Childcare Services Provision

Ceisteanna (71)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

71. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the support measures in place for parents in circumstances in which a crèche has been deregistered; and her views on the creation of additional supply in this instance. [51521/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The safety and protection of children remains the first priority of Government. Safety and protection is assured through the enforcement of regulations which have children at the heart of their implementation.

Tusla is the independent statutory regulator of early learning and care and school age childcare services in Ireland. In performing its regulatory function, its actions include responding to breaches of regulations while respecting fair procedures and natural justice. De-registrations and prosecutions are evidence of Tusla’s robust approach in taking action where it finds evidence of non-compliance with childcare Regulations.

I have great sympathy for parents who, due to de-registration of their crèche, now need to find alternative childcare options. This is particularly difficult if alternative provision is limited in the local area.

Tusla has given a commitment to greater communication on the regulatory process with parents in 2020 so that as much information as possible is shared with them in a timely manner. Tusla has also committed to fast-tracking applications for registration additional capacity in an area where a service has been de-registered or closed.

Where a service is removed from the register, the staff of 30 City and County Childcare Committees nationwide are available to support parents who need help finding alternative provision. Their contact details can be found at myccc.ie

CCCs will also assist providers who are considering expansion or the opening of a new service.

Childminding Ireland may also be able to assist parents who are considering a childminding option.

Capacity in the sector has doubled in the last 5 years following significant investment and growth, although I recognise that capacity constraints remain in some areas. My Department is actively seeking to increase capacity, through a range of measures including its annual capital funding scheme and through plans to open up regulation and funding schemes to paid, non-relative childminders.

In 2019, I provided €5.9m towards the creation of new places within the Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare sector. I hope to announce details for a new 2020 capital scheme in the coming weeks.

Domestic Violence Services Funding

Ceisteanna (72)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

72. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will meet an organisation (details supplied) in County Donegal; her views on whether Ireland is compliant with the Istanbul convention, which was ratified in March 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51149/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has statutory responsibility for the provision of care and protection to victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

I understand that Tusla provided funding of €3,200 to the organisation in question in 2018 and again in 2019 for child counselling services.

Tusla is providing some €650,000 in funding in 2019 to support domestic violence services across Co. Donegal, including Inishowen. Tusla believes that funding additional domestic violence services in Donegal would lead to the duplication of service provision and a risk of fragmentation of services, particularly where organisations provide similar services in the same geographical area.

I am happy to meet with the organisation referred to by the Deputy, but I am informed that Tusla is not seeking to commission additional domestic violence services in Donegal at this time. In the circumstances, I do not feel a meeting would be productive.

I have been assured by Tusla that children and families in Inishowen affected by domestic violence can access Tusla funded services in County Donegal.

Ireland ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the Istanbul Convention) on 8 March, 2019. Actions to comply with the obligations of the Convention are relevant to a number Government Departments and State bodies, including my Department. Such actions are reflected in the National Strategy that is led by the Department of Justice and Equality.

Since becoming Minister, I have prioritised the development of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV) services. This is reflected in the additional funding provided for these services which has increased from €22.1 million in 2017 to €25.3 million in 2019, and has supported Tusla in meeting its obligations under the Istanbul Convention.

Funding allocated this year has allowed the recruitment of additional outreach workers facilitating better access to services, and the ongoing national roll-out of healing programmes for children who have witnessed domestic violence. New emergency domestic violence refuge accommodation will be operational in South Dublin by year end. Additional refuge spaces will become available in Rathmines and in Galway early in 2020. Funding has also been provided to enhance the national domestic violence helpline, and to advance the training of front line staff for the provision of specialist and outreach services.

Tusla is undertaking a strategic reviews of domestic violence refuge accommodation provision with a view to meeting obligations under the Istanbul Convention. The substantive work of the reviews will be completed early in 2020.

Childcare Services Provision

Ceisteanna (73)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

73. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on whether the dismantling of targeted schemes that are being replaced by the new national childcare scheme will have a negative impact for thousands of children from disadvantaged and marginalised families and that many children will consequently receive fewer supports than they received under the CCS-P; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51550/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The National Childcare Scheme is fairer and more far-reaching than the current schemes and was sought after for many years. It removes many of the restrictive eligibility requirements of the current schemes, linked to Social Protection payments or a Medical Card in order to receive supports. Moving to this new system will be a significant step forward in combating the poverty traps inherent in the current schemes.

Under the current targeted schemes, there are many families with low income-levels who are not currently able to access subsidised childcare, either because they are in low-paid employment or because they are rotating between short periods of employment, unemployment and training. The new Scheme will change this.

At a broad and simplified level, the NCS's maximum subsidy rates compare very well overall with existing targeted scheme subsidy rates, while acknowledging that the schemes do not lend themselves to easy comparison.

The NCS is based on the principle of progressive universalism – providing a level of support to all families while providing additional targeted support to families with lower incomes. As a result of this measure, all families will be able to take part in the NCS.

This widens participation and removes any potential stigma that may attach to families who benefit from the Scheme, increasing the likelihood that all service providers will choose to participate.

In response to the concerns expressed, I increased the available enhanced hours from 40-45 hours and standard hours from 15-20 in Budget 2020. These extra hours will become available in September 2020.

Also, under Budget 2020 I negotiated additional funding to extend the existing ‘saver’ arrangement beyond August 2020. This means that persons who are registered on the CCSP or TEC schemes before they close, and who retain their eligibility, will be able to remain on them indefinitely, for example, until they no longer require early learning and care or school age childcare.

New applications for CCSP closed on 15th November, and applications to the TEC schemes will close from 14th February 2020. Parents using the saver arrangement can of course move over to the NCS at any point. The Parent Information line can help parents to understand which scheme will serve their family better.

The Childcare Support Act also makes provision for referrals from sponsor bodies for children in certain disadvantaged or challenging circumstances. Where such a referral is made by a sponsor body, the family will automatically qualify for a subsidy for the number of hours considered appropriate by the sponsor, up to a maximum of 40 hours per week, without having to satisfy the scheme’s eligibility, income or enhanced hours requirements.

These arrangements are based on referrals from sponsor bodies against specified criteria. The broad purpose of these (by sponsor body) is as described below

- Minister for Education and Skills – for teen parents who are still in education or training

- Minister for Justice and Equality – for programme refugees to enable parents’ participation in education, integration and other relevant supports

- Child and Family Agency – to promote the welfare of children, either where there is a child protection concern, or as a form of early intervention or family support

- HSE – where there is an identified need for childcare as a support to the home environment to meet child developmental needs

- Local authorities – to support homeless families or families transitioning out of homelessness.

The OECD's Faces of Joblessness report welcomed the new scheme and analysed the impact it will have on certain groups. For example, it stated that the cost of childcare for certain lone parents will move from being the most expensive in the OECD, to 11th position. It is important to note that this was before Budgets 2019 and 2020 introduced further investment and improvements to the scheme.

I would finally note that my Department will be continually monitoring the scheme and will examine any adjustments which might be required to address unusual or anomalous cases, where this is the right thing to do to protect and benefit lower income parents. In this regard, it should be emphasised that the new National Childcare Scheme has been designed to be flexible, with income thresholds, maximum hours and subsidy rates which can be adjusted in line with Government decisions and as more investment becomes available. As such, any adjustments deemed necessary by Government can be carried out in a quick and responsive manner.

Childcare Services Regulation

Ceisteanna (74)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

74. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will extend the deadline and provide technical support to crèche owners in view of the short timeframe and the technical problems for the owners to submit required documentation to her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51547/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

It is my understanding that the Deputy is referring to the operation and maintenance of the Register of Early Years Services. Tusla is the independent statutory regulator of early learning and care and school-age childcare services in Ireland. My Department does not have a direct role in relation to the processing of registration applications or maintenance of the register.

Registration and regulation of early learning and care services is important to ensure the safety and welfare of children and providers must take their legal responsibilities in this regard seriously.

In order to be registered by Tusla on 1st January 2020, providers must submit an application for re-registration by midnight on 12th December 2019. Providers have been urged to submit their applications in advance of this date, given the large volume of applications expected. The deadline of 12th December is necessary in order to give Tusla time to process all applications and inform applicants of the outcome of their application before 31st December.

The deadline for re-registration has been known to providers since 2016 and appears on their registration certificate. Over the past 18 months Tusla has been engaging with providers in relation to requirements for re-registration, including through a Consultative Forum of stakeholders. Tusla issued further guidance to service providers in August 2019 on specific documentation required on planning permission and fire safety as part of the re-registration process.

On 27th November, my Department issued a letter informing providers that Tusla has revised the time-line for submission of supporting documentation for re-registration. That letter provided clear guidance on what documentation is required by the 12th December deadline and what can be submitted up until 30th June 2020.

I am informed by Tusla that the total number of early years services that are due to re-register by 31 December 2019 is 4,117.

As of Monday morning (9th December), 3,752 services had commenced the application process on the Tusla portal. Of these, 3,081 applications had been submitted via the online portal for assessment. Therefore, 671 applications are commenced but not yet submitted and a just 365 have yet to start the application process.

Submitted applications are currently being processed in batches through a series of specially convened registration panels.

My Department has been working closely with Tusla to ensure adequate staffing is in place to process applications on time, and to ensure effective communications with providers.

In addition, my Department has supported City and County Childcare Committees to give advice and assistance to providers that need help with re-registration.

Education Welfare Service

Ceisteanna (75)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

75. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to provide alternatives to prosecution for parents who fail to ensure their children attend school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51104/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Tusla Education Support Service (TESS) has advised that Educational Welfare Officers (EWO) supported 6,134 students/families during the 2018/2019 school year. The approach adopted by EWO’s is to work in a supportive manner with families to address the underlying issues causing school attendance issues. Of this number there were 175 summonses issued which equates to less than 3% of the cases that EWO’s worked on. This means that in 97% of cases the school attendance concern was addressed without having to prosecute.

The approach is always supportive and the only occasions when legal action is considered is when either: (a) despite supports being offered parents/guardians decline the supports and the school attendance problem persists or (b) the parents refuse to work with the EWO making it necessary to use legal powers.

I am fully supportive of the approach taken by TESS which is always to offer supports and alternatives to prosecution and consider that prosecution is only ever considered where parents decline support and are unwilling to cooperate with an EWO to address the presenting attendance difficulty.

Education and Training Boards Funding

Ceisteanna (76)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

76. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the cost and envisaged costs of the mid-level governance arrangements with education and training boards, ETBs, put in place by her Department (details supplied); the percentage of the costs as a percentage of the overall allocation for targeted funded youth schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51332/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Two different streams of administrative funding are provided to ETBs as part of their mid-level governance functions in relation to youth schemes.

Youth work function funding is provided to each Education and Training Board (ETB) to support the provision, co-ordination, administration and assessment of youth work services in its functional area and to provide information as may be required in relation to this support.

Technical assistance funding provides youth officers with financial support for the administration of youth funding to youth projects and youth services, and enables youth officers to focus their attention on the needs of young people within their ETB area.

Youth funding of €60.4 million was made available by my Department in 2019 to support a range of youth work programmes, national organisations, and services for young people including those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Of this total, there was an allocation of €38.5m to targeted youth funding as referred to by the Deputy.

The youth work function funding and technical assistance funding provided to the 16 Education and Training Boards in 2019 was €3.68 million.

This represented an increase of 26% on the funding allocation of €2.917m in 2016.

The allocation of €3.68m for 2019 would be 9.6% if expressed as a percentage of the targeted youth funding allocation.

In addition to targeted youth funding, ETBs also administered other youth funding streams on behalf of my Department in 2019. These funding streams comprised the local youth club grant scheme for which funding of over €2m was administered to local clubs and groups, funding of €1.37m was administered to youth information centres and €100,000 funding was administered to youth services to support new LGBTI youth service provision.

The allocation of €3.68m for 2019 would be 8.8% if expressed as a percentage of the total current youth funding allocation administered by ETBs on behalf of the Department.

The youth funding allocations for 2020 for all organisations and services, including the youth work function funding and technical assistance funding allocations to Education and Training Boards, are currently being finalised within my Department.

Domestic Violence

Ceisteanna (77)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

77. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when a report (details supplied) will be published; her views on each of the conclusions and recommendations contained in the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51483/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency commissioned this report. It is an analysis to identify needs for the planning and delivery of DSGBV services in the Galway area.

Tusla has advised me that regional needs analysis reports will be published on the domestic, sexual and gender-based violence section of its website shortly. This section is under construction at present. It is envisaged that the reports will be made available early in Quarter 1, 2020.

Tusla has informed me that a number of recommendations in the report, to which the Deputy refers, have been actioned to enhance and support the delivery of domestic, sexual and gender based violence services in Galway.

Adoption Records Provision

Ceisteanna (78)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

78. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to ensure adopted persons have a right to tracing information on their birth families and particularly birth parents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51557/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

As the Deputy knows, there are strong views on the privacy provisions in the Adoption (Information & Tracing) Bill, 2016 and to the revised scheme set out in my proposed amendments for Committee Stage.

My legal advice is that there must be some protection of birth parents' constitutional right to privacy reflected in the legislation. There are two rights at play, the right to identity and the right to privacy, and legislation must seek to harmonise these rights. However, I fully recognise this advice is contrary to the desire of advocates for unrestricted access to identity information and to birth certificates.

During the summer, I held a number of consultations with Members of the Oireachtas and with stakeholder groups, to seek to reach a consensus which will allow the legislation to progress. More recently, I have consulted further in relation to a number of specific options for progressing the Bill. I am now considering the responses I have received, and I hope to be in a position to revert to Oireachtas members and stakeholders shortly.

Education Welfare Service Expenditure

Ceisteanna (79)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

79. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the cost to her Department of prosecuting parents for the failure of children to attend school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51103/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I wish to inform the Deputy that the Department does not take prosecutions against parents in relation to school attendance. Such prosecutions are a matter for the Tusla Education Support Service (TESS).

TESS has advised that the legal costs for TESS in 2018 were €227,720. There were 186 active matters in 2018.

Children in Care

Ceisteanna (80)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

80. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 59 of 22 October 2019 and her acknowledgement to correspondence of 5 November 2019, the progress made regarding the points raised about the difficulties encountered by a voluntary service (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51335/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I thank the Deputy for her question. I have sought a detailed account from Tusla of the background to their decision in regard to this children's residential centre, and have set this out below.

Tusla have informed me that its Children’s Residential Services section (CRS) had, in meetings on 5 April and 8 August 2019, raised a number of concerns regarding the centre's non-compliance with the financial and governance requirements set out in the Service Level Agreement between the centre and Tusla.

To address these issues, Tusla CRS recommended that the centre amalgamate with another, well-known, voluntary provider, which has robust governance arrangements in the areas of management structure, finance, and human resources. Amalgamation, I understand, would allow the centre to respond more effectively to the regulatory environment, would secure the sustainability of the service, and thus would promote better outcomes for children and young people in its care into the future.

Regrettably, the proposed amalgamation was turned down by the Board of the centre. Consequently, the Regional Manager for Tusla CRS Dublin North East gave the service six months notice of termination of the Service Level Agreement, as per Section 15 of that Agreement, in a letter of 7 October. The letter also thanked “the Board of [the centre], [the manager] and her team for all the very good work and dedication shown to the young people in her care over the years”. Critically, this letter also left it open for the Board of the centre to review their decision.

It is very clear that nobody involved in this matter—not Tusla, not the centre's Board, not the centre's staff, not the young people the centre serves, not yourself or myself—wishes the service to close. However, as I’m sure you’ll agree, adherence to appropriate standards in governance, particularly with regard to services funded by the taxpayer, is important in delivering good outcomes and a sustainable service for vulnerable children and young people.

Work on these issues is ongoing, and I understand that representatives from Tusla and the centre are to meet in the coming days to further discuss matters.

Childcare Services Provision

Ceisteanna (81)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

81. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the uptake of the national childcare scheme to date in County Kildare; the way in which she can ensure further continued applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51549/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The National Childcare Scheme opened for online applications on the 20th of November. Intensive preparations have been underway all year to ensure that the full legislative, administrative and IT infrastructure was in place, and that nationwide information and training was provided.

I am delighted that there has been a very high volume of applications since the Scheme opened for online applications. By 5th December, the National Childcare Scheme had received 404 income assessed applications and 205 universal applications from County Kildare – a total of 609 in all. To date, 137 service providers in County Kildare have signed up to participate in the National Childcare Scheme. This reflects the strong uptake of the scheme there has been all over the country.

The National Childcare Scheme is a landmark and highly innovative initiative. It is our future pathway to quality, accessible, affordable childcare in Ireland, and our platform to support long-term investment in universal and targeted supports. My Department will continue to profile the scheme's availability through a variety of channels and in collaboration with a number of external stakeholders.

Fire Safety Regulations

Question No. 83 answered with Question No. 62.

Ceisteanna (82)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

82. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the reason for the postponement of the introduction of new fire safety regulations for crèches; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51520/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Fire safety audits, fire safety legislation and compliance come under the remit of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. The Tusla Early Years Inspectorate liaises with Local Authority fire services where appropriate.

The suitability and safety of premises is a key concern in the assessment of quality provision for children in early learning and care settings. Section 58G of the Child Care Act, 1991 (as amended by Part 12 of the Child and Family Agency Act, 2013) places an onus on the providers of early years services to ensure that they take all reasonable measures to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of children.

In August 2019, Tusla issued guidance for the registered providers of early years services on the fire and planning requirements for the re-registration and change in circumstances process, which is available for download on the Tusla website. It is important to note that these were not new Regulations, but guidance on the submission of documentation for the purpose of re-registration.

Registration of Early Learning and Care settings is granted where Tusla is satisfied that the premises, operation and location of the setting poses no unmanaged risk to children.

In recognition of the difficulties many providers were experiencing in completing re-registration, Tusla decided to revise the time-line for submission of some supporting documentation for re-registration. Under the revised arrangements, while providers must apply to Tusla by 12th December for re-registration, they have until 30th June 2020 to provide some of the supporting documentation required, including on fire safety and planning requirements.

Whilst many services already have the necessary documentation in place, Tusla has been made aware that, in certain parts of the country, some providers were experiencing difficulties owing to a shortage of available professional persons to complete the required fire risk assessments. The extended deadline of 30th June 2020 for providing supporting documentation will allow providers to access the relevant professionals and get the required documentation in place.

While the health and safety of children is the primary concern in decisions on the regulation of early learning and care services, I recognise that a balanced approach to the re-registration process is required, given difficulties some providers have experienced in completing their applications. In that context, I fully support Tusla’s decision.

The importance of addressing fire safety concerns cannot be underestimated. In recognition of this, my Department awarded €330,000 of capital funding to community-based, non-profit services in 2019. This has helped to address fire safety issues that had been highlighted in inspection reports. A further, related round of capital funding will be provided in 2020.

Question No. 83 answered with Question No. 62.

Childcare Services Funding

Ceisteanna (84)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

84. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if payments will be backdated to parents who applied for the national childcare scheme but whose applications have not been processed to date. [51519/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The National Childcare Scheme went live on the 20th November 2019. The Scheme is designed to improve the accessibility and affordability of quality childcare for families in Ireland. 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.

I am delighted that there has been a very high volume of applications since the Scheme opened for online applications. As of the 9th December over 12,000 applications have been submitted, relating to over 17,000 children. Awards are now being issued to parents. Parents must bring this award to their childcare provider and once their provider has registered the details, payments will begin to flow.

It has always been communicated by my Department that subsidy awards are payable from the week they are claimed, and not the date of application. It is a key aspect of the scheme that all claims are paid in arrears based on the attendance of a child and as agreed between the parent and provider. As such the child must be registered with a childcare provider and the provider must confirm that attendance. This is a key financial and governance control to ensure we are maximising the benefits of public monies and that the investment is following the child.

When opening the Scheme three weeks ago, I asked the public to please bear with us while we get this major, innovative new initiative up and running. The Scheme Administrator, Pobal, is working intensively to process the very large volume of applications received so far. The first subsidies under the Scheme have been paid but the numbers will grow significantly in the coming days.

It is important to note that a significant number of applicants are likely to be in receipt of an existing childcare support payment, and this payment will continue right up until their NCS award has been registered with their provider, thus enabling a seamless flow of funding from the old scheme to the new.

Childcare Services Provision

Ceisteanna (85)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

85. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the level of uptake of supports for providers of the affordable childcare scheme in County Cork; the efforts being made to promote the supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51556/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The National Childcare Scheme opened on the 20th November to online applications. I am delighted that there has been a very high volume of applications since then.

Service providers were offered supports earlier this year in advance of the launch of the National Childcare Scheme. One of these supports offered was the Programme Support Payment. This payment was designed to compensate providers for the additional administrative support required in order to register and maintain a child on one of the childcare programmes over and above the general administration required in relation to running a childcare service. It is a one-off payment in acknowledgement of the increased burden which arises from transitioning to a new scheme and, in particular, from the reregistration and parallel requirements of legacy and NCS schemes for the first year.

A total of 465 service providers signed up for this payment in County Cork, with 94 of those located in Cork City.

In addition, providers were also offered a capital grant. €3m of capital funding was allocated for the purpose of purchasing IT hardware and/or software to assist service providers to fully meet their obligations under the National Childcare Scheme and the Early Childhood Care and Education programme. Specifically, this refers to obligations in relation to recording and reporting children’s attendance, which acts as the key basis for ongoing payment of subsidies.

A total of 292 providers signed up for this grant in County Cork, with 52 of those located in Cork City.

Providers were made aware of these supports through notices on Pobal's PIP online portal system, the NCS website, and through local City/ County Childcare Committees. Applications for both of these supports are now closed.

In addition, an extensive training programme for providers was rolled out across the country this year. In total, between Cork City and County, there were 890 training places offered for both Phases 1 and 2 of training covering 33 training sessions. 559 practitioners attended these training events. This training was organised and promoted by local CCCs.

The NCS website www.ncs.gov.ie contains valuable resources for providers, and Pobal, the scheme administrator is also available to assist as required. Providers may also direct parents with queries to the dedicated NCS Parent Information Line 01 9068530.

Family Support Services

Ceisteanna (86)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

86. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps she will take to fill the gap in provision of family services left by the recently announced closure of a service (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51150/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I met recently with ParentStop, Tusla officials and public representatives from Donegal to discuss the provision of parenting support services in the area. It was agreed at this meeting that Tusla, HSE and Department officials would hold a follow-up meeting to address this matter, this meeting is expected to take place next Monday.

Tusla provides funding for community-based programmes and services which aim to promote the health, wellbeing and rights of all children, young people and their families. In 2019 ParentStop was funded by both Tusla and the HSE.

Funding of services is informed by Tusla’s commissioning approach. Tusla seeks to fund services in the most beneficial, effective, efficient, proportionate and sustainable manner, in order to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and families.

The precise level of funding to be allocated to specific services, including family support services, is considered by Tusla, in preparing its annual business plan, having regard to its statutory remit and taking account of the totality of funding available each year. A similar approach is taken by the HSE when preparing its national service plan each year.

I understand that both Tusla and the HSE will maintain the existing level of funding provided for ParentStop’s parenting support services and are exploring ways in which the gap in parenting services can be provided through an alternative family support service.

Tusla remains committed to commissioning and developing supports for parents and I will update the Deputy as Tusla and the HSE advance options to ensure that parenting support services in Donegal are maintained.