Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Ceisteanna (50)

Kathleen Funchion


50. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to explain the reason there has been no additional provision in budget 2020 for a refuge (details supplied) to receive funding for play therapy and counselling for children and women who avail of its services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51703/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (9 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Children)

My question relates to the Amber Kilkenny Women's Refuge, which serves Carlow and Kilkenny. Why has no additional funding been granted for the coming year, especially for play therapy and counselling services for women and children? I call on the Minister to comment on that.

I am conscious of the Deputy's support for this important facility and I was pleased to have been able to visit it at her invitation last year. The Deputy will be aware that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, supports Amber in Kilkenny as part of its role to provide care and protection for victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

Tusla has informed me that Amber has received €506,468 in funding in 2019. I understand Tusla is currently engaging with Amber on funding for 2020. Details of funding and required service provision will be agreed in a service level agreement.

A sum of €25.3 million in funding is being allocated to Tusla for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, DSGBV, services in 2020. Following budget 2020, I issued Tusla with its performance statement for 2020 in line with the Child and Family Agency Act 2013. In response to the performance statement Tusla will prepare a business plan for 2020. The precise level of funding to be allocated to individual DSGBV services will be considered by Tusla in preparing its business plan. The plan will be submitted to me shortly.

In 2019, I provided Tusla with an additional €1.5 million to provide additional targeted supports for domestic and sexual violence services. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that good progress has been made in the roll-out of these additional resources by service providers. I highly value the work of individuals providing services to victims of domestic violence, including those in Amber.

Deputy, you have one minute for a supplementary question.

Is it two minutes or one minute?

You have one minute initially and then you will get another minute.

I appreciate the fact the Minister visited the service in January 2017. It was very much appreciated that the Minister took the time to go down and see the service. The service covers a vast area and includes the whole of Carlow and Kilkenny. In fact, there is an argument that Carlow should have its own women's refuge. Currently, it does not, but for various reasons, including family reasons, women in Carlow should be able to stay in Carlow.

The question is specifically on the counselling budget. To date, Amber has been running a fantastic service. I cannot say enough good things about the service being run. Women do not come from a domestic violence situation and wake up the next morning for everything to be okay again. They have to go through a process and counselling is a key part of it. Obviously, children who have been affected by or who have lived in a domestic abuse situation need counselling, which is often in the form of play therapy. Currently, that is coming from a charitable organisation and there is no ring-fenced funding. I know the organisation gets funding from Tusla, but there is no ring-fenced funding for counselling.

Deputy Funchion has identified a particular need within Carlow-Kilkenny. One of the precise recommendations that I made to Tusla, which is being taken up, was for the hiring of additional outreach support workers by refuges throughout the country. I made the recommendation because I met domestic, sexual and gender-based violence service representatives from throughout the country, especially those working outside the main urban settings.

I asked whether they would recommend that the women go to their service or the service go to the women and they suggested outreach workers. Carlow-Kilkenny has already hired an additional one out of the 12 for whom I have provided funding. I understand the hiring of a second outreach worker is in process. It is important to state there are additional resources in that regard. I will come back to the final question at the end.

I was speaking to them today. That second outreach worker was finalised only yesterday or today. It is good. I welcome it. That is to service Carlow. Obviously, there are many people who must travel, as well as school issues, and it is not an ideal situation.

Part of the reason for the question is that services dealing with domestic violence are often asked to undertake a needs analysis. They spend a considerable amount of time, take it very seriously but then are still waiting on an answer or for those additional resources two years later. In fairness, there was one granted either yesterday or today. It is coincidental but is good news.

I specifically emphasise counselling and play therapy because these are so valuable. One cannot flee a domestic violence situation. One will keep returning to it, unless one has the proper supports, and counselling is key to that. At present, a voluntary charity is providing the counselling for them. If that runs out, which it will at the end of this year, it will put the whole counselling budget in jeopardy, although that is such a vital part of the work that they do.

I will make two points on the specific issue of counselling and I thank the Deputy for raising it. She has put it on the record and Tusla will be aware of that. I hope and anticipate that counselling forms part of its negotiations, especially for 2020, to see whether there is any more scope for support for that particular aspect. My information, however, is that it has not raised the issue of counselling and additional resources for counselling on an ongoing basis. That is merely my information but I certainly hear the Deputy raising it.

Second, in respect of the children, one way we spent the additional funding in 2019 was that Tusla began to roll out what is called the TLC Kidz programme, which is a healing programme for children, in a number of Tusla areas for children who witness domestic violence. Facilitator training to support the roll-out was delivered in March and September of 2019. There were very high levels of interest and participation. I understand provision of that is coming to Kilkenny in January.

Finally, in terms of the second outreach worker, I did not have that information and I am happy to hear it. That recruitment process took longer than anticipated but it is good to know they have two in place.