Child and Family Agency Staff

Ceisteanna (61)

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

61. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the progress made regarding the recruitment and retention of social workers within Tusla; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29682/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The recruitment and retention of social workers continues to be a significant challenge for Tusla in 2019. Tusla is one of many employers of social workers in Ireland and it is competing with other employments that are often perceived as less challenging.

Tusla’s new Strategic Workforce Planning Model will be accompanied by a renewed focus on retention of social workers and other key staff.  This approach should ensure better outcomes for children and for Tusla’s recruitment work.

In 2019, Tusla Recruit, its dedicated in-house recruitment function, has managed 16 social work specific campaigns such as:

- the Social Work Graduate Programme designed to recruit new graduates,

- the rolling campaign for Professionally Qualified Social Workers (PQSW),

- Social Work Team Lead,

- Senior Social Work Practitioner, and

- Principal Social Worker.

These campaigns have attracted approximately 550 applications from internal and external applicants to date. As at 31st May, 2019, Tusla was ahead of its 2019 social work recruitment schedule,  with 114 new starter social workers appointed.   

59 social workers resigned or retired during the same period, resulting in a net gain of 63 whole time equivalent social workers since the start of 2019.

In addition to Tusla’s Social Work Graduate Programme and its annual calendar of college campus visits, Tusla held its first Social Work Recruitment Open Day on the 14th of June. The Open Day provided an opportunity for potential applicants to learn about a career with Tusla from experienced frontline staff.  

I also welcome the news that Tusla Recruit expects to launch online interviews from autumn 2019 to accommodate applicants, in particular those who may be abroad.

I understand Tusla has also established a Retention Steering Group to plan and implement an integrated approach to retention throughout the organisation via Tusla’s Health and Wellbeing and Employee Assistance Programme. The Group will:

- review current retention initiatives;

- identify opportunities and barriers to successfully retaining talent;

- act upon the findings of the Tusla's Staff Retention Survey;

- harness insights and ideas from across the organisation to incorporate into policies and working practices; and

- consider successful initiatives developed by other Agencies.

The work of the Retention Steering Group will be an important input for the implementation of Tusla’s Strategic Workforce Planning Model.   I note that the turnover rate for social workers at 31 May, 2019 is 7.17% compared to 8.44% for the same period in 2018. Hopefully this is an indication that Tusla is already reaping benefits from its actions in this area.

My Department has also taken the initiative to establish the Social Work Education Group, which is intended to provide a forum for Tusla and other stakeholders to raise issues and act upon possible actions to influence the future supply of social workers.

The first priority identified by the Group is the streamlining of student placements and I am pleased to confirm work has commenced on this.

Cúram agus Oideachas na Luath-Óige

Ceisteanna (62)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

62. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aindrias Moynihan den Aire Leanaí agus Gnóthaí Óige cén plean atá aici chun polasaí don luathoideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaeilge a chur i bhfeidhm, mar atá molta ag Comhchoiste na Gaeilge na Gaeltachta agus na nOileán; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [30025/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I welcome the report recently launched by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands in relation to the challenges associated with running Irish medium childcare centres in the Gaeltacht.   

A number of officials from my Department attended this launch on 25th June 2019, along with officials from Tusla and from the Department of Educations Early Years Education Policy Unit, who are co-located within my Department. 

The Secretary General of my Department, along with a number officials, also appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Irish language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands on 20th November 2018.  The Secretary General had an opportunity to inform the Committee of the work being undertaken within my Department in relation to supporting and facilitating Irish-medium early learning and care services to operate through Irish.   

In particular, my Department has committed to a range of actions under the Action Plan for the Irish Language 2018-2020 which are designed to affirm the importance of the role that early learning and care settings can play in fostering Irish language proficiency.  The aim of these actions is to build on existing measures, supports and partnerships in the area of Irish-medium early years education and further improve supports and services. 

The report launched by the Committee, and the various recommendations contained within, is currently being examined by my Department in the context of the commitments we have already made under the five year Irish language action plan. 

In relation to the specific recommendation referred to by the Deputy that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Education and Skills agree a policy on Irish medium and Gaeltacht early years education, officials from my Department liaise closely with officials from the Department of Education and Skills on many issues, including in relation to the five year Irish language action plan and the implementation of the Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017-2022.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Ceisteanna (63)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

63. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the work she is undertaking to improve pay and conditions in the early years sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29381/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

A key priority for me as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is seeking to ensure high quality early learning and care services for children, which includes having a valued and stable workforce.  

It is part of the reason I have fought so hard for increased investment. I have pushed for investment to address affordability and access for parents, but also quality for children and the 26,000 staff working in centred based childcare. 

Current pay rates, and the availability of only part-time / part-year contracts for many who work in the sector, do not reflect the level of responsibility that early learning and care professionals hold, nor the value of their work. We have a long way to go to rectify this situation, but I can assure the Deputy that I am doing everything in my power. 

As the State is not the employer, I cannot set wage levels or determine working conditions. I have instead repeatedly called for the sector to pursue a Sectoral Employment Order, which offers a viable mechanism to establish appropriate wage levels. My Department will readily co-operate with such a process when it is underway. 

In the interim, I have introduced a range of measures to support employers to improve pay and conditions.  

These include a 7% increase in ECCE capitation in 2018; higher capitation payments for graduates and Inclusion Coordinators; annual Programme Support Payments to recognise administrative demands; support for School-Age Childcare which will make it easier to offer full-time employment contracts; and a pilot measure to fund participation in CPD.  

I have set out my vision for the sector, and a roadmap to achieve it, in First 5. This strategy commits to a Workforce Development Plan, to raise the profile of careers in the sector and to ensure sufficient numbers of staff at all levels.  

The Steering Group for the Workforce Development Plan met for the first time on 30th May, and the Stakeholder Group held its first meeting earlier this week. First 5 also commits to develop a new funding model for the sector, which may open up new mechanisms to influence pay and conditions.  

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Ceisteanna (64)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

64. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes; the date by which it will make its final report; and if she is satisfied by the progress of the Commission to date. [29824/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes has issued five interim reports to date, all of which I have published.  

It is important to acknowledge that the terms of reference for the Commission envisage multiple lines of inquiry on complex issues relating to a number of quite different institutions over a period of more than three quarters of a century. 

The Commission submitted its Fourth Interim Report in December of last year. In it the Commission advised that it would not be able to issue its final report within the previously agreed time frame, and it requested an extension of one year to allow it to complete its work in full.  

The Government has agreed to this extension request and the Commission is now due to complete its work by February 2020. 

In my view the public interest, and most importantly the interest of former residents, is best served by facilitating the Commission to conduct the comprehensive analysis required to make accurate and robust findings on the extensive range of sensitive issues before it. 

The Commission is of course, independent in its work, and I am careful not to interfere in any way with its progress. I share the wish of all interested parties to see the Commission concluding its work by the agreed deadline of February next.

Recreational Facilities

Ceisteanna (65)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

65. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if consideration will be given to becoming involved and funding the supervised playground at Library Road, Dún Laoghaire (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30023/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I regret to inform the Deputy that the only funding provided by my Department for playgrounds is in the area of capital grants for play and recreation. Applications for this scheme are made through the Local Authority Play and Recreation Network. 

I understand that the playground referred to by the Deputy is a private facility which has not been in receipt of funding from either my Department or its agencies.  

My Department has never funded the supervision of this playground by Crosscare, and the supervisory posts referred to in the Deputy’s question would not meet the criteria for any funding scheme operated by my Department. 

I regret that I could not give the Deputy a more favourable reply.

Child and Family Agency Funding

Ceisteanna (66)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

66. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if financial containment by organisations is having an impact on services (details supplied). [29934/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I understand that the Deputy's question relates to financial containment and financial challenges facing Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. 

In 2019, Tusla has an allocation of some €787 million for the provision of its full range of services, an increase of 4.1% over its funding for 2018. Tusla's funding has increased from €609m in 2014, a rise of some 29.3% over five years. 

In common with many other public agencies, Tusla faces challenges in delivery of a quality service for children and families within a finite budget. In its Business Plan for 2019, Tusla identified a number of challenges, relating to the increasing cost of some services, and the continuing shortage of social workers and other professionals in the labour market. 

Among the key drivers of costs for Tusla is in the area of residential services for our most vulnerable  young people - those whose needs can only be met in a residential environment rather than with a foster family. 

Another key driver relates to the increasing number of child protection and welfare referrals. For example in April, 2019, Tusla received 4,903 child protection and welfare referrals which is an increase of 852 (21%) since January 2019. This reflects a pattern of increasing referrals over time, which Tusla is dealing with.  

The monthly average number of referrals in 2019 to date is some 5% higher than the monthly average in 2018. 

Tusla is working with my Department to ensure that it provides a full range of services within budget. 

In relation to staffing, Tusla continues its work to recruit sufficient numbers of staff including social workers. In this context, it is important to note that  all necessary funding has been provided for social worker and social care worker posts.  

The challenge in this area lies in the ability to recruit and retain staff rather than the availability of resources to fund them. 

My Department will continue  to work closely with Tusla in relation to service and  funding issues throughout the current year. 

Community Development Projects Funding

Ceisteanna (67)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

67. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the community projects supported by her Department; the reason for the projects receiving funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30024/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

A key priority for my Department is to improve outcomes for children, young people and their families. In that regard, there are a wide variety of community projects supported directly by my Department.  

These range from projects supporting early learning and care, local youth projects and community projects supporting the Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures national outcomes.  

The most significant in terms of funding are:

The Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme (ECCE) which provides children with their first formal experience of early learning prior to commencing primary school. It is a universal and demand-led scheme, available to all children within the qualifying age range in each of the two years before they commence primary education.

The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) is a model of supports designed to ensure that children with disabilities can access the ECCE programme.  Its goal is to empower pre-school providers to deliver an inclusive pre-school experience, ensuring that every eligible child can fully participate in the ECCE programme and reap the benefits of quality early learning and care.

Community Childcare Schemes which targets support parents on a low income to avail of reduced childcare costs at participating community childcare services, including the Childcare Education Training and Support Programme, the Community Employment Childcare Programme and the After School Childcare Programme.

Other projects supported by my Department include:

- Targeted Youth Funding Schemes which targets disadvantaged youth;

- Supporting Youth Information Centres across the country which provide access to information on rights, benefits health and welfare issues;

- Children and Young People's Services Committees which support local community projects under my Department's Better Outcome, Brighter Futures Strategy and Healthy Ireland initiatives;

- A variety of projects under the Dormant Account Action Plans including projects under the Quality and Capacity Building Initiative; Youth Employability Initiative; Peer support relating to inter country adoption; Intervention to protect young people from the influence of organised crime in communities; and the Big Brother Big Sisters Mentoring Programme;

- The Area Based Childhood Programmes which aims to strengthen and develop prevention, early intervention, and family support services;

- City and County Childcare Committees which act as a local agent in the delivery of national early learning and childcare programmes;

- National Voluntary Childcare Organisations which support and represent 4,500 early education and childcare providers; and

- Childminder Development Grant and the Parent and Toddler Grant.

Youth Services

Ceisteanna (68, 72)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

68. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to a report into an organisation (details supplied); and the way in which the issues raised in the report can be addressed. [29960/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

72. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the number of staff in an organisation (details supplied) that are not based in the main centre of the organisation due to health and other reasons. [29961/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 72 together.

The role of the City of Dublin Youth Service Board (CDYSB) is to support the provision, co-ordination, administration and assessment of youth services in their functional area and to provide such information as may be required by myself as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

As the Deputy is aware the CDYSB is a sub-committee of the City of Dublin Education and Training Board.

As such, any organisational concerns in relation to the CDYSB fall under the remit of the Department of Education and Skills and my colleague Minister McHugh.

I have not seen, nor been made aware of, the contents of any report in relation to the CDYSB, nor was any such report commissioned by my Department. It would not be within my remit to commission any report into a sub-committee of an ETB.

I must stress that any organisational or staffing matters in relation to CDYSB would be in the domain of the CEO of City of Dublin Education and Training Board, which falls under the remit of the Department of Education and Skills.

Child Protection

Ceisteanna (69)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

69. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to issues in respect of a service (details supplied) used by Tusla. [29933/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I understand the Deputy's question to be about the practice methodology used by Tusla to carry out its child protection and welfare function. 

In 2017, a decision was made by Tusla to adopt the Signs of Safety as the first national child protection methodology for Ireland. I understand that the implementation of Signs of Safety is well underway, and I have been informed by Tusla that it has been well received by frontline practitioners and by management. 

The practice is safety-oriented and strengths-focused, and encourages practitioners to engage in a meaningful way with children and families. Signs of Safety focuses on the use of evidence and current research to inform planning, and I have been advised that the reception among social workers has been positive.

Tusla has engaged in a significant program of training for practitioners and practice leaders, delivered by the co-creator and leading experts in the practice through a series of themed, intensive workshops.

Signs of Safety is an evidence-based practice, and part of the implementation of the practice is to assess at a national level how successful that implementation has been.

Quality Assurance audits in relation to Signs of Safety were commenced in November 2018. The first audit focused on the rollout of Signs of Safety, and found that more than two thirds of files sampled showed evidence of its use. I have been informed that the next phase of auditing will evaluate the quality of social work practice and decision making over time, using the methodology.

Affordable Childcare Scheme Data

Ceisteanna (70)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

70. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the level of uptake by providers for the affordable childcare scheme in County Cork; when a list of the providers in the county will be available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30026/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The National Childcare Scheme (NCS) is set to open in October 2019.  It is a new, user-friendly scheme to help parents meet the cost of quality childcare. The development of the Scheme is a significant move forward in delivering quality, accessible, affordable childcare to families throughout Ireland.   

Providers are currently being invited to sign a contract to participate in the National Childcare Scheme.  To date, almost 2,300 providers have signed up for the Scheme, of which 168 are located in Cork County, and 49 are located in Cork City. A provider search function will be available as part of the Scheme’s online system.  

To support providers, I have launched a National Childcare Scheme Capital Grant Initiative.  This initiative offers a capital grant to participating service providers for the purchase of qualifying ICT hardware and software.  

Applications are also open for a National Childcare Scheme Transitional Support Payment.  This payment is available to providers who sign a contract for the National Childcare Scheme and is intended to support them in meeting the administrative requirements associated with transitioning to the new Scheme.   

I will continue to work intensively to deliver this landmark scheme which will alter the landscape of childcare in Ireland, support families, provide a sustainable platform for investment and, crucially, allow us to continue to invest in giving our children the best start in life.  

Childcare Services Funding

Question No. 72 answered with Question No. 68.

Ceisteanna (71, 86)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

71. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to increase the level of grant aid to assist in the provision of childcare facilities both for community and private childcare providers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29899/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

86. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to increase the level of grant aid to assist in the provision of childcare places; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a need in some communities to undertake large scale projects either in the expansion of existing childcare facilities or in the provision of new childcare facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29897/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 86 together.

I am committed to ensuring that early learning and care and school age childcare is affordable, accessible and of a high quality. As the Deputy is aware, good progress has been made in this regard, with an increase in investment in this area of 117% over the past four budgets (increasing from €260m in 2015 to nearly €574m in Budget 2019).  

Within these four budgets, a significant amount of exchequer funding was made available for childcare providers, whether private or community / not for profit organisations, to apply for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare capital grants. Capital funding is aimed at increasing the capacity of existing services, creating new services, and maintaining and improving existing services.

Each year my Department reviews the capital programmes as a whole and determines the priorities for Early Learning and Care and School Age Capital grants. This consideration necessarily has regard to many factors, including the financial resources available.

In 2019, my Department focused the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare Capital programme on the expansion of early learning and care places for 0-3 year olds, and school age childcare places where this is most needed.

The capital strands have been made available to achieve the strategic priorities for 2019 as determined by my Department, having regard to the funding available. These were developed using analysis of the current state of the childcare sector, learnings from previous capital programmes and feedback and input from stakeholders, including childcare providers and Pobal.

The approved Early Learning and School Age Capital funding for 2019 was made available to childcare centres, crèches and other childcare facilities across three strands, as follows:

Strand A (Early Learning and Care): New places for 0-3 year olds

- €3.7m total approved (€50k max. grant)

- 87 applications approved for funding

- 1,321 new 0-3 places to be created: 205 0-1 places, 1,116 1-3 places

Strand B (Early Learning and Care): Fire safety improvements (community only)

- €0.3m total approved (€15k max. grant)

- 33 applications approved for funding

Strand C (School Age): New places for school age children

- €2.2m total approved (€20k max. grant)

- 118 applications approved for funding

- 2,308 new school age places to be created.

The capital funding has been awarded following the completion of a very competitive application and appraisal process. 

Pobal have notified all applicants of the outcomes of the Capital decisions. 

In addition to the annual capital programme, I negotiated that childcare be identified as a strategic priority in the National Development Plan (2018-2027). €250m in capital funding was secured for childcare under the Plan. This represents the kind of large scale investment in the sector by the State that has not been seen since the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) that concluded in 2010.

This investment will be essential to respond to the increased capacity we expect as the new National Childcare Scheme is introduced. The NCS will radically change how this country supports the cost to parents of early learning and care and school age childcare.

Research is on-going to determine areas of specific need that the NDP funding will address when it comes on stream in the coming years. The exact shape and priorities of this funding is currently being developed and information will be made publicas it becomes available.

Question No. 72 answered with Question No. 68.

Childcare Services Funding

Ceisteanna (73)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

73. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if assistance will be provided to two childcare facilities providing childcare services to up to 120 families that may have to relocate during renovations at a centre (details supplied). [29692/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Hartstown Montessori and Little Sparrows Preschool are private childcare services which operate on the grounds of Hartstown Community Centre. I understand that remedial works are required in respect of key elements of the building. I also understand that the provision of childcare by these services may be disrupted while the renovations are carried out.

I would strongly recommend that the services contact Fingal Childcare Committee to seek support. DCYA funds 30 Childcare Committees across the country to support providers and parents. The local childcare Committee is an important source of expertise and information for providers and their local knowledge often proves helpful in addressing challenges.

Additionally, my Department oversees an integrated Case Management system operated by Pobal in cooperation with the local Childcare Committee.  A dedicated team assess services facing sustainability challenges, and may be able to offer advice and non-financial support in respect of the specific circumstances reported by these services. I would therefore recommend that the services in question also contact Pobal. However, I do note that while my Department does provide funding to assist childcare providers through specific challenges to their sustainability, such as emergency relocations, these supports are currently only available to community not for profit services.

In the event that the services are unable to remain open while renovations are carried out, the local Childcare Committee will offer assistance to parents in finding alternative places for their children should this be required.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Ceisteanna (74)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

74. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to engage with the Mother and Baby Home Collaborative Forum; and her further plans for the next phase, for example, the appointment of a new chair. [29962/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Following the receipt of the Collaborative Forum's first report, I signalled the opportunity to take some time to reflect upon the learning from the process to date.  In this way the mandate of the Forum can be refined to further enhance the State's engagement with former residents. The Forum itself also suggested a revisiting of these matters.

Delivering its first report within 6 months was a significant achievement and reflected the strong commitment and dedication of Forum members to this task.  It was understandable therefore that the former Chair and a small number of members signalled their intention to step down when the first report had been finalised and they have subsequently done so. I am actively considering a suitable appointment to these current vacancies to ensure the continuity of the process. 

I am currently examining how best to conduct a focused interim evaluation which involves the Forum members and considers important issues relating to the Forum's composition and mandate. 

I plan to engage directly with Forum members on the future of the Forum in the coming weeks. Further response on this will be available following my engagement with Forum members.

Childcare Services Regulation

Ceisteanna (75)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

75. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of her commitment to devise more appropriate Tusla registration standards for childminders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29823/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I am strongly committed to supporting positive reform of the childminding sector to enable more parents access affordable and high quality early learning and care and school age childcare. I intend to develop  regulations for childminders that are proportionate and appropriate to the home setting in which childminders work.  

The current Regulations (both for early learning and care settings, and for school-age childcare settings) are not tailored for childminders, and the extension of regulation to childminders will require a full review of these Regulations. 

My officials are at the final stages of developing a Childminding Action Plan, which I hope to publish shortly in draft form, for the purpose of public consultation. 

The Action Plan will cover a period of approximately 10 years, and aims to improve access to childminding as one means of delivering affordable, quality early learning and care and school-age childcare. My intention is to work towards an expanded workforce with many more registered childminders available. This will support the growing demand for childcare.  

The Action Plan will enable parents who use childminders to benefit from subsidies under the National Childcare Scheme. The Action Plan will also aim to bring childminders into the mainstream of regulation, funding and support, and to recognise childminders for the valuable work they do for children and for parents.  

In relation to registration standards, the Action Plan will support the quality assurance of childminders and the safeguarding of children by extending the scope of regulation and inspection to all paid, non-relative childminders.  

In doing so, my priority will be to ensure that regulation and inspection are proportionate and appropriate for childminders. Public consultation will form an essential part of this process, and I look forward to working closely with stakeholders - and with childminders in particular - in the review and reform of the Regulations.

Youth Services Provision

Ceisteanna (76, 79)

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

76. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will address the lack of provision of services for youth in Newcastle, Dublin 22 in view of the growth of the youth population in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29690/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

79. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the lack of youth services in mid-western areas of Dublin; the steps she will take to address the issue in view of the negative impact it has on an area with the highest growth in terms of youth population; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29689/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 76 and 79 together.

The overall budget allocation for the youth sector in 2019 is € 60.4m in current funding. This is an increase of €8.5m from the youth funding provided in 2016. This level of funding supports the delivery of a range of youth work programmes and services for all young people, including those from disadvantaged communities, by the youth work sector. The additional funding will be used to support programmes in areas where there are disadvantaged young people and where there is a pressing need for targeted services to meet the needs of young people.

The Targeted Youth Funding Scheme has been allocated €35.18 million for 2019 to provide out of school supports to young people in their local communities to enable them to overcome adverse circumstances and achieve their full potential by strengthening their personal and social competencies. Young people aged 10 to 24 years of age who are described in the National Youth Strategy as marginalised, disadvantaged or vulnerable will be the primary target group for services available through the new scheme.

This reform will provide an opportunity to identify need and to focus funding on young people most in need of intervention. Future development and investment in youth services will be informed by the mapping exercise completed in 2017, which mapped youth service provision across the State as well as an Area Profiling, Needs Assessment and a Service Requirement tool which was designed in collaboration with the Education and Training Board (ETB) sector and was officially launched in January 2019. This mapping will assist the Department and the relevant ETB in developing a detailed social demographic profile in terms of both population numbers and deprivation levels. My Department is committed to working with ETBs to identify need and explore ways to address this need where it emerges.

I understand that for 2019, 19 youth projects and a youth and community centre in the area referred to in the Deputy’s question collectively received in the region of €1.5m through the Targeted Youth Funding Scheme.

In 2018, 17 local youth clubs received in the region of €28,500 through the Local Youth Club Grant Scheme. It is estimated that a similar amount of funding will be utilised by local youth clubs in 2019.

Childcare Costs

Ceisteanna (77, 84)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

77. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the way in which the new national childcare scheme will improve childcare options for working families after it launches in October 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30011/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

84. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to further expand the national childcare scheme after it launches in October 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30012/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 and 84 together.

Through the National Childcare Scheme and a range of other measures, I am committed to changing Ireland’s childcare system from one of the most expensive in the world to one of the very best. In designing the National Childcare Scheme, extensive research and consultations have been carried out to ensure that this goal is achieved and that the Scheme can help as many families as possible.

The National Childcare Scheme will greatly increase the number of families who can access financial support. The Scheme removes many of the restrictive eligibility requirements of the existing support programmes, whereby a parent must be in receipt of certain Social Protection payments or a Medical Card in order to receive targeted supports. In this way, it aims to combat the poverty traps which may exist within the existing schemes, and to make work pay for parents. Many parents will see an increase to the level of subsidy they currently receive.

By making this shift and by tangibly reducing the cost of quality childcare, the Scheme aims to improve children's outcomes, support lifelong learning, make work pay and reduce child poverty. It is also designed to have a positive impact on gender equality in relation to labour market participation and employment opportunities.

The Scheme has already been enhanced to expand the benefits for working families. As part of Budget 2019, the income thresholds used for assessing the level of subsidy to which a parent may be entitled were raised.

The significant increase in the Scheme's maximum net income threshold from €47,000 to €60,000 per annum enables some families with a gross income of €100,000 to qualify for income-related subsidies.  It means that an estimated 7,500 more children will benefit from the scheme relative to the original proposals.  Over 40,000 other children, already eligible, will see increases to their subsidies.

I am also very pleased that I have managed to adjust the lower income threshold, meaning that maximum subsidy rates will now be paid to all families with a net annual income of up to €26,000 (up from €22,700).  This ‘poverty proofs’ the Scheme by ensuring that families at or below the relative income poverty line will benefit from the very highest subsidy rates under the scheme. It will also make work pay for parents in employment or training as they will now be able to avail of help with their childcare costs.

Over the last four budgets, investment in childcare has risen by nearly 117%.  However, I acknowledge that more investment will be needed.  Historic under-investment in early learning and care has created a situation that has no quick solution.  The new National Childcare Scheme will establish a sustainable platform to enable us to continue investing for years to come.  The Scheme is designed to be flexible, allowing income thresholds, maximum hours and subsidy rates to be adjusted in line with Government decisions and as more investment becomes available.