Early Childhood Care and Education Staff

Ceisteanna (1686)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

1686. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to address the high staff turnover in the early childhood education and care sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35515/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I am acutely aware of the difficulties that many early learning and care services report in recruiting and retaining qualified staff, and the high rate of staff turnover in the sector. In Pobal’s latest Early Years Sector Profile Report 2017/2018, the staff turnover rate stood at 24.7% which, despite a 3% improvement on the previous year, remains unsustainably high.

I believe that the key challenge to retaining staff is undoubtedly improving wages and working conditions. Over the last 4 budgets, the level of public investment in early learning and care and school-age childcare has increased 117%, and we need to keep increasing the level of public investment if we are to secure services that are of high quality, affordable and accessible. However, increased investment by itself will not ensure that staff wages and conditions will improve.

I am, however, doing all that is in my power to improve wages and working conditions in the sector. I have 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 under way.

In First 5, the Whole of Government Strategy I launched with the Taoiseach in November, I made a commitment to develop a new funding model that will leverage additional investment for certain criteria, for example, better pay, or full implementation of the curriculum. I have set out my vision for the sector, and a roadmap to achieve it, in First 5.

First 5 also committed to a Workforce Development Plan, to raise the profile of careers in the sector and to ensure sufficient numbers of staff at all levels. Work on developing the plan began in recent months, following the publication of terms of reference for a Steering Group. The Workforce Development Plan will set out plans to achieve a graduate-led workforce by 2028, to establish a career framework and leadership development opportunities, as well as to work towards a more gender-balanced and diverse workforce.

Early Childhood Care and Education Expenditure

Ceisteanna (1687)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

1687. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to address the gap between spending on the early childhood education and care sector here compared to European counterparts in view of the fact that Ireland spends just 0.3% of GDP and the EU average is 0.7%; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35516/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

First 5: A Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families (2019-2028), was published in November 2018. First 5 identifies over 150 actions across the domains that impact on young children’s lives including ambitious and far reaching actions related to the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare sector.

First 5 sets out Government’s intention to increase public investment in high-quality Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare for all babies and young children to raise quality and address the affordability of provision for families, particularly families on low income. A specific target is identified of at least doubling the level of public investment in Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare by 2028.

My Department has secured substantial increases in funding of the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare in recent years. Over the past four budgets, investment has increased by 117%, from €260 million in 2015 to €574 million in 2019. This has enabled, for example, doubling of the ECCE programme to two years, doubling of the number of places available, doubling of the number of children availing of subsidies, greater access to early learning and care services for children with disabilities, and more investment in the workforce itself.

The First 5 commitment to doubling investment again from current levels will require successful estimates campaigns based on high-quality data and evidence on the need for additional investment. Every 0.1% increase in the proportion of GDP expenditure would cost approximately €300 million.

A key vehicle to ensure that such significant additional investment delivers for children, families and the State will be a new Funding Model to design mechanisms to deliver additional funding to Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare providers to ensure greater levels of affordability, quality and inclusion in their services. I am establishing an Expert Group to make proposals on this model and the Group will begin work next month.

The National Childcare Scheme being introduced shortly will, for the first time, provide Government with a robust infrastructure to route investment to parents, both on a universal and targeted basis. This radical and innovative new scheme will support the provision of quality services to children and enable greater subsidisation of parental costs as more investment becomes available year on year.

Consultancy Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (1688)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

1688. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the names of external consultancies that delivered and continue to deliver advice and training on all aspects of GDPR in the context of preparedness and ongoing upskilling of staff regarding the regulation; the cost expended on the external advice and training of same to date in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35570/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The following table sets out the various providers that have been utilised by my Department to deliver advice and training in the context of GDPR preparedness and ongoing upskilling of staff, along with associated costs.

In 2018 my Department undertook a competitive procurement process to engage a supplier to provide a range of GDPR training for Department staff across all grades. Following the procurement process Public Affairs Ireland were engaged.

All staff were invited to participate in GDPR awareness sessions in 2018. This training was then followed with a more in-depth GDPR training course for the Department's Data Protection Liaison Officers, and for those staff who required a more in-depth knowledge of GDPR. A briefing session for the Management Board was also provided.

Year

Training

Name of External Provider

Costs Incurred

2017

Certificate in Data Protection Level 1 GDPR Essentials Level 1

Public Affairs Ireland

€2,928.15

2017

Data Protection: An Introduction

Law Society Professional Training

€95.00

2017

Privacy Engine Online Programme (1 Year Licence)

Sytorus

€4,413.00

2018

In-house Training from Procurement Process:GDPR General Awareness SessionsGDPR Essentials TrainingManagement Board Briefing SessionData Privacy Impact Assessment TrainingGDPR Training for Law Enforcers

Public Affairs Ireland

€24,835.00

2018

GDPR Advanced Level 2 Data Privacy Impact Assessments GDPR Essentials

Public Affairs Ireland

€2,550.00

2018

Certificate in Data Protection

Institute of Public Administration

€1,350.00

2018

GDPR Subject Access Requests, FOI and the Right of Access The Role of the DPO

CMG Training Limited

€1,580.00

2018

Advanced Diploma in Data Protection

The Honorable Society of King's Inns

€7,050.00

2018

Data Protection Impact Assessment on an aspect of Affordable Childhood Scheme

Castlebridge

€9,900.75

2018

Online GDPR for Managers

Training Resource for 4,500 Early Learning and Care Service Providers in Ireland

Interactive Health and Safety Company

€7,303.99

2019

Data Breach Response Workshop GDPR Subject Access Requests, FOI and the Right of Access Data Retention Policy Compliance

CMG Training Limited

€1,185.00

2019

GDPR Training for Data Protection Officers

Irish Academy of Computer Training

€888.00

2019

Ongoing Data Protection Advice and Iterative Data Impact Assessment of Affordable Childcare Scheme

Trilateral Research

€16,974.00 to date

Total Spend to Date€81,052.89

Children in Care

Ceisteanna (1689)

James Browne

Ceist:

1689. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children who died while in the care of the HSE in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019, as per the reports of the national review panel; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35618/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Deputy's question relates to an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore referred the matter to Tusla and asked that a direct reply be provided to the Deputy.

Early Childhood Care and Education Staff

Ceisteanna (1690)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

1690. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to ensure that workers in early years facilities earn at least the living wage of €12.30 per hour; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35629/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The early learning and care sector has been identified as a sector in which low pay and poor working conditions for staff are common, which impacts on the quality of provision through its effect on the recruitment and retention of qualified staff. The lack of consistency of care together with high staff turnover impact directly on quality, while low wages are a constraint on plans to upskill the workforce. My support for improved pay and conditions for early learning and care professionals has been explicit, as their role is critical to supporting children’s development.

Over the past 4 budgets the level of public investment in early learning and care and school-age childcare services has increased 117%, and the level of investment needs to continue rising if we are to secure services that are of high quality, affordable and accessible. However, increased investment by itself will not ensure that staff wages and conditions will improve.

As the State is not the employer, my Department does not pay the wages of staff working in early learning and care settings, and I cannot set wage levels or determine working conditions for these staff.

I am, however, doing all that is in my power to improve wages and working conditions in the sector. I have 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 under way.

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 for service providers to offer staff 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, which contains a commitment to develop a Workforce Development Plan which will ensure appropriate levels of early learning and care and school-age childcare staff at all levels in the sector. The Workforce Development Plan will establish role profiles, career pathways, qualifications requirements, and associated policy mechanisms. It will set out plans to raise the profile of careers in the sector, establishing a career framework and leadership development opportunities, and it will work towards a more gender-balanced and diverse workforce.

Departmental Customer Charters

Ceisteanna (1691)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

1691. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of complaints her Department received under the customer service charter in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; if her attention has been drawn to issues and-or problems in having complaints registered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35638/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department’s procedures for dealing with customer complaints are detailed in its Customer Service Action Plan and Charter, which is available on the Department's website. If a complaint is made by a customer it is dealt with by the Unit of my Department responsible for the issue to which the complaint relates.

If the complaint is not resolved by the Unit to the satisfaction of the customer, they may contact the Department’s Customer Services Officer who will liaise with the customer and the Unit involved to resolve the matter if possible.

Under the Action Plan and Charter referred to above, a complaint is formally logged by the Department when a customer contacts the Customer Services Officer in relation to an unresolved complaint, and requests that Officer to intervene to resolve the matter if possible.

In the years 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019, no such requests were received by the Customer Services Officer of my Department.

Child and Family Agency Data

Ceisteanna (1692)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

1692. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of complaints by category and county received by Tusla in each of the years 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35674/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Child and Family Agency Act, 2013 requires Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to establish procedures for dealing with complaints against the Agency or a service provider. It also requires Tusla to publish certain information in relation to complaints.

Any individual who wishes to make a complaint about Tusla services can do so through the "Tell Us: You Say, We Listen" complaints process. Contact details and further information are available on the Tusla website (www.tusla.ie).

Actions relating to complaints are an operational matter for Tusla. I do not have the specific information being sought by the Deputy. I have asked Tusla to respond to the Deputy directly with regard to his request.

School Completion Programme

Ceisteanna (1693)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

1693. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the estimated cost in 2020 if the budget for school completion programme increased by 12%; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36112/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The full-year cost of increasing the School completion programme by 12% would be in the region of €2.9m.

Early Childhood Care and Education Expenditure

Ceisteanna (1694)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

1694. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the estimated cost of increasing the number of programme weeks in the early childhood care and education programmes by two weeks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36130/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The following table outlines the projected full year cost in 2019 of increasing the Early Childhood Care and Education programme by 2 weeks over and above current levels.

Increase

Standard Capitation Rate

Higher Capitation Rate

Full Year Cost

Increase

0 weeks

€69.00

€80.25

€298.1m

n/a

2 weeks

€69.00

€80.25

€313.8m

€15.7m

Departmental Internships

Ceisteanna (1695)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

1695. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of unpaid internships issued and-or granted to persons to work in her Department over the past five years to 28 August 2019; the number of persons who took up unpaid internship roles in that timeframe; if her Department continues to offer unpaid internships; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36142/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department facilitated a small number of short term unpaid internships to individuals who wrote to the Department requesting workplace experience in their chosen fields of study, where such study was relevant to this Department and where they could be accommodated.

In 2017, my Department participated in the Centre for Excellence and API Study Abroad graduate programmes providing one part time short term unpaid placement in each case.

In the five years from 28th August 2014 to 28th August 2019 the following internships/placements have been provided in my Department

2014 0 placements

2015 1 placement

2016 1 placement

2017 4 placements

2018 0 placements

2019 0 placements

Currently, my Department is not is a position to facilitate unpaid internships or placements due to lack of availability of accommodation.

Cyber Security Protocols

Ceisteanna (1696)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

1696. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if there are dedicated, professionally trained and certified cybersecurity staff in relation to cybersecurity protocols under the remit of her Department; if such specialists are being recruited; if her Department maintains a risk register of security breaches; if so, if there are staff who analyse, log and maintain such a register; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36222/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department currently has one (1) professionally trained in cybersecurity, member of staff in relation to cybersecurity protocols under my Department's remit. In addition we have a further three (3) members undertaking training in security fundamentals with a goal to further specialisation in cybersecurity training on behalf of the Department. There are currently no specialists being recruited for this purpose.My Department maintains a risk-register of security breaches and there are staff who analyse, log and maintain such a register. I am advised that there have been no cyber security breaches within the Department in the past 12 months.In addition my Department continues to engage with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) based in the Department of Communications, Climate Action Environment and receives regular updates from the State's national/governmental Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT-IE).

Departmental Operations

Ceisteanna (1697)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

1697. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her Department has a disaster recovery plan, business continuity plan and or disaster recovery sites; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36238/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Department of Health currently provides ICT services to my Department under the terms of a Service Level Agreement and facilitates the provision of key IT services including a disaster recovery plan that covers DCYA services. As my Department transitions to the new Build to Share desktop service, provided by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, a new disaster recovery plan will be developed in line with new infrastructure and service arrangements.

As a result of my Department's relocation to Miesian Plaza a formally documented and approved business continuity plan is not currently in place within the Department, however one is in the process of being developed.

The relocation to Miesian Plaza has meant that currently no disaster recovery site is provisioned. A new site will be secured arising from the completed work on the IT services transition and the forthcoming Business Continuity Plan.

Childcare Services

Ceisteanna (1698)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

1698. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to support a not-for-profit childcare model which would allow for affordability, reliability and flexibility for parents, particularly in the area of after-school childcare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36262/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

First 5: A Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families (2019-2028), was published in November. First 5 identifies over 150 actions across the domains that impact on young children’s lives including ambitious and far reaching actions related to the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare sector.

First 5 commits to at least doubling investment in Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare by 2028 and a key vehicle to ensure that such significant additional investment delivers for children, families and the State will be a new Funding Model.

The intention with the new Funding Model is to design mechanisms to deliver additional funding to Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare providers to ensure greater levels of affordability, quality and inclusion in their services. It is planned that the new Funding Model will operate in addition to the major funding streams for the universal pre-school Early Childhood Care and Education programme and the National Childcare Scheme when it comes into operation later this year.

In order to lead the development of the Funding Model, I am appointing an Expert Group with expertise in Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare systems, funding, and quality, as well as those with skills in economics and policy development. This Group will be asked to agree principles to underpin the new Model in consultation with stakeholders, identify and consider options on how additional funding for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare can be structured to deliver on policy objectives, and design a new Model to recommend to Government.

One of the issues that the Expert Group will be requested to explore in their work will be the potential for linking of additional funding to Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare services to operation of services on a not-for-profit/surplus basis, or reasonable profit/surplus basis. This will require detailed economic and legal analysis.

An important strand of work in the development of the new Funding Model will be the inclusion element, whereby consideration will be given to how best to fund Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare services operating in the context of concentrated disadvantage which can face challenges in providing supports and services to children and their families commensurate with their needs. There is potential to build on the long-established precedent of the Delivering Equality of opportunity in Schools (DEIS) model that exists in the primary and secondary school sector.

A Research Partnership will support the Expert Group with evidence and analysis as well as engagement and consultation work. The Request for Tender for this project has recently been published. The Expert Group will hold its first meeting next month beginning a complex project that is likely to take some time to bring to fruition. Further updates will be available as the work progresses in the coming months.

The new Funding Model will be a key vehicle to achieve the vision of Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare services that are equipped to provide high-quality services for children, affordability to parents and sustainability for providers.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (1699)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1699. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the process by which early years inspectors make registration inspections with reference to the average waiting times between initial inspection and report finalisation. [36370/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The reference to a "registration inspection" is understood to mean the inspection that is carried out by the statutory regulator of early years services, Tusla, prior to registering a new service in relation to which an application for registration has been made. This initial inspection of a potential early years service is termed a “Fit for Purpose” inspection. This inspection is undertaken when all application documents have been submitted by the applicant and the registration form has been completed. An inspection is then scheduled within a month of completion of the registration form. At certain times of the year, summer applications are prioritised in order to facilitate registration of new services in September. Tusla advises potential service providers applying to register a new early years service to allow three months for registration to be completed.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (1700)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1700. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if, in the event of a service being removed or deregistered from the early years register, this deregistration applies to the person appointed as the service provider or the service itself. [36371/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

In the event of a service being removed from the register, under its powers as set out in Section 58D of the Child Care Act 1991 (as amended) the statutory regulator (Tusla) de-registers the registered provider and their registered company, if applicable, in relation to that service. In effect, therefore, Tusla may remove a single service from the register. However, depending on the nature of the reason for deregistration, Tusla may take this factor into account when considering whether further enforcement actions - up to and including the possibility of prosecution - might be necessary in relation to any other services who have the same registered provider. In cases where a registered provider is convicted of an offence under that Part of the Child Care Act 1991, or of an offence that in Tusla's opinions renders such person unfit to carry on an early years service, Tusla shall remove the registered provider from the register, thus impacting on all services for which that person is a registered provider. In such a case, Tusla shall also refuse to register any new services for that person.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (1701)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1701. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if, in the event of a service being removed from the early years register, there are consequences for other services operated by the same service provider. [36372/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

In the event of a service being removed from the register, under its powers as set out in Section 58D of the Child Care Act 1991 (as amended) the statutory regulator (Tusla) de-registers the registered provider and their registered company, if applicable, in relation to that service. In effect, therefore, Tusla may remove a single service from the register. However, depending on the nature of the reason for deregistration, Tusla may take this factor into account when considering whether further enforcement actions - up to and including the possibility of prosecution - might be necessary in relation to any other services who have the same registered provider. In cases where a registered provider is convicted of an offence under that Part of the Child Care Act 1991, or of an offence that in Tusla's opinions renders such person unfit to carry on an early years service, Tusla shall remove the registered provider from the register, thus impacting on all services for which that person is a registered provider. In such a case, Tusla shall also refuse to register any new services for that person.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (1702)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1702. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of services that are deemed non-compliant by service type, that is, sessional full day and county, in tabular form. [36373/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The independent statutory regulator of early years services, Tusla, does not reference an overall status of "non-compliant" in relation to an early years service. Rather, compliance is assessed in relation to each of the individual regulations within the Early Years Services Regulations, as a service may be found non-compliant in relation to one or more regulations but compliant in relation to others. Following a finding of non-compliance in relation to one or more regulations, an early years service is then given the opportunity to rectify the position and become compliant in relation to those regulations. As a result of the regulatory work undertaken by Tusla, levels of non-compliance across the sector are reducing.

On a periodic basis, Tusla collates data from inspections and publishes summary analyses of inspection findings. The latest such analysis is available in the Tusla Early Years Inspectorate Annual Report for 2017, which is published on the Tusla website. The annual report provides information relating to the levels of compliance in the sector in that year. In 2017, the year covered by that report, 12,857 regulations were assessed across 1,563 inspections, and of these regulations 3,217 (25%) were non-compliant. Not all regulations are assessed at each inspection. About one-third (32%) of inspection reports analysed in that year did not record any non-compliant regulations, and a further one-third (32%) recorded either one or two non-compliant regulations.

The 2018 annual report of the Early Years Inspectorate is due for publication in October 2019.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (1703)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1703. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her Department or an agency operating under its aegis assigns a risk rating to early years services that have been inspected. [36374/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Officials in my Department have requested the required information from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. This information will be supplied to the Deputy in no later than 10 working days. I have asked my officials to follow up on this to ensure delivery as a matter of urgency.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (1704)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1704. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if it is mandatory or policy for early years inspectors who find non-Garda-vetted members of staff on site during an early years service inspection to report this breach of the law to An Garda Síochána. [36375/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Where an Early Years Inspector from Tusla, the statutory regulator, finds that a member of staff working in an early years premises has not met the Garda Vetting disclosure requirements, that member of staff is required to leave the premises and is not permitted to return to work until such time as vetting has been secured and assessed by the service provider. The inspectorate uses the extent of their powers as set out under the Child Care Act 1991, Early Years Services Regulations 2016, to address the matter. Where there is persistent and significant non-adherence in relation to this Regulation, the matter will in such instances be referred to the National Garda Vetting Bureau compliance team.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (1705)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1705. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if there is a memorandum of understanding between Tusla and An Garda Síochána to allow early years inspectors who find non-Garda vetted members of staff on-site during an early years service inspection to report this breach of the law to An Garda Síochána. [36376/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Where an Early Years Inspector from Tusla, the statutory regulator, finds that a member of staff working in an early years premises has not met the Garda Vetting disclosure requirements, that member of staff is required to leave the premises and is not permitted to return to work until such time as vetting has been secured and assessed by the service provider. The inspectorate uses the extent of their powers as set out under the Child Care Act 1991, Early Years Services Regulations 2016, to address the matter. Where there is persistent and significant non-adherence in relation to this Regulation, the matter will in such instances be referred to the National Garda Vetting Bureau compliance team.

A regular liaison function exists between the National Garda Vetting Bureau and the Tusla Early Years Inspectorate. To provide clarity in relation to the processes already in place and to ensure good governance, a Memorandum of Understanding is currently in development between Tusla and An Garda Síochána. Referrals between the Tusla and the Garda Vetting Bureau form part of this Memorandum of Understanding.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (1706)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1706. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the process by which an early years inspector can report a fire safety concern to the relevant authorities; and the follow-up that is then expected from the fire service. [36377/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Where an Early Years Inspector that is part of the statutory regulator, Tusla, has a fire safety concern in relation to an early years service, a referral may be made to the relevant local area fire authority by letter. This is usually followed by a written response or communication from the fire authority to the provider. Where minor matters of fire safety are identified, an Early Years Inspector may address the matter under the Early Years Regulations. Where the matter is more serious, a referral to the fire authorities will be made.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (1707)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1707. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of fitness to practise letters issued to early years employees with qualifications from other countries by county and year of issuance since 2016, in tabular form. [36378/19]

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. The Workforce Development Plan aims to lay out a clear pathway for achieving the commitments set out in First 5 for the development of the early learning and care and school-age childcare workforce. It will identify actions to raise the profile of careers in the sector, as well as to recruit and retain skilled professionals.

The Early Years Sector Profile report 2017/2018 is a comprehensive source of information on the sector in Ireland. The data and findings from the report play an important part in tracking progress and changes within the sector as well as identifying emerging needs. Particularly notable from this report is the increase in the number of children using centre-based services and the numbers of staff employed in these services. I am delighted to see that these early years professionals are becoming increasingly more qualified, as the survey reflects. The data for the 2018/2019 Early Years Sector Profile Report is being compiled at present and will be available before the end of 2019.

My Department has published a list of early years qualifications, from both Ireland and abroad, that are recognised for the purposes of meeting the requirements of the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 and the contractual requirements for the ECCE programme funded by my Department.

If someone who wishes to work in an early learning and care service in Ireland has a qualification that is not on the published list, that person can apply to my Department seeking a letter of eligibility to practice. An assessment is then made as to whether that person's qualification meets the standard of recognised qualifications. Early learning and care professionals cannot be employed by a service provider until their qualifications are approved, if their qualification award is not on the published list.

My Department receives a diverse range of qualification applications for awards obtained abroad for recognition. My Department also receives applications from professionals whose qualification award is already on the published list, and a letter of eligibility is not necessary for these applicants.

In the following table I have outlined the total number of letters of eligibility to practice issued to applicants with qualifications from other countries in tabular form from 2016 to date. As many applicants are living abroad when they apply for qualifications recognition, I am unable to give information on the applications from foreign applicants by county in Ireland.

Year Eligibility Letter Issued

Number of Eligibility Letters Issued to Applicants with Qualifications from Other Countries

2016

555

2017

539

2018

540

2019 to date

179

Please note: the above table does not include early learning and care professionals whose award is already on the published list of recognised qualifications.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (1708)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1708. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the average frequency of inspections of early years services by county, in tabular form. [36379/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

It is not possible to give a simple measure of the frequency of inspections of early years services carried out by the statutory regulator, Tusla, as there are a number of different categories of inspection, including "fit-for-purpose" inspections carried out when a new service is being registered, unannounced inspections, and unannounced follow-on inspections.

Furthermore, the frequency of inspections is dependent on several factors including the level of compliance found on the last inspection, unsolicited information received, whether or not conditions have been attached to services' registration, the length of time since the last inspection and/or where there is a change in circumstances or a notification of instances which requires review.

"Fit-for-purpose" inspections are carried out in relation to all new early learning and care services, with the timing dependent on the timing of the application to register.

Every single registered early learning and care provider, of which there are 4,435, has been inspected by Tusla’s Early Years’ Inspectorate. A total of 2,513 inspections were conducted in 2018, an increase of 90% since 2014 (1,326).

Child Abuse

Ceisteanna (1709)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1709. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of high priority cases of retrospective child abuse referred by Tusla to An Garda Síochána between 2016 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36632/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The question relates to an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore referred the matter to Tusla, and asked that a direct reply be provided to the Deputy.

Child and Family Agency Investigations

Ceisteanna (1710)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

1710. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if an audit will be carried out by Tusla of the historic case files relating to child abuse held in the headquarters of an organisation (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36633/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My colleagues in Tusla, Child and Family Agency, inform me that there is no audit being undertaken by them of the historic case files relating to child abuse held in the headquarters of Scouting Ireland. 

Tusla is following up on any cases of alleged historic child abuse which have been referred to them by Scouting Ireland and which require assessment.  Tusla also has its own helpline where individuals can contact them with regard to alleged historic child abuse.

Tusla and An Garda Siochána have been working closely with Scouting Ireland to identify all historical abuse cases which require child protection assessment because of potential current risk to children and/or criminal investigation where crimes had not previously been reported.  

There has been coordination between Tusla and the Garda Siochana throughout. Tusla is confident that this piece of joint work with the Garda Siochana has identified all of the victims of childhood abuse who have reported their abuse to Scouting Ireland and all of the named alleged abusers.

Tusla has also been assisting Scouting Ireland in reviewing its current child safeguarding practice and is confident that Scouting Ireland is making every effort towards ensuring the safety of children when they are in Scouting Ireland's care.

Tusla and Scouting Ireland have agreed to continue to liaise closely and to work together to maintain the highest child safeguarding standards within Scouting Ireland.

Tusla has no authority to audit Scouting Ireland files.