Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Ceisteanna (53)

Anne Rabbitte


53. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the staffing shortages that exist within many family resource centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29820/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Children)

Is the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs aware, as I have no doubt she is, of the considerable staffing shortages in family resource centres?

Over 121 family resource centres, FRCs, provide an invaluable service to children and families. I have provided money for FRCs to employ an extra 17 staff.

Tusla provides financial support to FRCs to fund the salaries of a core staff complement and to cover some of their overheads.

I have allocated an additional €4.5 million in funding for the family resource centre programme between 2018 and 2019. This allowed for increases in core funding for each centre, as well as the establishment of 11 new FRCs last year which are now fully operational.

Many FRCs have financial and staff resources significantly in excess of the core resources provided by Tusla. Tusla’s funding for FRCs in 2019 amounts to €18 million. FRCs also receive resources from local authorities, the HSE, education and training boards, ETBs, and others.

I am aware of service pressures in some FRCs throughout the country and I have met representatives of a number of FRCs regarding funding and their wish to increase staffing levels.

Tusla engages directly with FRCs and their representative body with regard to service and staffing pressures.

Each FRC has a voluntary board of management, which is responsible for the recruitment of its employees and the terms and conditions under which they are employed.

I highly value the family resource centre programme and was pleased to secure an additional €1.5 million in funding for the programme this year. I recently announced that this additional funding will be used to: increase core funding to each of the 110 family resource centres which existed pre-2018 by 5%; employ an additional 17 family support workers, where one family resource centre in each of the 17 Tusla geographical areas will receive funding to employ a family support worker; and fund the family resource centre suicide prevention and mental health promotion programme.

We are all aware of the invaluable work of the family resource centres and it is welcome that additional centres were established in the last number of years. However, the crux of the matter is when one compares the position in 2008 with the position in 2018. Only 40 family resource centres have the core staff they had in 2008. Along with the 11 new ones, that is 51 centres out of 121. The problems have not gone away. They still exist. The staff under the voluntary board of management are working flat out. Yesterday we heard a presentation from Mr. Jim Gibson about the invaluable work the family resource centres do in assisting local authorities when it comes to supporting families who find themselves in emergency or homeless accommodation. That is not just centred in one geographical location but occurs throughout the country. In the forthcoming budget will the Minister make a presentation seeking to restore the other more than 50 family resource centres to the full staffing level of 2008?

I am committed to increasing investment in family resource centres and certainly will be seeking an increase in the Estimates process. The way in which I decided to utilise the €1.5 million increase this year demonstrates that there are various ways in which we can provide the support FRCs require. One of them is, and this gets to the heart of what the Deputy is asking, a 5% increase across the board to the FRCs that already existed, as distinct from all of them, given that we invested in establishing the new ones in the previous year. I am requesting in a letter to Tusla that it will ensure the money will be released to the FRCs by the end of July. The second way is increasing the number of staff for the coming year as identified. I hope the FRCs will be notified by the end of August about which of them can employ the extra family staff worker for their particular region of the 17 regions. There are both more staff and more money.

The Minister said there is an extra allocation of €1.5 million in funding for the 110 family resource centres, aside from the additional ones. That works out at €13,606 per family resource centre. Is that money to be allocated to the budget for taking on additional staff or is it part of the centres' core funding to provide services? If members of the family resource centres are listening to the proceedings today, I am sure they are wondering how the €1.5 million will be used. Is it ring-fenced for taking on an additional staff member on a part-time basis? That would work out at €262 per week, which would mean a centre could recruit somebody for half of the week. That might be very welcome in a family resource centre.

I will not even begin to compete with the Deputy's mathematical abilities. Their current core funding from Tusla will increase by 5%. My understanding is that they can use it in whatever way they decide to use it. Second, from a staff perspective we are also investing in one family support worker in each region to add to the complement of staff working in the family resource area. That does not necessarily mean it brings the centres back to the 2008 position or to the numbers that each family resource centre wants. I understand that, which is why I answered "yes" to the Deputy's earlier question about whether I am committed to seeking increased investment. However, I decided that for the coming year this would help to meet some of the concerns about core funding where costs related to insurance and so forth have increased, as well as trying to provide more staff in an equitable way. That is the way we have done it for the coming year.