Childcare Services

Ceisteanna (573)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

573. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the quality supports provided to a crèche (details supplied); and if quality supports were provided, the impact the results of the Better Start and the preschool inspectorate reports provided in terms of assessment. [47127/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

A number of quality supports have been provided to the service in question, including by Better Start. While both inspectorates of preschool services have inspected the service, their inspection reports are not intended to provide an assessment of the quality supports provided.

In relation to the service in question, the Better Start Quality Development Service assigned an Early Years Specialist to work with the service from November 2015 to September 2016. The Early Years Specialist visited the service on 13 occasions during this time and made recommendations to the service on ways to improve quality.

In addition, Dublin City Childcare Committee has over a period of years delivered a range of quality supports to services in the area. These supports have included child protection training, equality and diversity training, and introductory training in the Aistear curriculum framework.

Both inspectorates have inspected the service in question. Reports have been published on inspections carried out in 2017 and 2016 respectively by the Tusla Early Years Inspectorate and the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills. The published Tusla inspection report noted a number of areas of non-compliance with Regulations and specified corrective and preventive actions to address non-compliance. The published report also notes where corrective and preventive actions taken were deemed to be satisfactory or if the non-compliance remained outstanding.

Childcare Costs

Ceisteanna (574)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

574. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the average amount the average household spends on childcare each year. [47207/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

According to data from Growing Up in Ireland, parental care is the main childcare arrangement used for children of all ages and there is a diverse landscape of provision for non-parental childcare.

A key form of Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) is centre-based provision, operated by private (for profit) and community (not-for-profit) organisations. In 2018/19, private, for profit provision accounted for 74% (3,397) of all services contracted to provide at least one of the DCYA funded programmes, with community providers accounting for the remaining 26% (1,201). It is estimated that there were 206,301 children attending ELC and SAC services during 2018/19. Over the entire programme year, nine in every ten enrolled children (185,971) participated in at least one of the DCYA funded programmes (ECCE, CCS (including CCSP and CCSU) or TEC) (181,329 between September 2018 and June 2019). Those who were not eligible for schemes were largely school-age children.

Informal arrangements for ELC and SAC are also common, including childminders. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs' Draft Childminding Action Plan estimates approximately 19,400 childminders, though the figure may be far lower.

Arriving at an average household figure depends on agreeing a set of assumptions, and therefore should be interpreted with some degree of caution. The OECD’s international comparative dataset includes an indicator measuring the net costs paid by parents for full-time, centre-based provision, after any benefits designed to reduce the gross ELC and SAC fees.

According to the data, families with two children aged 2 and 3, with parents aged 40, who are in full time work, earning the average wage, paid 22% of their net household income on ELC in 2018, down from 25% in 2015. The calculated value is €13,056 in 2018, down from €13,466 in 2015. Budgets 2019 and 2020, which saw a combined extra €130m approximately added to the ELC and SAC budget, are not reflected in this calculation.

At a national level, Pobal’s Annual Sector Profile 2018/ 2019 provides a range of service data. The average weekly fee for full day ELC/SAC is €184.36 before any Government subsidy is deducted. The average weekly fee for part-time ELC/SAC is €109.98, again before any Government subsidy is deducted. As in previous years, average fees are higher in urban areas than in rural areas (€191.33 and €165.76 respectively for full day care per week) and in private services than in community services (€190.74 and €168.12 respectively for full day care per week). The average weekly full day fees in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown are 66% higher than the lowest recorded for Leitrim (€148.33). The part-time fees are 60% higher in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown than in Monaghan, where these are the lowest, at €83.19.

The two year ECCE programme is currently considered to save parents approximately €5000 on their ELC costs. The new National Childcare Scheme being launched on November 20th marks a radical new departure for ELC and SAC in Ireland, creating an infrastructure from which universal and targeted funding can be provided to children and families. There has been a 138% increase in investment in ELC and SAC over the last 5 budgets and First 5, the Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families, published in 2018 committed to doubling funding again over the next 10 years. This should see the average household spend reducing significantly.

Childcare Services Expenditure

Ceisteanna (575)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

575. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount spent each year on subsidies for private childcare services. [47208/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

There are approximately 4500 early learning and care and school age childcare services registered with Tusla, the Early Years Regulator. The vast majority of these are contracted to provide various government schemes which offer subsidies. or free early learning and care, to children. All these services are private, however approximately 25% are not for profit.

In 2018, DCYA provided a total of €410,542,000 in subsidies or capitation payments to these services. This is broken down as €275,626,000 for ECCE and €134,916,000 for targeted.

The final figures for 2019 will be available in Quarter 1 of next year. However, as of the end of October 2019, my Department has provided a total of €398,202,000 in subsidies to early learning and care and school age childcare services. This is broken down as €264,900,000 for ECCE and €133,302,000 for targeted.

Childcare Services Staff

Ceisteanna (576)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

576. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the estimated number of additional childcare staff that would be required to meet existing demand for childcare services. [47209/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Based on extrapolated figures in the Pobal Sector Profile Report for 2017/2018, there were 29,555 staff working in the Early Learning and Care sector. Of these, 25,893 work directly with children which represents an increase of 2,006 staff or 8% on the previous year. This increase matches the number of children enrolled in childcare which increased by 9% from 186,190 in 2016/2017 to 202,633 in 2017/2018.

Services are required to operate within regulatory minimum adult-child ratios. While I understand that some providers may be experiencing difficulties in recruiting staff, the figures do not suggest a shortage of suitably qualified staff. However, there may be difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff due to low wages and poor working conditions. I have implemented a number of initiatives to attempt to address these issues.

In Pobal’s latest Early Years Sector Profile Report (2017/2018), the staff turnover rate stood at 24.7% which while still too high, represents a 3% improvement on the previous year. However, data from previous years suggests that half of those contained in the 24.7% figure have left the sector, with the other half joining other services.

The basic qualification requirement to work in the sector is a qualification in early childhood care and education at Level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications. When this requirement was introduced, unqualified staff who planned to retire in the coming years were given the opportunity to sign a 'grandfather' declaration. These declarations remain valid until September 2021. Those who wished to upskill to meet these minimum regulatory requirements were able to access a Learner Fund which provided financial support.

A Level 6 qualification is only a requirement for room leaders delivering the ECCE programme. The Pobal 2017/18 survey indicated that 65% of those working in the sector in mid-2018 then had a relevant qualification at Level 6 or above, indicating that there were enough staff qualified at this level to meet requirements. However, I acknowledge the challenge many providers are reporting in retaining staff and recruiting new staff.

The most recent data on pay and conditions indicates that the average hourly pay in early learning and care and school-age childcare is now €12.55 (as of May 2019), which represents a 3% increase on last year. 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. 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 and delivering better outcomes for children and families.

Budget 2020 saw a 9% increase in investment in early learning and care and school age childcare. Additional investment of €54.5m will bring spending to €628m in 2020, a 138% increase in investment over five budgets. Specifically, I secured increased funding for the Sustainability and Sectoral Employment Order Support Fund for the sector. This will see funding to support sustainability rising from €1.7m to €2.2m per annum.

Recent initiatives which may improve the recruitment issues include the drafting of a Workforce Development Plan which will aim to raise the profile of careers in the sector and to ensure sufficient numbers of staff at all levels within the sector over the decade ahead, and the appointment of an expert group to examine the current model of funding for early learning and care and school-age childcare and its effectiveness in delivering quality, affordable, sustainable and inclusive services.

Other recent measures I have taken to assist employers in improving the attractiveness of working in the ELC sector include: a 7% increase in ECCE capitation in 2018; higher capitation payments for graduates and Inclusion Coordinators; support for school-age childcare which will make it easier to offer full-time, full-year employment contracts; and a pilot measure to fund participation in CPD.

Childcare Services Data

Ceisteanna (577)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

577. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the estimated amount it would cost to establish a national childcare service with all childcare provided free at the point of use, including the hiring of new staff to meet existing demand. [47210/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I am not, currently, in a position to provide the cost of a free national childcare service. This is because there are a significant number of variables which, if costed for, could result in an extremely wide costing range.

Work has begun in my Department on a review of the future funding model for Early Learning and School Age Childcare, in accordance with the commitment made in First 5, the whole-of-government strategy for babies, young children and their families which was published in November 2018.

An Expert Group has been established to examine the current model of funding, its effectiveness in delivering quality, affordable, sustainable and inclusive services and how additional resourcing can be delivered for the sector to achieve these objectives, drawing on international practice in this area.

The Terms of Reference for the Expert Group are as follows:

- agree a set of principles to underpin the new Funding Model in consultation and engagement with key stakeholders as required

- review the existing approach to funding Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare services by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in terms of its alignment with the agreed principles, as well as effectiveness in delivering on the policy objectives of quality, affordability, accessibility, and contributing to addressing disadvantage

- drawing on international evidence, identify and consider options on how additional funding for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare can be structured to deliver on the agreed principles and above policy objectives

- agree a final report including a proposed design for a new Funding Model, with accompanying costings, risk analysis and mitigation and a phased implementation plan (with funding likely to become available on an incremental basis) to recommend to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and ultimately Government

Childcare Services Provision

Ceisteanna (578)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

578. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the average amount spent each year to assist low income persons in securing childcare services. [47211/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I am committed to ensuring that all children and families, and in particular those from low income backgrounds, can access high quality early learning and care and school age childcare services.

My Department currently operates a number of targeted schemes to support parents and guardians to secure such services. The majority of these schemes are targeted at low income families. Other schemes are not specifically targeted at low income families, but may be used by them, such as ECCE, which provides two years of free preschool to all children (some €293m was expended on ECCE in 2018/19; which allowed 108,200 children avail of this scheme).

In 2018/19, approximately €128m was expended on schemes targeted at children from low income households (CCS, CCSP, CCSR, CCST, CETS, CEC and ASCC). Approximately 52,000 children availed of these targeted programmes.

The amount spent on childcare has increased by 138% over the last 5 budgets rising from a total budget of €264.5m in 2015 to €628.1m in 2020. Inclusive of subsidies, development and administrative supports, I have secured a 2020 allocation of over €200m for delivery of the new National Childcare Scheme, which will be available to lower income and lower middle income families. I am delighted to say that this new scheme is going live for online applications on November 20th.

In addition to free ECCE places and subsidised early learning and care and school age child care places, my Department also funds other initiatives each year to increase the number of places in the sector, for example the annual capital grant scheme. This has assisted in doubling the number of places in the sector over a 5 year period.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Ceisteanna (579)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

579. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of the provision of the second year of free play schooling for a child (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47377/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Overage exemptions were introduced at the onset of the ECCE programme in 2010. At that time ECCE operated for a 38 week period, or one programme year. For some children with special/additional needs, attending preschool five days a week was not feasible and they were permitted to split their ECCE entitlement over two years, e.g. a child may have availed of three days a week ECCE provision in year one and two days a week in year two. In the cases where the child would have been overage for ECCE in the latter year, an overage exemption was granted.

It is important to note that this provision of an overage exemption by my Department for the ECCE programme was never intended as a mechanism to delay a child’s entry to primary education or to address any issue of non-availability of a school place. In the past, the operation of the system of overage exemption has caused confusion where some parents and providers have incorrectly believed that an overage exemption approval from the DCYA represented a derogation from age requirements attaching to the statutory requirement that a child attend primary school before the age of 6 years.

The overage exemption process has recently been the subject of a consultation process and a report was produced by the National Disability Authority (NDA). Officials from my Department are now considering policy options following on from this report. The new policy will consider the future of the system of exemptions and how best to support parents and children in the important transition from preschool to primary school.

With regard to the specific case raised by the Deputy, the information received to process the ECCE overage exemption application is incomplete. Officials from my Department have contacted the relevant parties to assist them in completing their application.

Childcare Services

Ceisteanna (580)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

580. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the closure of a childcare facility (detail supplied) in County Cork; and if measures will be taken to prevent the closure. [47405/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Na Páistí Beaga – Magnet Community Group CLG is a community not-for-profit childcare service in County Cork. My Department has been informed that the service intends to close on 31st December 2019. I am acutely aware of the difficulties this future closure may impose on the families and children who attend the facility, as well as the staff who work there.

My Department does not own or operate childcare services; instead it provides funding to subsidise the cost of childcare to parents through a number of schemes. As such, Magnet Community Group is a private organisation and this decision to close the service remains within the remit of its Board.

Both Pobal and Cork City Childcare Committee (CCC) are working on my Department’s behalf with Magnet Community Group CLG; and with parents, the local community, and service providers to find a viable solution which will enable families to access quality childcare following this closure.

If an alternative service provider intends to provide services in this community served by Na Páistí Beaga, they will be eligible to apply for the Early Learning and Care and School Aged Care programmes, once they have met requirements including registering with the Early Years Inspectorate of Tusla.

Parents who are concerned that they may be affected by this closure should contact Cork City Childcare Committee. Cork CCC may be able to assist them in locating alternative childcare places.

Departmental Bodies Reports

Ceisteanna (581)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

581. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when the latest progress report from an organisation (details supplied) which was due on 30 October 2019 will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47480/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The latest progress report for the organisation was published on their website on Friday the 8th November 2019. It can be accessed at:

https://www.scouts.ie/Scouter/Board%20Communications/Scouting-Ireland-Progress-Report-Full-DCYA-October-2019.pdf

I acknowledge the progress achieved by the organisation in the implementation of numerous important recommendations, particularly with regard to safeguarding issues. I have extended funding to the organisation for a further four-month period, up until the end of April 2020. I plan to meet with Representatives of the organisation again in March 2020 following the completion of the Report by Mr. Ian Elliot. At this time I will consider if the organisation has achieved the strong governance standards required of organisations in receipt of public funding, which would allow for the restoration of ongoing funding.

Child and Family Agency Data

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Ceisteanna (582)

James Browne

Ceist:

582. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children cared for by Tusla, fostered arrangements and-or residential units that received care in unapproved mental health settings following inpatient treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47605/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

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

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Childcare Services

Ceisteanna (583)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

583. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the measures she will take to ensure that the level of remuneration received by childcare practitioners in crèches reflects the level of responsibility they hold as carers and educators; the further steps she can take to make careers in the field of childcare increasingly attractive to new and existing practitioners; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47634/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Low pay and poor working conditions in the sector remain a serious concern and impact on the quality of provision to children through their effect on the recruitment and retention of qualified staff. The lack of consistency of care caused by high staff turnover impacts directly on quality, while low wages are a constraint on plans to upskill and professionalise the workforce. The most recent data on pay and conditions indicates that the average hourly pay in early learning and care and school-age childcare is now €12.55 (as of May 2019), which represents a 3% increase on last year.

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. 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 and delivering better outcomes for children and families.

Budget 2020 saw a 9% increase in investment in early learning and care and school age childcare. Additional investment of €54.5m will bring spending to €628m in 2020, a 138% increase in investment over five budgets. The very welcome level of investment needs to continue if we are to offer services that are of high quality, affordable and accessible. However, increased investment by itself will not ensure that staff wages and conditions will improve.

My Department has set out its vision for the sector, and a roadmap to achieve it, in First 5 the whole-of-Government strategy for babies, young children and their families. First 5 recognises that the workforce is at the heart of high-quality early learning and care and school-age childcare and seeks to build ‘an appropriately skilled and sustainable professional workforce that is supported and valued and reflects the diversity of babies, young children and their families’.

In particular, First 5 commits to a Workforce Development Plan to raise the profile of careers in the sector and to ensure sufficient numbers of staff at all levels within the sector. The Workforce Development Plan, work on which began recently, will set out plans to raise the profile of careers in the sector, establishing role profiles, career pathways, qualifications requirements, and associated policy mechanisms along with leadership development opportunities and work towards a more gender-balanced and diverse workforce.

Preparation of the Workforce Development Plan will involve close collaboration between the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Education and Skills, and an extensive consultation process. To help ensure a strong consultation process, a Stakeholder Group comprising representatives from across the sector has been formed and will work alongside the Steering Group.

Delivering on a further commitment in First 5, I have also recently appointed an expert group to examine the current model of funding for early learning and care and school-age childcare and its effectiveness in delivering quality, affordable, sustainable and inclusive services. The Expert Group is independently chaired and includes national and international experts in early learning and care systems, funding and quality, economics, and policy experts from a number of Government Departments.

In Budget 2020, I secured increased funding for the Sustainability and Sectoral Employment Order Support Fund for the sector. This will see funding to support sustainability rising from €1.7m to €2.2m per annum. The fund will assist high quality services which are experiencing financial difficulties to transition themselves to a sustainable footing, and will also assist with needs arising in the event that the Labour Court introduces a Sectoral Employment Order, which I have repeatedly called for the sector to pursue. My Department will readily co-operate with such a process when it is under way.

Other recent measures I have taken to assist employers to improve the pay and conditions of their staff whilst also addressing administrative demands include: a 7% increase in ECCE capitation in 2018; higher capitation payments for graduates and Inclusion Coordinators; support for school-age childcare which will make it easier to offer full-time, full-year employment contracts; and a pilot measure to fund participation in CPD.

Childcare Services Inspections

Ceisteanna (584)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

584. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that three of the four crèches (details supplied) are at the highest level and final stages of enforcement which includes proposals to remove and prosecute; the plans in place to facilitate families discommoded if the crèches are closed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47853/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Tusla Early Years Inspectorate provides regular updates to my Department in relation to services that are being removed from the Register of early years services or are being prosecuted, and in relation to the ongoing work of Tusla's National Registration and Enforcement Panel.

It is not possible for me to comment on individual services that may be subject to regulatory or prosecutorial enforcement actions as this may limit or prejudice the legal processes involved, which would not be in the best interest of children and families.

Thirty City/County Childcare Committees across the country are available to support parents and providers with issues relating to early learning and care and school age childcare. In the area in question, Dublin City Childcare Committee is available to support parents who may need assistance with sourcing alternative service provision – whether because a service is closed or simply because they wish to seek an alternative – and the City Childcare Committee has been working with local providers to ascertain availability of places, and with new services in the area who intend to create additional places both in the short and longer term. Dublin City Childcare Committee can be contacted as follows: phone - (01) 873 3696 or email - info@dccc.ie

City and County Child Care Committees

Ceisteanna (585)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

585. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the plans being developed by her for cases in which a crèche has had its registration removed and parents have no other childcare options; the way in which she plans to facilitate the discommoded families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47854/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department funds 30 City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs) across the country. Part of their role is to advise my Department on capacity issues and to assist families in securing childcare places, including when a service closes unexpectedly. I would encourage anyone having difficulty in securing a place to make contact with their local CCC immediately. Contact details for all of the CCCs, in addition to other information about the services they provide, may be found on www.myccc.ie

In 2019 I secured €8.86m in capital funding for childcare with the ultimate aim of benefiting parents and children through improving our childcare infrastructure and capacity. A particular focus was to expand service provision for children under three years of age. I made €3.7m available for this age group which will lead to the creation of more than 1,300 additional places before the year end.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (586, 587)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

586. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the powers Tusla has sought to strengthen the early years inspectorate; when such powers will be introduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47855/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

587. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she is considering the introduction of a compulsory requirement to compel early years providers to display their certificate of registration; if such a requirement can be introduced by way of a Ministerial order; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47856/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 586 and 587 together.

Tusla’s Early Years Inspectorate was given substantial new powers just three years ago. These include the powers to:

- Maintain a register of early years services;

- Place conditions on that registration, refuse to register a service, or remove a service from the register where that service is not operating in accordance with the Regulations;

- Prosecute a service that has not complied with a condition of registration;

- Prosecute a person or persons who are operating an unregistered service; and

- Re-examine the registration status of every service on at least a three-yearly cycle.

Following the RTÉ Investigates broadcast Behind Closed Doors on 24th July 2019, I wrote to the Chairperson of Tusla to ask what additional powers Tusla’s Early Years Inspectorate might need in order to address concerns it may have about provision within years services. The Chairperson of Tusla wrote back to me in August, setting out a range of additional powers that might be provided to Tusla, which included:

- Power to close a service immediately where it has failed to register (rather than having to go to Court to seek a prosecution);

- The ability to request and acquire parents’ contact details, in order to inform parents as early as possible regarding ongoing investigation/proceedings;

- Power to require services to display in a prominent position their registration status, and any conditions attaching to the registration;

- Power to immediately close a service (already registered) where Tusla has evidence of very serious breach of regulations;

- A requirement to have a ‘fit person’ regulation related to the registered provider and person in charge;

- Provision when a service is to be removed from the register for a process to allow for continuation of the service under interim management where appropriate; and

- Adding Tusla to the list of services under protected disclosures legislation in order to enable staff working in early years services to make disclosures to Tusla.

While it may be possible to give effect to some of these powers through Ministerial Order, some will require amendments to primary legislation, and careful consideration is needed of each to ensure that any measures taken are robust and legally sound. I have asked my officials to move as quickly as possible, but I recognise that there are complex legal issues involved which will take time to address.

Departmental Schemes

Ceisteanna (588)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

588. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the budget for the community facilities scheme in each of the years 2017 to 2019, in tabular form; the budget allocation for same in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47303/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Communities Facilities Scheme (CFS) which operated in 2017 was replaced in 2018 by the Community Enhancement Programme (CEP).

The CEP replaces and builds on the CFS and the re-cast RAPID programme which operated in 2017. It was put in place following a review of those two schemes, and consideration of a Value-for-Money review of the original RAPID programme that closed to new applications in 2011.

Combining these schemes makes for a more flexible, streamlined and targeted approach to providing funding to those communities most in need, while reducing the level of administration involved.

I have provided details below on the allocations for both the CFS and the CEP for the years 2017 to 2019. Funding for the 2020 CEP will be finalised through the Revised Estimates process later this year.

2017 Initial Allocation

2017 Additional Allocation

2017 Out-turn

2018 Initial Allocation

2018 Additional Allocation

2018 Out-turn

2019 Initial Allocation

2019 Additional Allocation

2019 Out-turn

CFS

€2m

€0m

€2m

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

CEP

n/a

n/a

n/a

€4.5m

€8.5m

€13m

€4.5m

€0.5m

€5m

The 2018 and 2019 allocations for the CEP include €0.5m that was ring-fenced each year for Men's and Women's Sheds. In each of the years 2018 and 2019, the original allocation was increased during the year, to bring the total allocation in those years to €13m and €5m respectively.

CLÁR Programme

Ceisteanna (589)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

589. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development further to Parliamentary Question No.1021 of 5 November 2019, if a school board of management will be allowed to apply for CLÁR funding (details supplied); his views on whether this stipulation should be removed. [47435/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

As advised in my previous response to the Deputy, CLÁR funding has been provided for a range of measures, including for the enhancement or development of Play Areas and Multi-Use Games Areas (MUGAs). Eligible applicants under this measure include both schools and communities.

The conditions attached to the CLÁR programme require that such facilities should be available for wider community use. In the case of schools, I appreciate that the use of play areas and MUGAs by the general community may need to be restricted to times outside of normal school hours.

However, many schools in CLÁR areas are willing to make their playground facilities available for community use and have received support under the programme on this basis.

I envisage that a further call for proposals under CLÁR will be announced in 2020. Details of the measures to be included in the programme next year will be announced when the call is launched. My Department will be available to provide any necessary clarifications for intending applicants at that time.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (590)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

590. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if a company (details supplied) is eligible to apply for the tender for broadband connection points. [47559/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Government has today signed the contract for the delivery of the National Broadband Plan in areas of the country where it is not viable to deploy high-speed broadband on a purely commercial basis.

The delivery of the National Broadband Plan will be a game-changer for rural Ireland. Access to high-speed broadband will have a powerful, transformative effect on the lives of people and communities in rural areas and will provide businesses with opportunities to create new jobs and to access new markets.

Over the next year, high-speed broadband will be provided at more than 300 Broadband Connection Points in remote and rural areas across the country. These community settings such as GAA clubs, community centres and public libraries will provide a free broadband service to people living in rural areas while they await the arrival of a high-speed connection to their own premises.

The provision of retail connectivity and services will be sourced through the normal public procurement process and will be announced via eTenders in due course.

Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme

Ceisteanna (591)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

591. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when a decision will be made on an application for funding for Kanturk town park regeneration under the outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme 2019 measure 2; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47581/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

The Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme provides funding to develop new outdoor recreational infrastructure and to maintain, enhance and promote existing infrastructure.

I launched the 2019 Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme on the 29th March last and applications were invited under three separate measures, based on the scale of the projects. The closing date for applications was the 31st of May.

I can confirm that an application has been received for Kanturk Town Park Regeneration under the scheme. My officials are currently assessing all of the 260 applications which were received and I will make an announcement in relation to successful applications after the completion of the assessment process.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

Ceisteanna (592)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

592. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the scoring sheet for an organisation (details supplied) which applied to the town and village renewal scheme 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47620/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

There was a strong level of interest in the 2019 Town and Village Renewal scheme and 309 applications in total were received for available funding of €15 million.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to support all of the applicants within the budget available. The selection of projects was by means of a competitive process and on 31st October 2019 I announced details of the 156 projects approved for funding under the 2019 Scheme.

While the application referred to by the Deputy achieved the minimum scoring standard, it did not score high enough, relative to the other applications, to receive funding.

The Town and Village Renewal Scheme assessment sheets and scoring for individual projects are not published by my Department. However my officials are available to provide feedback on individual projects to the Deputy, to Donegal Co. Council, or any other Local Authority, if required.

My Department can be contacted by e-mail in the first instance at townandvillage@drcd.gov.ie.