Better Energy Homes Scheme Administration

Ceisteanna (176)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

176. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to appoint a hub controller installer for residents in County Monaghan that applied for the heating controls grant under the SEAI. [37840/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department funds the Better Energy Homes scheme which is administered by the SEAI. Works that are grant funded under the scheme, such as the installation of fully integrated heating controls, must be carried out by an installer listed on SEAI’s register of contractors. As Minister I have no function in relation to the registration of contractors. In order to be listed on the SEAI register, contractors are required to give a commitment to undertake all works in accordance with the scheme's technical specifications; demonstrate tax compliance and insurance cover; and co-operate with the scheme’s quality assurance programme.

I note that there are a number of contractors who are registered to install fully integrated heating controls operating in County Monaghan.

Waste Disposal

Ceisteanna (177)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

177. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if it is permissible for waste companies to decide not to service certain estates or areas in Dublin; his views on whether there is potential risk that customers will be left with just one available waste collection service; his further views on whether this risks the creation of monopoly positions in certain areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37850/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I have no legislative power to compel a private company to provide a service to specific properties. The obligations on local authorities in relation to collecting household waste are set out in section 33 of the Waste Management Act 1996, as amended. In summary, it provides that each local authority shall collect, or arrange for the collection of, household waste within its functional area. The obligation to collect or arrange for the collection of household waste shall not apply if:

- an adequate waste collection service is available in the local authority's functional area,

- the estimated costs of the collection of the waste would, in the opinion of the local authority, be unreasonably high, or

- the local authority is satisfied that adequate arrangements for the disposal of the waste concerned can reasonably be made by the holder of the waste.

Under section 60(3) of the Waste Management Act 1996, as Minister, I am precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance by a local authority, in particular circumstances, of a statutory function vested in it.

A review of "A Resource Opportunity - Waste Management Policy in Ireland " was initiated earlier this year. This review process will take account of a number of initiatives, such as the European Circular Economy waste and plastics legislation framework and the reports from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and the Price Monitoring Group. This process will inform the development of future national waste management policy, including our environmental goals, regulatory and market structures, and relevant policy instruments and tools.

Planning Issues

Ceisteanna (178)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

178. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on a submission (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37874/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

As the Deputy is aware Bord na Móna has been an integral part of the commercial and social development of the Midlands for decades, creating significant employment in the region. The company provides approximately 1,000 direct jobs at present, which in turn supports at least another 1,000 indirect jobs. In its strategy to exit peat, Bord na Móna envisages the development and scaling up of new business opportunities to ensure the future commercial viability of the company and enable it to continue to fulfil its mandate to be an employer of scale in the Midlands. This strategy is aimed at developing a transition from peat to sustainable new businesses which utilise the vast landbank over the period to 2028. ESB is also fully committed to the process to lead decarbonisation in Ireland.

On 23 July An Bord Pleanála refused ESB planning permission to continue operating West Offaly Power station beyond the end of 2020. ESB's application sought planning permission for the plant to co-fire peat and biomass out to the end of 2027. ESB are currently evaluating An Bord Pleanála's decision. ESB have also submitted to Longford County Council a planning application to continue operating Lough Ree Power station beyond the end of 2020. A decision by Longford County Council is expected shortly.

Following this decision my Department and I are intensively assessing the options to ensure a just transition, if an earlier exit from peat than planned is required.

On 31 July I met with the Bord na Mona Board and worker directors, and with Oireachtas Midlands representatives, the Midlands regional transition team, the regional enterprise plan team, and the regional skills fora team. I am scheduled to meet with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions this week.

Several strands are being considered in the context of the Government’s response:

- Bord na Mona diversification

- Accelerated programme of bog restoration by Bord na Mona

- An area based retrofitting initiative

- Other special initiatives for regional development

I have secured the inclusion of the Midlands in the Platform for Coal and Other Carbon-Intensive Regions in Transition, which supports regions affected by climate policy. Following a letter I wrote to Commissioner Canete in March seeking the inclusion of the Midlands Region under the Platform, the Commissioner confirmed in July that the region would be included.

Membership of the Platform enables the Midlands Region to avail of the support of a dedicated Country Team, comprised of Commission experts, to assist with the development of strategies and projects for the region, focusing in particular on the employment challenges faced by workers affected by decarbonisation. The Team will also assist in identifying appropriate EU funding opportunities for the Midlands. The meetings of the Platform also enable the exchange of knowledge and ideas between carbon-intensive regions.A preliminary meeting of this Team with officials from relevant Departments and other stakeholders is planned to take place in the middle of October with a view to the Country Team coming to Ireland in November. The already established Midlands Regional Transition Team, led by Offaly County Council, will play a central role in this process as it evolves.

An interdepartmental group led by Department of An Taoiseach has been established to develop a just transition plan for the Midlands. Clearly this work cuts across a number of Government Departments, including my own Department, Public Expenditure and Reform, Business, Employment and Innovation, Rural and Community Development, and Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

I will respond formally to the Deputy's submission in the coming days.

EU Programmes

Ceisteanna (179)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

179. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will define the midlands peat region as designated in the EU platform for coal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37875/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Platform for Coal Regions in Transition was launched in December 2017, as part of the Coal and Carbon-Intensive Regions in Transition Initiative of the Clean Energy for All Europeans Package. The aim of the Platform is to provide support for regions heavily involved in fossil fuel industries and provide opportunities for national, regional, and local representatives and EU staff to discuss how these regions can best decarbonise their economies. In March this year I wrote to Commissioner Canete requesting that Ireland’s Midlands region be included in the Platform. At the most recent meeting of the Platform, in July, the European Commission announced that the Midlands region has now been included in the Platform.

Membership of the Platform enables the Midlands region to avail of the support of a dedicated Country Team, comprised of Commission experts, to assist with the development of strategies and projects for the region, focusing in particular on the employment challenges faced by workers affected by decarbonisation. While no new EU funds have so far been set up under this initiative, the Country Team will assist in identifying appropriate EU funding opportunities for the Midlands.

My Department is in discussions with the EU Commission in relation to the establishment of the dedicated Country Team, and also to define the areas to be included as part of the Midlands region in the context of the Platform. For the purposes of accessing the support of the Platform, the position of my Department is that the Midlands region will include all areas in the Midlands affected by the transition away from peat harvesting.

Rail Network Expansion

Ceisteanna (180)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

180. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if a railway order made by An Bord Pleanála can contain elements which are contrary to zonings or local objectives contained in county development plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37858/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The law governing the planning process for railways in this country makes An Bord Pleanála the State body responsible for considering and, if appropriate, approving applications for railway developments.  The law provides that any such approvals by the Bord are made through issuing a "Railway Order" which, in essence, sets out the terms of the planning permission for a railway works or development.  As the Deputy will be aware, An Bord Pleanála is independent in the exercise of its statutory functions, and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has no role in relation to its operation or deliberations on a particular application.

The Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended by the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006, provides that any proposed railway works in an application for a railway order made to An Bord Pleanála come within the definition of "strategic infrastructure development".

In considering an application for a railway order, An Bord Pleanála is required, under section 37 of the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001, to consider certain matters, including the likely consequences for proper planning and sustainable development in the area in which it is proposed to carry out the railway works.  In addition, An Bord Pleanála is required to have regard to the policies and objectives referred to in section 143 of the Planning and Development Act 2000;  the legislation specifies that these include the policies and objectives of the Government, a State authority, the Minister, planning authorities and any other body which is a public authority whose functions have, or may have, a bearing on the proper planning and sustainable development of cities, towns or other areas, whether rural or urban.

Local Authority Funding

Ceisteanna (181)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

181. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to allocate specific funding to local authorities in the remainder of 2019 to carry out essential road repairs due to flood damage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37946/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the Council's own resources supplemented by State road grants.  Details of the regional and local road grant allocations and payments to local authorities are outlined in the regional and local road grant booklets which are available in the Dáil Library. 

I announced the 2019 Regional and Local Road (RLR) allocations in February  and all grant funding available to my Department has now been allocated. 

While there is no dedicated RLR funding for flooding, local authorities may carry out repairs from the RLR grants available to them and from their own resources. In this context, it is open to each Council to determine and reprioritise its work programme following severe weather events.

National Transport Authority Administration

Ceisteanna (182)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

182. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of fines and-or penalties and-or warning letters issued by the NTA to companies (details supplied) in respect of non-provision of services and or unsatisfactory delivery of services in the past three years to 12 September 2019; the details of the issues raised with the respective transport services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37764/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport in Ireland.  The issues raised are matters for the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with the relevant transport operators and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Ceisteanna (183)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

183. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the capital expenditure of his Department from 1 January to 31 August 2019 under the heading of B3 road improvement, maintenance. [37836/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of the relevant local authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the Council's own resources supplemented by Exchequer road grants.  The 2019 Regional and Local Road allocation booklet available in the Oireachtas library outlines the allocations for this year and the table below outlines the Exchequer capital grants paid out to end August this year.   

Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, construction and maintenance of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.  The table below also shows the Exchequer capital grants paid to TII to the end of August in relation to national roads.

National Roads

Paid to end August 2019

Capital Expenditure (including PPP contractual payments)

€170,488,368 

 Regional and Local Roads

Paid to end August 2019

 Capital Expenditure

€174,813,754

Rail Services Provision

Ceisteanna (184)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

184. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to improve Luas frequency particularly between Bride's Glen and Sandyford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37837/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport in Ireland. 

The Deputy is likely aware of the Green Line Capacity Enhancement project, funding of which is being provided as part of Project Ireland 2040. This important project comprises three significant elements –

- The expansion of the Sandyford tram depot;

- The extension of the existing 26 trams used on the Green Line to 55metres in length; and

- The addition of 8 new 55metres long trams to the fleet. 

I am delighted to inform the Deputy that the expansion works required in relation to the Sandyford depot are now essentially complete. A sequence of extended trams is being rolled out across the autumn and commuters will benefit in the coming months as these extended trams enter into service. Next year will see the arrival of the 8 additional trams and the entire project will result in the capacity of the Green Line increasing by around 37%  which the Deputy will acknowledge is a significant and welcome development.

The issue of frequency of services is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with Transport Infrastructure Ireland and Transdev and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Cycling Facilities Funding

Ceisteanna (185)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

185. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will make extra financial provision in order that the bike locker scheme can be expanded in existing locations and extended to new locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37842/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to active travel.  In terms of overall funding, significant increases have been secured under Project Ireland 2040 to support improved and expanded active travel infrastructure.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has certain statutory responsibilities for the provision of cycling infrastructure, cycling facilities and schemes to promote cycling. 

Noting the NTA's responsibility in the matter, I have therefore referred the Deputy's questions to the NTA for a more detailed reply.  Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

Noise Pollution Legislation

Ceisteanna (186, 187)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

186. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if regulations on road noise have been made under section 77 of the Roads Act 1993; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37844/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

187. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has considered making regulations under section 77 of the Roads Act 1993 to control noise pollution created by traffic on the M50 motorway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37845/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 and 187 together.

I would like to advise the Deputy that Section 77 of the Roads Act 1993 was repealed by Section 42(1) Schedule 1 Pt. 2 Item 4 of the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009.

However,  Directive 2002/49/EC on the assessment and management of environmental noise was transposed into Irish law by the Environmental Noise Regulations, 2006. This legislation requires Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) and local authorities to undertake strategic noise mapping every five years for all major roads carrying in excess of 8,250 annual average daily traffic (AADT).  Noise maps identify and prioritise cluster areas which will require further assessment and may require mitigation measures to be put in place.  Once strategic noise maps have been produced, the results are used for each local authority to develop Noise Action Plans as required by the Environmental Noise Regulations.

I trust this information is of assistance to you.

Public Transport Provision

Ceisteanna (188)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

188. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when the new Pelletstown station will be open and pedestrian bridge across the Royal Canal complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37849/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding  in relation to public transport.  The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area, including the provision of a new train station at Pelletstown/Ashington on the Maynooth rail line. 

Noting the NTA's responsibilities in the matter raised, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a more detailed reply.  Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.

Public Transport

Ceisteanna (189, 190, 191)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

189. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the Transport for Ireland real-time application for mobile phones is based on actual real-time information provided by buses and trains; if it is based on their presumed arrival time at stations based on the published timetable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37852/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

190. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if former Dublin Bus routes that have been transferred to a company (details supplied) have been fully integrated into the Transport for Ireland real-time application for mobile phone service; if buses working on those routes are providing actual real-time information to the application; if it is working off the published timetable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37853/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

191. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if Irish Rail services have been fully integrated into the Transport for Ireland real-time application for mobile phone service; if the commuter trains are providing actual real-time information to the application; if it is working off the published timetable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37854/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189 to 191, inclusive, together.

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport in Ireland.  The issues raised are matters for the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with the relevant transport operators and I have forwarded the Deputy's questions to the NTA for direct reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Sports Funding

Ceisteanna (192)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

192. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide additional financial support to elite boxing athletes (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37872/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Sport Ireland, which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body with responsibility for the development of sport, increasing participation at all levels and raising standards.   Sport Ireland channels its funding through the recognised National Governing Bodies of Sport, in this case the Irish Athletic Boxing Association.   

I have referred the Deputy's Question to Sport Ireland for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to inform my office if a reply is not received within 10 days.

Driver Licensing Exchange Agreements

Ceisteanna (193)

Lisa Chambers

Ceist:

193. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason an Irish citizen and resident must give up their UK driver licence in order to swap it and obtain an Irish driver licence; and the reason the person cannot retain both licences without having to go through the process of 12 lessons and a driver test. [37920/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Irish driving licensing law operates within a framework of EU law. Under the EU Directive on driving licences and the relevant Irish regulations, driving licences issued by Member States are mutually recognised. The Directive stipulates that a person may not hold more than one driving licence, thus requiring that, in this case, the person must surrender their UK licence when exchanging it for an Irish one.

While the UK is still a Member State, a person may exchange their UK licence for an Irish licence, as both are EU licences. When a Member State licence is presented here for exchange, the licensing authority of that Member State is notified that the licence has been exchanged for an Irish licence.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit the driving licence of a UK licence holder living here in Ireland will not be recognised and the driver will not be able to continue to drive here in Ireland on that licence.

Legislation in the Road Traffic Acts allows for the recognition of foreign driving licences for exchange purposes. If there is a no deal Brexit, the UK becomes a 3rd country and the potential then exists for arrangements to be made under this legislation. Ireland will be actively pursuing this option however, this may take a little time to complete as it involves a formal agreement and legislation here in Ireland. However, the same principle applies regarding one licence being exchanged for another.

Early Childhood Care and Education Programmes

Ceisteanna (194)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

194. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the exceptional circumstances in which a person may be enrolled onto the ECCE programme in situations in which birth dates do not meet the set criteria (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37812/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs does its best to ensure, in so far as possible, the equitable treatment of all children and families who apply for funding under the ECCE Programme. In order to ensure objectivity and fairness, it is essential that clear rules exist for the scheme and that they are applied evenly. An essential component of the ECCE programme rules is an eligibility start date to ensure that the programme can be administered and budgeted for in an appropriate manner. The programme has included cut off points since its inception in 2010.

A child born in January 2018 is eligible for two full programme years of ECCE from 1st  September 2021 and once again from the 1st September 2022. Legally, children can be enrolled at primary school from the age of 4 years upwards and must have started their formal primary school education by the age of 6 years.

There are a number of other early learning and care schemes for which this family may be eligible. Further information is available at www.dcya.gov.ie or from your local city / County Childcare Committee. It should also be noted that the National Childcare Scheme will launch on 29th October 2019 and income-assessed subsidies will be available to families with children aged between 24 months and 15 years. This is a means-tested subsidy and is calculated based on a family's circumstances. The rate will vary depending on the level of family income, the child’s age and educational stage, and the number of children in the family. Further details of the new scheme due to be launched in October 2019 are available on the National Childcare Scheme website https://ncs.gov.ie/

Oideachas trí Ghaeilge

Ceisteanna (195)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

195. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Leanaí agus Gnóthaí Óige an aontaíonn sí gur sárú ar chearta an duine óig é a iarraidh ar dhalta atá chun an scrúdú ardleibhéil mata a dhéanamh i nGaeilge i mí an Mheithimh seo chugainn, i ndiaidh a bheith ag staidéar mata trí Ghaeilge ón gcéad bhliain ar aghaidh i nGaelcholáiste Lú, Dún Dealgan, iompú ar an mBéarla chun an scrúdú sin a dhéanamh; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [37829/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Níl scrúduithe stáit faoi chúram mo Roinnese.

Is í an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna atá freagrach as scrúduithe stáit. Dá bhrí sin, ba chóir an cheist seo a chur ar mo chomhghleacaí, Joe McHugh TD, An t-Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna.

Early Childhood Care and Education Funding

Ceisteanna (196)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

196. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if funding will be allocated to a centre (details supplied) in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37831/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

A key priority for me as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is to support the early learning and care and school age childcare sector through the provision of capital funding, where it is most needed.  

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 for the year ahead. I have allocated significant funding in recent years for this purpose and for improving the quality of infrastructure nationwide.

Capital strands are made available to achieve the strategic priorities for the year as determined by the Department, having regard to the funding available, 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.

As you may be aware, the Capital programmes are necessarily a budget limited exercise. Therefore, the maximum grant size available under each of these strands has been determined in consideration of both optimising what can be delivered by each individual grant, as well as maximising the amount of providers and children that will ultimately benefit from the funding. The maximum grants available under this year's capital programmes will not be subject to change.

Whilst there are no other capital funding programmes available in 2019, planning for 2020's Capital offering is currently underway and the details of this will be communicated to providers in due course. The service may be eligible to apply for this funding next year when details are announced.

Childcare Services Funding

Ceisteanna (197)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

197. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the projected financial impacts on each family type of the proposed universal childcare scheme; if those lone parents who are currently in receipt of the maximum subsidy will continue to receive this amount; and the way in which the proposed changes will be delivered in a manner that supports the financial and other needs of lone parents and low-income single-parent families. [37841/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The National Childcare Scheme (NCS) has two types of subsides:

A universal subsidy is payable for children between the ages of 24 weeks and 36 months (or until the child qualifies for the Early Childhood Care and Education programme if later) who are availing of childcare services from an approved childcare service provider or childminder.  The universal subsidy is not means-tested and provides 50c per hour towards the cost of a registered childcare place for up to a maximum of 40 hours per week.  

An income-related subsidy is payable for children from 24 weeks to 15 years of age who are availing of childcare services from an approved childcare service provider or childminder.  The level of subsidy payable is determined by the family’s reckonable income (i.e. gross income minus tax, PRSI and other deductibles and minus any applicable multiple child discount).  

Many parents availing of current targeted early learning and care and school age childcare schemes will be better off under the new NCS and able to access higher levels of subsidisation.  Many others will qualify for financial support for the first time. 

The OECD's 2017 'Faces of Joblessness' report compared the childcare supports for lone parents previously available in Ireland with the expected impact of the NCS.  The report found significant improvements for lone parents, for example, that for certain lower paid lone parents working full time, the Scheme will bring net childcare costs down from the highest across the OECD, to 11th highest.  

Further, analysis of the impact of the new scheme conducted using the ESRI's SWITCH model indicates that, on average, the boost to disposable income by the NCS will be larger for one-parent families than for couples, reflecting the typically lower income profile of one-parent families.  Employed lone parents are the family type which will experience the greatest gains.

These findings reflects the very considerable work undertaken to poverty-proof the NCS by ensuring that families at or below the relative income poverty line will benefit from the highest subsidy rates.

The Scheme also removes many of the current restrictive eligibility requirements linked to Social Protection payments or a Medical Card. In this way, the Scheme aims to combat poverty traps and to make work pay for parents. 

Arrangements are in place to ensure that no one loses out in the initial transition to the new Scheme. Families can continue to access their current targeted supports, remaining on their current payment, until the end of August 2020. In addition, my officials are undertaking further analysis to identify if any refinements are required to the NCS in order to ensure that it fully achieves its aim to deliver quality, accessible, affordable childcare for families in Ireland.  This analysis is currently informing some of the Department's priorities for the Estimates / Budget 2020 process.

The Department is also committed to a review of the Scheme 12 months after the first subsidy payments begin.

Childcare Services Regulation

Ceisteanna (198)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

198. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the names and locations of 37 childcare facilities that Tusla stated were on its critical list at its recent appearance at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37847/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

There are approximately 4,500 Tusla registered early learning and care and school-age childcare services operating in Ireland. Tusla has assured me that there is a high level of compliance with regulations across the country. This finding is also supported by education-focused inspections of the ECCE programme conducted by the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills and by visits from the Better Start Quality Development Service, which has visited over 3,000 services in the last few years.

At the Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting on 31st July 2019, Tusla stated that 37 services were then at “critical” stage in its enforcement process. It is important to stress that this status implies a high and intensive level of scrutiny by Tusla. It does not imply that children attending these services are at risk or should be removed from the services.

It is essential to note that where there is evidence of a serious risk to children, Tusla bring this to the attention of the social work services, in which instance parents are informed.

It is usual practice that the majority of services at “critical” level make the necessary improvements to the standards of care and are then de-escalated from this level of concern. The number of services at “critical” status is continually changing as some services come off the list and others come on to it. Of the 37 services highlighted at the Joint Oireachtas Committee, a significant number have already made the necessary improvements to the standards of care required and have been - or are to be - de-escalated.

It is not possible to provide names and locations of the services at "critical" level at any one time as sharing this information could prejudice future enforcement action and/or prosecution of any such services that do not demonstrate to Tusla that they are taking sufficient action to meet regulatory requirements, which would not be in the best interests of children and families. 

In respect of its regulatory and prosecutorial role in relation to early learning and care and school-age childcare services, Tusla acts as an independent legal entity with responsibility for supporting and promoting the development, welfare and protection of children. It would be inappropriate and acting beyond our powers for my Department to interfere with the functions of the statutory regulator.

Childcare Services Regulation

Ceisteanna (199)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

199. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the point at which parents are entitled to know that a childcare facility they are using has been failing to meet Tusla standards to such an extent that it has been placed on the critical list; her views on whether parents should be entitled to know that a childcare facility is being placed on this list as soon as this occurs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37848/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

There are approximately 4,500 Tusla registered early learning and care and school-age childcare services operating in Ireland. Tusla has assured me that there is a high level of compliance with regulations across the country. This finding is also supported by education-focused inspections of the ECCE programme conducted by the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills and by visits from the Better Start Quality Development Service, which has visited over 3,000 services in the last few years.

At the Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting on 31st July 2019, Tusla stated that 37 services were then at “critical” stage in its enforcement process. It is important to stress that this status implies a high and intensive level of scrutiny by Tusla. It does not imply that children attending these services are at risk or should be removed from the services.

It is essential to note that where there is evidence of a serious risk to children, Tusla bring this to the attention of the social work services, in which instance parents are informed.

It is usual practice that the majority of services at “critical” level make the necessary improvements to the standards of care and are then de-escalated from this level of concern. The number of services at “critical” status is continually changing as some services come off the list and others come on to it. Of the 37 services highlighted at the Joint Oireachtas Committee, a significant number have already made the necessary improvements to the standards of care required and have been - or are to be - de-escalated.

It is not possible to share information on the services at "critical" level at any one time as sharing this information could prejudice future enforcement action and/or prosecution of any such services that do not demonstrate to Tusla that they are taking sufficient action to meet regulatory requirements, which would not be in the best interests of children and families. 

As I stated recently, however, I am committed to exploring new powers for Tusla, including powers to inform parents as early as possible regarding ongoing investigation / proceedings, and powers to require services to display, in a prominent position, the service's registration status and any conditions attaching to the service. I am seeking to progress legislation in these areas as quickly as possible.

In the interim, I would continue to urge parents to check the Tusla website to ensure that their service is registered, to read published inspection reports and to note any conditions attached, and to talk to their service provider about any concerns they may have. If parents have any questions or concerns regarding an early learning and care service they may wish to contact their local City / County Childcare Committee, details of which can be found at: www.myccc.ie.

Early Childhood Care and Education Programmes

Ceisteanna (200)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

200. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the case of a person (details supplied) will be assessed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37889/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs does its best to ensure, in so far as possible, the equitable treatment of all children and families who apply for funding under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme.

However, in order to ensure objectivity and fairness, it is essential that clear and transparent rules exist for the scheme and that they are applied evenly. An essential component of the ECCE programme rules is an eligibility start date to ensure that the programme can be administered and budgeted for in a transparent and appropriate manner.

Since the introduction of the ECCE programme in 2010, age limits have been used to determine eligibility. The upper age limit was set for the ECCE programme in consultation with senior officials from the Early Years Education Policy Unit in the Department of Education and Skills and ensures that children transition into primary school with their peers.

From the details supplied by the Deputy the child in question would have been eligible to avail of the ECCE programme from January 2018 to June 2019. Due to the programme rules concerning the upper age limit, they will not be eligible to avail of ECCE for the 2019/2020 programme year (beginning in September 2019).

An overage exemption for the ECCE programme can be availed of in a case where a child has a special or additional need. Current policy requires that any request for an exemption from ECCE age eligibility must be supported by a letter from a relevant medical specialist (not a GP/PHN), specifically recommending an extra year of preschool for a child. This requirement is not intended to undermine the view of a parent or teacher in relation to a child's needs but, rather, to maintain a clear and standard basis for applying exemptions.

If the parents in this instance believe they may be eligible due to additional needs, they may apply in writing for an exemption from the ECCE age eligibility rules. In this regard, the application should be accompanied by a supporting letter from a relevant medical specialist.

 

Examples of the type of specialist/medical reports accepted are as follows:

- Speech & Language Therapist

- Occupational Therapist

- Senior Psychologist

- Physiotherapist

- Paediatrician/developmental

- Neurologist

- Psychiatrist

- Psychotherapist

- Cardiologist

- Oncologist

- Ophthalmologist

- Otolaryngologist (ENT specialist)

- Gastroenterologist.

This is not an exhaustive list; however it provides an example of what is accepted.

The application and supporting letter should be forwarded to the following address: 

ECCE Exemptions,

Department of Children and Youth Affairs,

Block, Block 1 Miesian Plaza,

50-58 Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2,

D02XW14.

Alternatively, applications or further queries can be emailed to:  EYQueries@dcya.gov.ie.