Capital Expenditure Programme

Ceisteanna (545)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

545. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the final agreed tender price, the date of the tender for the contract and the final overall amount actually paid and the date of the final payment in respect of each capital expenditure project completed since 1 January 2014 by his Department or an agency under the remit of his Department and which ended up costing €10 million or more in tabular form; the reason the final amount paid exceeded the final tender price; the details available in respect of projects in which construction is not complete to date or in which the final settlement account has not been agreed to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39932/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Information on tenders for the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport is published on the Government website and is available to be viewed at:- 

https://www.gov.ie/en/organisation-information/a7eabb-procurement-over-10-million/

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and funding in relation to public transport, the national roads programme and sports planning and development.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of public transport infrastructure, including procurement of same.

My Department allocates the national roads programme capital budget to Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to deliver the programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design and operation of individual national roads is a matter for TII, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Sport Ireland has statutory responsibility for the planning and development of the National Sports Campus.

Noting the responsibility of the NTA, TII and Sport Ireland in this matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the agencies for direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Public Transport

Ceisteanna (546)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

546. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the closure of a company (details supplied) in Ballymena, County Antrim, and the possible impact this will have on the supply of buses for public transport here. [39975/19]

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, including the procurement of the Public Service Obligation (PSO) bus fleet.

In light of the NTA's responsibilities on this matter, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NTA for a more detailed reply.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Childcare Services Funding

Ceisteanna (547)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

547. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the reason funding was not provided to a service (details supplied) in order to stop it from closing; if Pobal will now outline its plans to ensure the 21 staff members and 99 children that use the service can return to the facility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39406/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Manorhamilton Childcare Services (MCS) is a community not-for-profit childcare service in County Leitrim. It is not a State operated service. It is governed by its own Board. The service is currently experiencing significant financial difficulties.

Leitrim County Childcare Committee, funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, has been working intensively to support the service to resolve legacy issues since March of this year. My Department, through Pobal's Case Management service, has also provided a range of supports and advice to the service.

MCS's Board decided to close the service on Friday 20th September, despite the significant level of support that it had received. The Board indicated in their notification to parents that the closure was temporary, and that they would continue to seek a solution to the current situation.

A funding request to Pobal and the DCYA for the service was in process at the time of their closure. It is important to note however that the stream of funding under discussion at that time was not a direct financial support for the service, and would therefore not have addressed the primary issue currently impacting the setting; a critical cash-flow challenge.

Due to the importance of this service in ensuring sufficient childcare capacity in the area, officials in my Department are currently working closely with Pobal to fully explore all available options. The next step will be for Pobal to discuss a range of options with the service’s Board of Management, at a meeting which I understand is scheduled to take place today (1 October 2019). It is hoped that the Board can agree a range of reforms necessary to bring the service to a sustainable footing that will best serve the children and families of the area, and, in so doing, to enable appropriate access to further supports from Pobal/DCYA.

Childcare Services Provision

Ceisteanna (548)

John Brady

Ceist:

548. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to replace the public services card as a requirement for those applying for the national childcare scheme online from October 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39328/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The National Childcare Scheme has always been designed, such that, when it is fully up and running, applications will be accepted both online and by post.  A Public Services Card (PSC) and verified MyGovID account are required to apply online only. The online system will offer a user friendly and effective system for parents, whilst offering greater efficiency in the administration and costs associated with the operation of a Government scheme. A secure identity verification system is required for any such IT system and the Public Services Card and MyGovID offers such security in the safeguarding of applicants' information and the administration of public funding.

Following expert advice regarding the launch of the new Scheme, the online application process will be introduced first, followed shortly thereafter by the paper based application process. 

With regard to the report by the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) into the PSC, the Government and the Attorney General have carefully considered the findings of the report, including the legal basis for the use of the PSC by specified bodies or persons (such as the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs). The Government has agreed to challenge the findings of the report, as based on the legal advice received, it does not believe the DPC’s findings are correct in law. 

The advice of the Attorney General’s Office is that there is a strong legal basis for the continued public service wide use of the PSC. 

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs remains committed to delivering the National Childcare Scheme as planned and, in so doing, assisting thousands of families to access high quality and affordable early learning and care and school age childcare. Over 3.2 million of the population already have the card, many of whom it is believed are the parents of young children who may be interested in the subsidies available under the National Childcare Scheme. Those families already availing of current childcare schemes can remain on these until end of August 2020 and, as such, will not require the card.

Childcare Services Data

Ceisteanna (549)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

549. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children in crèche and childcare; the individual annual subsidy on average per child; the annual subsidy in the sector; the number of preschool children that are not in childcare that are being cared for by their parents; the level of financial supports they receive other than children’s allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39382/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The information is as follows:

Number of children in childcare:

CSO data suggests that there are 403,919 children under age 6 living in Ireland.

My Department collates figures on the total number of children in early learning and care and school age childcare who are availing of one of my Department's programmes, which include the  universally available programmes Community Childcare Subvention Universal (CCSU) and  Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE). The number of children registered on each Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) programme, along with the cost, for the 18/19 programme year was as follows:

Programme Call 2018/19

Approved Child Registrations

Total Paid to date €

CCSP 

35,514

105,118,527

CCSU 

33,780

included in CCSP figure above

CCSRT - Transition

432

included in CCSP figure above

CCSR - Resettlement

300

included in CCSP figure above

CCS

12,483

32,751,172

ASCC

228

432,440

CEC (AS)

686

872,797

CEC (PS)

670

1,700,025

CETS

1,929

5,803,419

ECCE

108,189

293,384,153

Total

194,211

440,062,534

 

 

 

ECCE PSP* Payments

 

9,439,029

CCS PSP   Payments

 

8,566,120

TEC PSP   Payments

 

609,828

Total PSP   Payments

 

18,614,976

 

 

 

 

 Total Paid to date €

458,677,510

*Programme Support Payment (PSP) recognises the additional time required of childcare providers to complete the administrative work associated with the DCYA funded early learning and care and school age childcare programmes.

Individual annual subsidy on average per child:

As a child's level of attendance and level of service on each targeted programme can vary greatly, an average annual subsidy would not be be a good indicator of actual subsidies payable. For example, Child A and B qualify under Band A of the Community Childcare Subvention Plus (CCSP) programme, if Child A attends childcare full time, their payment is €145. If child B attends childcare on a half-sessional basis, their payment is €22.50. Both children have the same eligibility, but due to different levels of attendance, their payments vary substantially and the levels of service/attendance can change throughout the programme year dependant on circumstances.

The capitation for ECCE varies between €69 and €80 per week per child approximately. This indicates an annual subsidy per child of between €2,622 and €3,040.

The CCSU is worth €1040 per annum to children under 3 in full time registered childcare and is paid on a pro-rata basis.

The annual subsidy in the sector

The total expenditure on subsidies, capitation or PSP for 2018/2019 programme year amounts to €458,677,510. Approx 4500 services availed of this investment.

The number of preschool children that are not in childcare:

Data from Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) reveals the main arrangements for early learning and care for pre-school children. See the following Table for details. While parental care is the main arrangement for 50% of 3 year olds and 63% of 5 year olds, 95% of this cohort also avail of the ECCE programme (3 hours per day, 5 days per week, 38 weeks of the year). There are also pre-school aged children enrolled on other early learning and care programmes on a sessional or part-time basis, but parental care remains the main arrangement for them.

Main ELC arrangements

9 month olds

3 year olds

5 year olds not in school

5 year olds in school

Parental care

62%

50%

63%

64%

Relative care

16%

12%

14%

16%

Childminder/nanny

12%

12%

14%

11%

Centre-based care

11%

27%

10%

9%

In regard to childminding services, whilst it is believed that there may be as many as 19,000 childminders in Ireland, very few are registered with Tusla and as such able to access to the main State funding schemes for early learning and care or school age childcare. Therefore, very few childminders have taken part in these programmes. The number of childminders currently offering DCYA programmes is set out in the following table:

No.

CCSP

19

TEC/CETS

2

ECCE

25

Total number of DCYA   registered childminders

81

The level of financial supports received other than children’s allowance:

Government is committed to supporting parents in caring for young children at home in a range of ways, other than the early learning and care and school age childcare supports referenced above.

My Department provides funding for parent and toddler groups to organise activities for parents and children in the community to support children's development through play. Both working parents and stay-at-home parents participate.  449 groups were supported in 2018. 

My Department is also developing a new model of parenting services covering key stages of child development and taking account of parents and children in a range of contexts and parenting relationships. 

More widely across Government, there are various initiatives that support stay-at-home parents. A child benefit payment of €140 per child per month is available for all children. Budget 2019 announced an increase to the home carer tax credit to €1,500 per year. 

There have also been a number of new measures to support parents to spend time at home with children in their early years. Two weeks of paternity leave and benefit for fathers was introduced in 2016. In 2017, there was an extension to maternity leave and benefit to mothers of babies born prematurely.  Budget 2019 announced the introduction of a new paid parental leave scheme which will be available to both fathers and mothers from later this year.

First 5, a Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families, published in November 2018, includes over 150 actions including a broad range of measures to support families given their fundamental importance in shaping children’s experiences and outcomes. The First 5 Implementation Plan, published in May, sets out how these actions, many of which will benefit stay-at-home parents, will be progressed in the coming three years.

Childcare Services Funding

Ceisteanna (550)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

550. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 227 and 228 of 19 September 2019, the number of registrations of children the total amount of overclaimed funding represents which was identified by Pobal as €3.2 million in CCS and €2.5 million in CCSP; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39419/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Deputy will be aware that the number of children accessing Government subsidies continues to increase and doubled in a four year period, partially driven by the fact that that investment in early learning and care and school age childcare has increased by an unprecedented 117% over the last four budgets, now totalling €575m per year. My Department has also provided capital funding every year to increase capacity in the sector.

The figures presented in the question were provided in response to Parliamentary Question No. 227 and 228 of 19 September 2019. Currently, data on the impact of compliance visits are not recorded at the level of individual children; instead, this information is recorded on a service level and contract level. It is therefore not possible to provide an answer to the Deputy’s question relating to the overclaims identified to children registered . However, two important factors are important to note.

Firstly, compliance visits should not result in children attending services and accessing subsidies being refused subsidies or services. The DCYA continues to pay services for children who are in attendance. In fact, the increased compliance may see the attendance of children increase. As stated earlier, twice as many children are being subsidised now as were subsidised 4-5 years ago. Twice as many childcare places exist, and the average childcare service has grown from 33 places in 2014 to 47 in 2019. I would also note that the new IT system built to support the National Childcare Scheme will facilitate a greater level of insight into changes in the sector and compliance outcomes.

The rules of the Department’s early learning and care and school age childcare programmes are very clear: subsidies are paid based on patterns of child attendance. That said, it should be emphasised that Pobal, when determining a pattern of attendance during a compliance visit, aim to apply the rules in a manner which maximises the subsidy available to the child. 

The attendance rules of the new National Childcare Scheme will seek to reflect the reality of children and parents' lives and the need for services to operate as businesses. The attendance rules will reflect a further degree of flexibility whilst honouring the requirement to ensure that Exchequer funding is used for the purposes it was intended.

My Department continues to work to support providers who deliver the early learning and care and school age childcare programmes. The increased investment in recent years should have assisted sustainability significantly. The €19.4m annual Programme Support Payment recognises the additional time required of providers to complete the administrative work associated with childcare programmes funded by the Department. Compliance visits are critical to protect the Exchequer and ensure that finite resources for children and families are used to support as many children as possible. Any service which experiences financial difficulty following a compliance visit is encouraged to access available supports through Pobal's Case Management service and through their local City/County Childcare Committee to address.

Community Care

Ceisteanna (551, 552, 553)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

551. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the provisions in place for community care homes in County Kilkenny facing a deficit in 2019. [39422/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

552. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if community care homes are part of Sláinte care. [39423/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

553. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to set up a national fund to help community care homes with the cost of improvements and upgrades as a result of HIQA visits. [39424/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 551 to 553, inclusive, together.

I can confirm to the Deputy that as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs responsibility for community care homes does not fall under my remit. These questions might be more appropriate to the Department of Health.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Ceisteanna (554)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

554. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of the implementation of the recommendations from the first report of the Collaborative Forum of Former Residents of Mother and Baby Homes published in April 2019 with particular reference to the progress made on those recommendations related to health and well-being supports. [39428/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

When Government approved the publication of the recommendations from the first report of the Collaborative Forum of former residents of Mother and Baby Homes on 16th April, it also agreed to progress a number of related measures.

Chief amongst these was a necessity for a comprehensive analysis of all of the Forum's recommendations. Individual Departments are required to analyse the policy, resource and legislative implications relevant to their respective Departments. This is a complex exercise given the scope and ambitious nature of many of the recommendations. Once this initial analysis and assessment is complete, my Department will further co-ordinate the responses received. It is my intention to review progress in this regard, and to convene an interdepartmental meeting with relevant Departments in the coming weeks. 

Regarding recommendations that fall within the remit of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA), work has already commenced on the detailed scoping necessary to implement a number of the Forum's recommendations including the proposed commemoration, memorialisation, research on language and terminology measures and considerations relevant to the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill, 2016.

Following the publication of the Collaborative Forum's recommendations, my colleague the Minister for Health convened a working group to develop specific proposals for a package of health and well-being supports. My officials are participating in this work and I understand that there have been six meetings to date, with a final meeting being held this week. This process is intended to facilitate considerations within the estimates process for Budget 2020.

Child and Family Agency

Ceisteanna (555)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

555. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to legal action being pursued by Tusla against a company (details supplied) based on the material gathered during a programme aired in July 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39466/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department has been informed about current investigations into serious allegations within the early learning and care settings in question. In relation to this case, Tusla has assured me that all appropriate investigations are being carried out in line with procedures, within the shortest possible timeframes, and that the Department will be kept informed of further developments on an ongoing basis.

 Given the risk of prejudicing legal proceedings, neither I nor Tusla, which is the independent statutory regulator of early years services, can provide any further detail in relation to an ongoing case. 

As the statutory regulator, Tusla exercises its regulatory powers to respond to continuous and serious breaches of regulations within its remit while respecting fair procedures and natural justice.

There are approximately 4,500 Tusla-registered early learning and care and school-age childcare services operating in Ireland. Tusla has given assurances that there is a high level of compliance with regulations across the country, as can be seen in the inspection reports Tusla publishes each year. Tusla carried out some 2,513 inspections in 2018.

Childcare Services Funding

Ceisteanna (556)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

556. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the level of funding paid to a company (details supplied) in Dublin in 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, and to each of its centres, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39468/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

There are four childcare services operating under the name referred to by the Deputy.

The level of funding paid from 2016 to date is outlined in the table below. Minus figures in the table represent funding which each location received but was subsequently paid back to Pobal.

The funding provided, other than approximately €12,000 for the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) and Capital, was to provide the free preschool programme (ECCE) to children and to reduce the costs of childcare to parents eligible for the CCS, CCSP and TEC programmes.

No funding has been paid to Location D to date.

Funding by Programme call from 2015/2016 to 2019/2020:

Programme Call

Location A

Location B

Location C

Location D

Total

AIM Level 7 2016-2017

3,120.00

3,120.00

CCS 2016-2017

13,420.00

36,234.00

49,654.00

CCSP 2017-2018

100,742.00

42,686.00

118,165.00

261,593.00

CCSP 2018-2019

72,702.00

10,976.00

81,493.00

-

165,171.00

CCSP 2019-2020 to date

3,488.00

1,536.00

5,024.00

CCSP 2016-2017

6,113.00

2,120.00

8,233.00

ECCE 2015-2016

-1,109.60

-1,168.00

-2,277.60

ECCE 2016-2017

55,637.70

58,084.20

58,037.10

171,759.00

ECCE 2017-2018

48,581.40

67,606.32

60,075.30

176,263.02

ECCE 2018-2019

39,653.64

72,314.76

57,201.69

169,170.09

ECCE 2019-2020 to date

3,980.40

7,341.60

11,322.00

Early Years Capital 2015 - Strand 4

500.00

500.00

487.24

1,487.24

NCS Capital 2019

1,000.00

1,000.00

1,000.00

3,000.00

School Aged Capital 2017 Strand C

4,459.00

4,459.00

TEC - (ASCC) 2015-2016

10,770.00

10,770.00

TEC - (ASCC) 2016-2017

10,494.00

10,494.00

TEC - (ASCC) 2017-2018

3,792.00

3,792.00

TEC - (CETS) 2015-2016

11,455.00

22,910.00

21,130.00

55,495.00

TEC - (CETS) 2016-2017

11,426.00

27,433.00

38,859.00

TEC - (CETS) 2017-2018

6,119.00

22,550.00

28,669.00

TEC - (CETS) 2018-2019

9,802.00

25,826.00

35,628.00

TEC - (CECAS) 2017-2018

2,268.00

2,268.00

TEC - (CECAS) 2018-2019

225.00

225.00

TEC - (CECPS) 2015-2016

4,800.00

4,800.00

TEC - (CECPS) 2016-2017

4,320.00

1,680.00

6,000.00

TEC - (CECPS) 2017-2018

1,776.00

4,416.00

6,192.00

TEC - (CECPS) 2018-2019

2,704.00

2,704.00

Grand Total

397,526.54

284,954.88

551,392.33

1,233,873.75

Child Abuse

Ceisteanna (557)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

557. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if there are persons accused of historical child sex abuse who have worked or volunteered for agencies that have received State funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39469/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Investigation of historical child sex abuse is a matter for An Garda Síochána which falls under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality. The recruitment and selection of volunteers and workers is also an operational matter for agencies.

Notwithstanding this, the Children First Act 2015 provides for a number of key child protection measures. In this context, the Act places a number of statutory obligations on organisations providing relevant services to children. These obligations apply to agencies under the aegis of my Department and include:

- keeping children safe from harm while they are availing of the service;

- carrying out a risk assessment; and,

- preparing a child safeguarding statement which sets out the policies and procedures which are in place to mitigate these risks.

The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 to 2016, which also fall under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality, provide a legislative basis for the mandatory vetting of persons who wish to undertake certain work or activities relating to children or vulnerable persons or to provide certain services to children or vulnerable persons.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Ceisteanna (558)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

558. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of early years services that Tusla has applied conditions to upon granting their registration or re-registration by county, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39470/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Tusla, the independent statutory regulator, are nearing the end of the first period of registration for those providers that were registered since the introduction of the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years) Regulations 2016. Services were initially registered via the statutory declaration process introduced in 2016. Registration cycles are prescribed by legislation for a period of three years. Three months prior to expiration, providers are required to renew their registration via application. Conditions apply to a cycle of registration and cannot automatically be carried over into a new registration cycle. It is incumbent upon the provider to comply with their conditions when applied so that they can be removed. Services will be assessed to determine compliance with conditions and it is policy to refer contravention of conditions to enforcement.

Conditions are attached to a services registration for various reasons. Such conditions are reviewed on an on-going basis and many have specific time frames attached as set out below:

- Where a provider has not addressed a noncompliance which impacts the safety of children

- Where there is a high level of noncompliance found on inspection

- To limit the number of children attending due to over crowding identified on inspection

- To limit the age profile as the facilities are not suitable

- To limit the type of service provided eg from full day care to sessional provision.

Tusla inspection reports and the register of early years services outline any conditions in place and this information is available on the Tusla website.

There are approximately 4,500 early years services registered with Tusla, all of which are inspected on a regular basis and in response to risks, including conditions attached. The information on number of services with conditions is not available on a county basis, but is provided below on the basis of the Inspectorate's eight regions, with information as of the end of August 2019.

Region/No. of Services with Conditions

Dublin South 88

Dublin North 113

Dublin & North East 120

Mid-Leinster 67

Mid-West 32

North West 35

South East 57

South West 83

Total 595

The conditions on all services are currently under review in preparation for the renewal of registrations, which will be completed by the end of this year. This process is likely to result in a decrease in the number of services with conditions attached.

Child and Family Agency

Ceisteanna (559)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

559. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the length of time Tusla has been working on a memorandum of understanding with An Garda Síochána; when it is due to be finalised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39471/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Officials in my Department are currently compiling the information as requested by the Deputy. 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.

Child and Family Agency

Ceisteanna (560)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

560. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if Tusla has developed an internal risk rating system for use by the early years inspectorate when assessing early years services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39472/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Tusla employs a risk rating system for all early years services which informs inspection scheduling and levels of oversight and scrutiny of a service.  All services are assigned a risk rating according to the criteria set out below.  

Critical: A service categorised as critical has been escalated to the National Registration and Enforcement Panel, either because of concerns about the level of non-compliance with regulations, or because an unregistered service has refused to close and Tusla is advancing to a prosecution of the service. 

High: A service categorised as high is under deliberation and management by the National Registration and Enforcement Panel and has not advanced to a commencement of removal or a prosecution. 

Medium: A service categorised as medium has conditions attached to registration which relate to non-compliance with the regulations. 

Low: A service is categorised as low where no significant concerns exist.  

A “critical” status on Tusla’s risk register 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. This is a requirement under the Children First Act.

Child and Family Agency

Ceisteanna (561)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

561. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of instances of unsolicited information having been received by Tusla that were rated as critical or high; the number of these triggered an inspection by county, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39473/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

All unsolicited information received by Tusla is risk rated as low, medium, high or critical.  The risk rating and other available information will determine the response.  In the case of high and critical ratings an immediate inspection may be triggered or other proportionate regulatory responses may occur.

It is not possible to provide the requested figures as to do so could result in the identification of specific services engaged in ongoing inspection and/or enforcement proceedings with Tusla.

It is important as the Independent statutory regulator for the Early Learning and Care sector that Tusla exercises its regulatory powers to respond to continuous and serious breaches of regulations within its remit while respecting fair procedures and natural justice.

Child and Family Agency Data

Ceisteanna (562)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

562. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number and location of hostels or emergency hostel-style accommodation approved by Tusla for the placement of children; the number, age and length of stay of children currently in such accommodation in tabular form; the number, age and length of stay of children in such accommodation in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; the reason for the placement of children in such accommodation; the procedures in place for ensuring the safety of children living in such accommodation; the educational and social supports available to children in such accommodation; her plans to provide funding for 24-hour services as part of such accommodation; her views on the appropriateness of such accommodation provision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39467/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I have been advised by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, that it does not provide hostel or hostel type accommodation for children in care. Emergency residential placements are provided by Tusla in Tusla run residential centres and in residential care run in the voluntary and p sector in line with the Child Care Act 1991. There is no definition of a hostel under the 1991 Child Care Act.

From time to time an emergency placement may be required for a young person already in care whose current placement is no longer sustainable or for a young person coming into the care of Tusla for the first time. These placements are either in registered private and voluntary children’s centres or in a Tusla run centre which is inspected by HIQA. In emergency situations where a placement is required Tusla's placement team, in conjunction with the child’s social worker, review all available options including emergency short term foster placement or an emergency residential centre such as Lefroy House in Dublin. These placements are short term, and based on a plan to a return to a previous care setting or to a new placement in an alternative setting. I have asked Tusla to provide information directly to the Deputy on the number of children cared for in Lefroy House for the years requested and their funding arrangements with this centre.

Children in care should have a Care Plan that covers all aspects of their care, including educational and social support. Each centre will then in turn have a placement plan to work towards meeting the needs as identified and detailed on the child’s individual care plan.

Domestic Violence Refuges Provision

Ceisteanna (563)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

563. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of adults and children in Tusla-funded domestic violence refuges in 2017. [39477/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency provides funding and coordination supports to some 59 organisations that deliver a range of services for victims of domestic, sexual and gender based violence throughout the country.

I have requested Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy with regard to the specific information required in relation to number of adults and children in Tusla funded domestic violence refuges in 2017.

Childcare Services Provision

Ceisteanna (564)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

564. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the efforts made since 2016 and which continue to be made to make childcare more affordable to employed parents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39478/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

In recent years, I have secured significant additional investment aimed at delivering more accessible, affordable, high quality, early learning and care and school age childcare.

In September 2017, I introduced an increase in the existing childcare supports available for parents on lower incomes.  These increases were substantial, with targeted subsidy rates increasing by up to 50%.  Parents who qualify for these subsidies can now avail of up to €145 towards their childcare costs per child per week.  I also introduced a universal subsidy for children up to three years of age, worth up to €1040 per year.

These measures were introduced as a means of fast-tracking some of the benefits of the National Childcare Scheme which is due to be introduced later this year.

I have also ensured the expansion of the ECCE programme so that children are now eligible for a full two years of the programme from the time they turn 2 years and 8 months. Whilst primarily an early education initiative, the ECCE scheme is estimated to save parents using early learning and care services approximately €5000 per child, over the course of the two years. 

A range of measures I have taken have increased capacity in the sector. These include annual capital grants to increase the number of early learning and care and school age childcare places. The numbers of places has doubled since 2014.  A number of other initiatives have seen investment in services to assist them in covering their overhead costs and not having to pass these on to parents. For example, a 7% increase in the ECCE capitation in September 2017, and €19.4m in Programme Support Payments annually to service owners to acknowledge the administrative workload associated with Government schemes.

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. 

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 qualifying income thresholds were substantially 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.

Over the last four budgets, investment in childcare has risen by nearly 117%.  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.  As such, the Scheme is fundamental to delivering quality, accessible, affordable childcare to families throughout Ireland. The National Childcare Scheme, alongside ECCE, and a host of other initiatives underway will make high quality services more accessible and more affordable for parents in Ireland.