublin, Cork, Shannon-Foynes and other ports, as well as investment in transport connectivity to ports.

In response to the Deputy’s query regarding adequate travel provisions in the air travel sector, under EU law, air operators must fulfil certain ownership and control (O&C) criteria in order to be classified as an EU air carrier.  The European Commission has been clear from the outset that it is essential for air operators for whom Brexit may lead to a failure to comply with these requirements to take appropriate counter measures. The EU Contingency Regulation on Air Connectivity set down a timeframe for restructuring plans to be submitted to national regulators. All affected air operators licensed in Ireland have submitted their respective restructuring plans to the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR), within the 11th April deadline under the EU basic connectivity regulation. CAR has issued its determinations on these plans and is in ongoing contact with these airlines in relation to their restructuring plans and these determinations have been notified to the European Commission. It is understood that the Commission will review all such proposals.

In addition, Regulation (EU) 2019/502 on common rules ensuring basic air connectivity aims to ensure the continuation of a basic level of air connectivity for citizens and business between the UK and Europe in the event of the UK exiting the EU without an agreement. While certain provisions within this Regulation have entered into force, the majority will only apply if and when the UK exits the EU without a deal. 

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (681)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

681. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the degree to which the transport and tourism sectors expect to be in a position to respond positively to the challenges of climate change in a realistic way while maintaining services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30062/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The recently published Climate Action Plan sets out a whole-of Government approach to climate action and maps a potential pathway to meet Ireland’s 2030 emission reduction commitments. The Plan clearly recognises that Ireland must significantly step up its commitments to tackle climate disruption.

The transport sector, which accounts for about 20% of Ireland’s overall carbon emissions, plays a key role in the national decarbonisation effort. It is worth noting that transport emissions are classified under both the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) and non-ETS systems. Generally, non-domestic emissions such as those from international aviation within Europe are accounted for under the ETS system while domestic transport emissions fall under the non-ETS system. The Climate Action Plan deals primarily with the non-ETS sector, where Ireland has a legal binding emissions reduction target of 20% by 2020 and 30% by 2030 (relative to 2005 levels).  Accordingly, the focus of the transport elements of the Plan relate mainly to reducing land transport emissions and not those generated by international travel and in-coming tourists.

My Department has worked hard to develop an ambitious, challenging and wide-ranging set of actions for inclusion in the Climate Action Plan, particularly in relation to public transport and active travel.  A critical challenge is reducing the 52% of transport emissions that come from private car use.  Our aim in expanding the carrying capacity and the attractiveness of our public transport and active travel networks is to provide a viable sustainable alternative to private car use for more people for more of their journeys. Under Project Ireland 2040, an indicative allocation of €8.6 billion is assigned to support sustainable mobility ensuring that public transport and active travel become more available and attractive alternatives.

A switch to electric vehicles (EVs) is a key mitigation measure of the Plan, with a target of almost 950,000 EVs on Irish roads by 2030. While this level of transition is incredibly challenging, as technologies improve and become cheaper, and if we continue incentives and invest in the recharging network we are ambitious that with a real push we can make real progress towards this target by 2030. Concerted efforts across several Departments will be essential if we are to maintain a supportive environment to assist citizens in making the greener choice and switching to an EV. My Department and I will work closely with Ministers Bruton and Donohoe and their respective Departments to map out the roadmap that will be necessary to achieve our collective ambition.

In terms of tourism, while there are no specific actions in the Plan, climate change can have direct and indirect impacts on Ireland’s tourism industry. Urban tourism may be less affected than coastal tourism where sea level rise, increasing ocean acidification and coastal erosion can threaten Ireland’s coastal tourism infrastructure and natural attractions. It is difficult to predict possible changes to Ireland’s attractiveness as a destination as a result of climate change and the impact of this on the economic value of tourism in Ireland and tourism demand. Destination attractions such as Skellig Michael and the Burren could be especially vulnerable; therefore the role of the tourism sector in adaptation planning is extremely important.

The range of implications of climate change on the transport, tourism, and even sport sectors means that I and my Department are fully committed to achieving the climate change objectives set out in the Climate Action Plan. I am personally committed to the decarbonisation of the transport sector and I hope to see transport emissions levels continue to fall as they did in 2018. Indeed, every sector must step-up if Ireland is to meet our emission reduction targets in 2030 and beyond.

Traffic Calming Measures

Question No. 683 answered with Question No. 680.

Ceisteanna (682)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

682. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to combat the traffic congestion on the M50; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30063/19]

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 planning,  operation and improvement of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) along with other stakeholders, is continuing to implement a number of measures on the M50 to optimise operational efficiency. 

It should be noted that  a single piece of infrastructure cannot be looked at in isolation in an urban context.  The National Transport Authority’s (NTA) Transport Strategy for the GDA 2016- 2035 sets out a number of projects and initiatives for the Greater Dublin Area that, when implemented, will greatly ease congestion for commuters. Project Ireland 2040 provides the funding for flagship projects such as BusConnects, DART Expansion and MetroLink.

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

Question No. 683 answered with Question No. 680.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (684)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

684. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will address a matter regarding the case of a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29173/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Applications for the 2019 Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare Capital Programme opened on 25th of February and closed on the 27th of March. Under Strand C €1 million was available for the creation of new school age childcare places with a maximum of €20,000 per grant.

In early June, following an appraisal process, applicants were notified of the outcome of the capital programme.

The process of releasing funding to successful applicants began at the beginning of this month. Pobal are contacting the successful applicants to ensure that all the pre-conditions for the release of funding have been met.

It is important to note that while the first payment of the School Age Capital funding can be released to a service on confirmation that they have begun the process of registering with Tusla, the full payment will not be released until this registration process is complete.

Community Childcare Subvention Programme

Ceisteanna (685, 686)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

685. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of CCS plus services, both community and private, found to be non-compliant due to of the timekeeping rule of her Department; the number of children that have had funding withdrawn as a result of the rule; and the amount of funding withdrawn from these children and or services. [29360/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

686. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount paid to Pobal to carry out compliance visits to early years services both community and private in the past year. [29361/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 685 and 686 together.

The Deputy will be aware that investment in childcare has increased by an unprecedented 117% over the last four budgets, now totalling €575m per year. 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. Ensuring that this money is properly accounted for, and that as many children as possible benefit from it, is a core responsibility of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Pobal assists the Department in the administration of the funding and in ensuring that services are compliant with the clearly documented rules of the schemes.

 The Public Accounts Committee on June 13 paid significant attention to this matter and highlighted the importance of compliance with scheme rules. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs' approach to compliance, and supporting services, strikes a necessary and appropriate balance. The approach involves setting out the rules for the receipt of State funding, supporting providers to deliver services, and at the same time, the approach offers assurances to the taxpayer that the funding assigned is being spent as it was intended through a strong compliance framework.

A high level of compliance with the rules of the various childcare schemes is vital to maintaining existing investment as well as ensuring future investment. It is a requirement that services operating the early learning and care and school age childcare programmes funded by the Department must be compliant with the ‘Rules for DCYA childcare funding programmes’, which are available on the DCYA website. As stated above, compliance with these Rules is overseen by Pobal on behalf of the Department.

Part of Pobal’s role in overseeing compliance is to carry out unannounced visits to services to check their compliance with programme rules. Subsidies for the Early Learning and Care and School Age childcare programmes are paid based on child attendance, which is a vital governance component of the funding for which my Department is responsible. Where Pobal discover that the actual attendance of a child does not match registrations for that child on Pobal’s Programme Implementation Platform (Pobal's IT system) they will calculate the amount of funding that has been overclaimed. The service will be advised by Pobal to make the necessary corrections to PIP registrations to ensure that the total amount of funding received for the programme year is correct. There is an appropriate amount of flexibility applied to this corrections process and Pobal works with services on a case by case basis. However, the recovery of overclaimed funds is an integral part of ensuring that public money is properly accounted for.

Results from Pobal compliance visits for the period October 2018 – March 2019 show some issues in relation to non-compliance which required immediate attention. Under CCSP, if a child increases or decreases their attendance, the service provider must update PIP registrations to reflect the actual attendance of that child. Following a compliance visit, funding is only corrected to account for the time a particular child actually attends a service.  My Department does not collect information on the number of children for whom incorrect registrations are identified through compliance visits. However, in the period October 2018 - March 2019, 233 services operating CCSP contracts were found to need to update PIP registrations to match the actual attendance of children. Over this six-month period, Pobal estimated that approximately €1.4 million in potential overclaims were identified and prevented on the CCSP programme, with approximately €4.7 million potential overclaims identified and prevented across all programmes. These figures come with caveats owing to the type of data involved.

It is important to note that the compliance activity should not result in any child having any service withdrawn, rather that the service provider only claims from the Department for the hours the child is attending. Data available to the Department shows that the number of children accessing Government subsidies continues to increase.  

Significant support is available to services facing sustainability issues to bring their service onto a sustainable footing, whilst being necessarily compliant with scheme rules. My Department oversees an integrated Case Management system operated by Pobal through which a dedicated team assesses services facing challenges. This Case Management service provides non-financial assistance or support in the first instance. Financial supports are also available for community services facing certain challenges which may also be accessed through Case Management following a financial assessment. I would recommend all services to get in contact with Pobal or their local City / County Childcare Committee if they need support or advice, or if they believe a sustainability issue arises.

The existing targeted childcare schemes will be replaced later this year with the National Childcare Scheme. Its attendance rules will seek to reflect the reality of children and parents' lives and the need for services to operate as businesses. The attendance rules will reflect a certain degree of flexibility whilst honouring the requirement to ensure that Exchequer funding is used for the purposes it was intended.

The National Childcare Scheme will mark another significant milestone for early learning and care and school age childcare in this country, creating an infrastructure from which Government can further increase investment in services over the next decade. This is in line with the commitment made in First 5, the Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families, which I published last November.

Departmental Advertising Expenditure

Ceisteanna (687)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

687. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount spent on digital marketing in each of the past eight years; the items on which funds were spent; the criteria by which target audiences were selected; the amount of the digital spend targeted here; the amount targeted abroad; the amount that related to private companies; the amount that related to policy initiatives; and the purpose of the digital advertisements. [29386/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Six digital marketing campaigns have been run by my Department over the past number of years. Five of the six related to the promotion of LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy 2018 - 2020. The Strategy provides an opportunity to build a more inclusive Ireland for LGBTI+ young people and is the first of its kind in the world. The digital campaign was targeted at social media users. In addition to this, a digital media campaign to build public awareness of the new National Childcare Scheme (then referred to as the Affordable Childcare Scheme) took place during 2017. The target audience was parents with young children living in Ireland needing childcare supports.

Details of the expenditure by my Department in respect of digital marketing activities are set out in the following table.

Year

Purpose of Campaign

Type of Digital Marketing

Target Audience 

Cost (€)

2017

Facebook Promotion of an LGBTI+ Consultation Report

Social Media

Irish, LGBTI+ Young People Aged 12-24

€4

2017

Building public awareness of the Affordable Childcare Scheme

Online display; Programmatic Marketing;

Social Media;

Ad-Serving;

Articles.

Irish, Parents of Young Children

€29,722

2018

Facebook promotion of the Launch of LGBTI+ Strategy

Social Media

Irish, LGBTI+ Young People Aged 12-24

€16

2018

Facebook promotion of Video for LGBTI+Strategy

Social Media

Irish, LGBTI+ Young People Aged 12-24

€12

2019

Twitter advertisement of LGBTI+ Competition

Social Media

Irish, LGBTI+ Young People Aged 12-24

€45

2019

Facebook advertisement of LGBTI+ Competition

Social Media

Irish, LGBTI+ Young People Aged 12-24  

€20

With regards to the agencies under the remit of my Department, Oberstown Children’s Detention Centre incurred costs amounting to €9,840 for a web video for people interested in a career in youth justice, which was posted on a national online publication in 2019. The Adoption Authority of Ireland, the Office of the Ombudsman for Children, and the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes have indicated that they did not incur any digital marketing related costs. I have requested Tusla, the Child and Family Agency to contact the Deputy directly on the matter.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (688, 694)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

688. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the costs paid to companies (details supplied) for projects each was engaged by her Department to conduct in each of the years 2015 to 2018, and to date in 2019, in tabular form; the reason each was engaged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29437/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

694. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the costs paid to a company (details supplied) for projects each was engaged by her Department to conduct in each of the years 2015 to 2018, and to date in 2019, in tabular form; the reason it was engaged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29546/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 688 and 694 together.

My Department has engaged the services of Mazars in the period specified. Mazars have primarily provided consultancy services in respect of internal audits for my Department and are also engaged in a review of internal organisational structures at present. Details of the funding provided (to end of June 2019) is listed in the following table.

Company

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019 

Mazars

€0

€16,605

€204,709

€73,821

€72,201

I can confirm that my Department has not incurred any costs in respect of the other companies named.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (689)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

689. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the percentages of GNP and GDP being invested in pre-primary education; if updated figures have been calculated since the publication of a document (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29455/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The publication the Deputy is referring to is the OECD Education at a Glance Report 2018. This publication, which estimates that Ireland spends 0.1% of GDP on pre-primary education, is based on public investment levels from 2015. I understand the OECD Education at a Glance Report 2019 is currently being drafted.

The OECD adopt a number of approaches to calculate Ireland’s expenditure on early learning and care. One approach includes an estimate of the cost of primary school for children under 6 as well as other early learning and care costs: this is to account for the fact that many children in Ireland start primary school at an earlier age than in some other countries. Using this approach, the OECD estimates that Ireland spent 0.5% of GDP on early learning and care in 2016. The OECD indicates that every .1% of GDP increase above this will cost €300 million. If the cost of primary school for children under six is excluded, Ireland spent just 0.2% of GDP on early learning and care. This level of investment in 2016 investment compares poorly to other European countries where the OECD average investment on children under six is 0.8%. It also falls short of the UNICEF-recommended investment level of 1% of GDP.

Historically, there has been low levels of investment in early learning and care in Ireland. Since 2015 however, we have started to address this. Over the past four budgets, investment in early learning and care and school age childcare has increased by some 117% - rising from in €260 million 2015 to €574 million in 2019. Notwithstanding this very significant progress, investment remains relatively low to other developed countries.

 The OECD in its report - Faces of Joblessness - compared the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare supports previously available in Ireland with the expected impact of the National Childcare Scheme. For a lone parent working full time at the 25th percentile of the full-time earnings distribution, Early Learning and Care costs in Ireland were the highest among all OECD countries in 2015. The Faces of Joblessness report estimated that NCS will bring net ELC costs down to make Ireland only the 11th highest in the OECD, or closer to the OECD average. This analysis was performed before Budget 2019 which increased the NCS thresholds at both ends and which would have enhanced the results further if included. 

First 5: A Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families published in November 2018 sets out an ambitious programme of work across Government Departments to improve the experiences and outcomes of children in Ireland from birth to age 5 across all aspects of their lives in the coming ten years.  One of the major objectives is that babies and young children have access to safe, high-quality, developmentally appropriate Early Learning and Care which reflects diversity of need.  Allied to that objective, First 5 identifies as a key building block additional public funding, strategically invested to achieve the best outcomes for babies, young children and their families.  Under this objective, First 5 commits to at least doubling investment in Early Learning and Care by 2028.