Question No. 650 answered with Question No. 647.

Question No. 651 answered with Question No. 647.

Early Childhood Care and Education Data

Ceisteanna (652)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

652. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children on waiting lists for year 1 ECCE places in counties Meath, Kildare, Louth, Wicklow and Dublin by local electoral area or town in each year since 2015, in tabular form. [52861/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Pobal publishes the Early Years Sector Profile on an annual basis on behalf of my Department and it provides extensive information to inform policy making.  I launched the 2018/2019 Sector Profile on 16 December.

The Sector Profile includes data on the number of children on service providers' waiting lists. This data is organised on a county basis and is not broken down by  local electoral area or town.  The data indicates waiting lists for all  childcare services and therefore it is not possible to isolate numbers on waiting lists for ECCE services only.  

It is very important to note that waiting list data may not equate to unmet demand, as parents may have their children on a waiting list for more than on service.   

The table below set out the numbers on waiting lists for all services / all age groups, on a county basis ( this includes, for example, ECCE, school age childcare and full day care).  

Programme year

Meath

Kildare

Louth

Wicklow

Dublin - Dublin City

Dublin - Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown

Dublin - Fingal

Dublin - South Dublin

2015/16

369

357

460

325

2,813

789

790

560

2016/17

320

454

464

225

3,807

1,241

1,024

1,028

2017/18

396

350

238

231

3,492

880

1,076

639

2018/19

458

694

415

245

4,089

892

1,698

1,104

 

My Department funds staffed Childcare Committees in every county to assist in the delivery of Government objectives related to childcare. These organisations monitor capacity in their area and broadly it has been established that there are sufficient places to deliver ECCE. This is further assured by the fact that on the journey towards the provision of two full years of ECCE, when there were three entry points in September, January and April, 118,000 ECCE places existed at the peak enrolment period of April. Since then, on reversion to two full years of ECCE and one single entry point in September, the number of children nationally attending ECCE has reduced, leaving a surplus of ECCE places. many of these have we understand been converted into other types of part-time or full-time service.  

There may however be localised areas where parents have to travel further to access ECCE.  In such instances, we ask parents to alert their local Childcare Committee ( contact details available at myccc.ie).  

My Department has had an unprecedented increase of 141% for early learning and care and school age childcare in the past five budgets. This extra investment has supported an over doubling of capacity in the sector, including for the ECCE programme.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (653)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

653. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the demographic or other research conducted in order to assess the number of childcare places needed in each county. [52862/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Early Years’ Sector Profile is an annual report presenting an overview of the Early Learning Care (ELC) and School-Age Childcare (SAC) sector in Ireland. The survey outlines findings and analysis from data captured in the Early Years’ Service Profile annual survey. For the programme year 2018/2019, the survey was completed by 85% of ELC and SAC services (3,821) between May and June 2019. Data is captured and reported at a local authority level. In addition to data on enrolments, fees and staffing, the survey captures data on spaces, capacity and waiting lists.

The report estimated that there were 206,301 children attending ELC and SAC services during 2018/19. This represents a 2% increase on the previous year.

The number of vacant places increased by 13% this year to an estimated 12,444. While the number of vacant places for children aged over 3 years increased last year, this figure continued to decrease for younger children (up to 3 years old). The service profile includes a breakdown by local authority, with the highest number of vacancies recorded in Cork County, and the lowest number in Longford, followed by Roscommon. Waiting list figures were highest in Dublin City, and lowest in Laois.

The overall estimated capacity was 218,745, representing an increase of 2% from last year. The growth in capacity is proportionate to the increase in the number of children enrolled (2%), indicating the proportion of vacant places remained the same. When combined with the increased numbers on waiting lists, these figures suggest more places need to be created in order to meet demand, especially for children up to 3 years of age.

In addition to these data, my Department also uses a range of official data sources to assess the demand for ELC and SAC places at a county level. Among these data are: population data and data on labour force participation from the Central Statistics Office, the main arrangements for ELC and SAC used by parents with children of different ages, and, in the case of the ECCE Programme, data on school-starting age derived from the Pupil Online Database held by the Department of Education and Skills.

These data combined inform priorities for the ELC and SAC Annual Capital Programme. This annual capital program is used to incentivise new places where they are required. For example, when ECCE was being increased from one year to two years and there was a need for extra places, the scheme focused on supporting the development of ECCE places. In 2019, it focused on under 3 places and school age childcare places.

In addition, First 5: A Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and Their Families also identifies a commitment to design an enhanced research and data infrastructure which will provide quality data about early childhood. Among a range of relevant actions is a commitment to undertake research on the needs of parents who work atypical hours or live in rural communities and develop recommendations for future action and a commitment to further strengthen capacity to accurately forecast supply and demand for ELC and SAC. 

Finally, access to high quality and affordable childcare has been identified as a strategic priority in the National Development Plan and €250m has been committed for the period 2023-2028. In advance of this, a detailed research and planning exercise will be completed to identify the greatest priority for this investment.

Child and Family Agency Staff

Ceisteanna (654)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

654. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of full-time equivalent social workers employed on a permanent basis by Tusla in each year since 2014, in tabular form. [52863/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I wish to advise that my officials have asked Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Child and Family Agency Staff

Ceisteanna (655)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

655. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of full-time equivalent social workers employed on an agency basis by Tusla in each year since 2014, in tabular form. [52864/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I wish to advise that my officials have asked Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Child and Family Agency Staff

Ceisteanna (656)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

656. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of full-time equivalent social care workers employed on an agency basis by Tusla in each year since 2014, in tabular form. [52865/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I wish to advise that my officials have asked Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Child and Family Agency Staff

Ceisteanna (657)

Anne Rabbitte

Ceist:

657. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of full-time equivalent social care workers on a permanent basis by Tusla in each year since 2014, in tabular form. [52866/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I wish to advise that my officials have asked Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Childcare Services Funding

Ceisteanna (658)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

658. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the capital assistance available for the development and building of crèches; the amount spent each year since 2012 on capital assistance for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52963/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, one of my key priorities is to support the early learning and care and school age childcare sector through the provision of capital funding, where it is most needed. 

My Department reviews the capital programmes annually as a whole and determines the priorities for Early Learning and Care and School Age Capital grants for the year ahead. I have allocated significant funding in recent years for this purpose and for improving the quality of infrastructure nationwide.

Capital strands are made available to achieve the strategic priorities for the year as determined by my Department, having regard to the funding available, developed using analysis of the current state of the childcare sector, learnings from previous capital programmes and feedback and input from stakeholders, including childcare providers and Pobal.

Planning for 2020's Capital offering is currently underway and the details of this will be communicated to providers in the near future.

Childcare was identified as a strategic priority in the National Development Plan and €250m in capital funding was secured for childcare under the plan. This represents the kind of large scale investment in the sector by the State that has not been undertaken since the earlier National Childcare Investment Programme that concluded in 2010.

The table below outlines the amount spent annually and the amount available since 2012 on capital funding for early learning and care services. Please note that these are not the final figures for 2019 as payments are continuing.  

Year

Total Spent per annual accounting period (Jan - Dec)

Available budget

2012

€6,357,983.28

€6 million

2013

€2,529,257.03

€2.75 million

2014

€2,501,844.00

€2.5 million

2015

€6,030,287.94

€7 million

2016

€6,010,636.14

€6.4 million

2017

€7,535,003.82

€8.4 million

2018

€5,399,163.89

€5.86 million

2019

 €2,714,980.37

€4 million

Total

€39,079,156.19

€42.91 Million

Childcare Services Provision

Ceisteanna (659)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

659. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the provision available for early childhood education for children diagnosed with moderate to severe autism; the preschools and childcare centres in which such provision is available in CHO3; if they are funded under the childcare support scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53028/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

There are both specialised and mainstream supports available for children with disabilities, including autism. Mainstream preschools receive support from my Department, while both the Department of Education and Skills and the HSE continue to support some specialist early intervention classes and pre-schools, which in many cases provide placements for children with ASD. Contact should be made with the local children’s disability service for further information. In addition, the National Council for Special Education team of locally based Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) are available to assist parents to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs and to discuss their child's special educational needs. The local SENO contact details are available on www.ncse.ie.

Many children with disabilities, including autism, take part in mainstream early learning and care services. Participation of children with disabilities in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) universal pre-school programme in mainstream preschool settings is supported by the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM). The key objective of AIM is to support early learning and care providers to deliver an inclusive preschool experience, ensuring that children with a disability can fully participate in the ECCE Programme, thereby reaping the benefits of quality preschool education.

AIM has seven levels of progressive support, moving from universal to targeted, based on the needs of the child and the early learning and care setting they are attending.  The seven levels include the following:

Level 1: An Inclusive Culture

This level recognises that a strong culture of inclusion must be fostered and embedded to support all children’s maximum participation in the ECCE Programme.

- An Inclusion Charter for the Early Years Sector and updated Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Guidelines have been published and a national training programme on the Guidelines is being rolled out.

-A higher education programme in Leadership for INClusion in Early Years Settings (LINC) was established in 2016 with provision for 900 students annually for four years, who when qualified may be employed as Inclusion Coordinator in a mainstream preschool setting.  

- AIM Inclusive Play (AIP) packs were developed for preschool settings and included toys and materials to encourage coordination and audio, visual and tactile skills for all children. 6,500 AIP packs were delivered to preschool settings delivering the ECCE programme.

Level 3: A Qualified and Confident Workforce

This level, in recognising the requirement to continue to develop a qualified workforce that can confidently meet the needs of all children wishing to participate in the ECCE Programme, provides for a multi-annual training programme for preschool practitioners.

Targeted Supports

Where an ELC provider, in conjunction with a parent, considers that they may need some additional support in order to meet the needs of a child with a disability in an inclusive way, they can apply for a suite of more targeted supports, namely:

Level 4: Expert Early Years Educational Advice and Support

This level provides access to mentoring for preschool practitioners from a team of dedicated AIM Early Years Specialists. To avail of this support, preschool providers and parents are requested to complete an online Access and Inclusion Profile. This looks at the strengths, abilities and needs of the child, as well as the strengths and needs of the preschool setting.  

Level 5: Equipment, Appliances and Minor Alterations Capital Grants

This level provides for access to specialised equipment, appliances, assistive technology and/or minor alterations capital grants for ELC settings to ensure children with a disability can participate in the ECCE programme. A short report from a designated professional is required confirming that the specialised equipment or minor building alterations are necessary.

Level 6: Therapeutic Intervention

AIM Level 6 provides access to therapeutic services where they are critical to enable the child to be enrolled and to meaningfully participate in the ECCE Programme. To avail of this support, the preschool provider, in conjunction with the parent, must complete the online Access and Inclusion Profile. The HSE decides on the appropriate Level 6 therapeutic supports needed by the child in the preschool setting.

Level 7: Additional Assistance in the Preschool Room

This level provides additional assistance in the preschool room where this is critical to ensuring a child’s participation in the ECCE Programme. AIM provides financial support to the preschool provider where needed, which can be used either to reduce the adult to child ratio in the preschool room or to buy in additional assistance to the preschool room. Level 7 assistance is a shared resource for the preschool setting.

Children can be registered on the ECCE Programme (free pre-school) if they are over 2 years and 8 months before 1st September. The ECCE Programme is available to each child for two pre-school years, provided the child is not older than 5½ years at the end of the pre-school year.

Since its introduction in 2016, AIM has provided over 12,100 children with disabilities with over 26,800 targeted supports across over 3,300 preschools. Thousands more preschool children are benefitting from the universal supports provided under AIM. I have recently announced an additional €10 million in funding for the AIM initiative in Budget 2020.  

As AIM is available nationwide all mainstream providers in CHO Area 3 that are taking part in the ECCE Programme can avail of AIM supports. The local City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs) can provide information on ECCE providers locally. The CCCs covering CHO Area 3 can be contacted at:

Clare County Childcare Committee, telephone 065 6864862

Limerick County Childcare Committee, telephone 061 600918

Tipperary County Childcare Committee, telephone 062 642000

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (660)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

660. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the reason €60 million was returned to the Exchequer from her Department; if efforts were made to ensure the funding was spent on the needs of children; if not, if she discussed with the Departments of Health and Education and Skills if there were purposes for which the funding could be used for children, for example, in assessments or special needs services and supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53066/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Deputy is referring the Department's 2017 financial allocation.

In 2017, the Department was voted €1.3 billion by Dáil Éireann under the Appropriation Act 2017, which also provides that unspent sums are surrendered to the Exchequer under the deferred surrender arrangements established by section 91 of the Finance Act 2004. 

The majority of the unspent monies related to the Early Learning and School Age Childcare allocations.

Numbers enrolling under the ECCE scheme were lower than originally estimated.  In 2017, changes were made to the scheme, including a three point entry system, and provision was made for a potential 100% take-up rate. The actual take-up rate was only 94%.  The shortfall in ECCE enrolments also led to a lower than anticipated engagement in AIM programme by pre-school providers and parents.  

In addition to this, a further saving arose on the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) and Community Education Training Supports (CETS) programmes due to lower than expected uptake during 2017.

As the Early Learning and School Age Childcare programme year commences each September and can often have fluid movement of children between schemes, it is often very late in the financial year before my Department can fully determine what, if any, savings might arise. This then affects the ability of the Department to identify any other area of the Vote that might benefit from a "virement" (i.e., movement of funding to another subhead or purpose). This is further complicated as any virement involved would only be for once-off funding and would therefore not be available for use in an area that required it in the subsequent financial year.

A similar timing issue and knock-on implications for once-off funding would apply for other Departments. Any additional funding required by the Departments of Health or Education and Skills in 2017 would have been a matter for each of these respective Departments to address via a supplementary estimate process.

Childcare Services Regulation

Ceisteanna (661)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

661. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the draft childminding action plan public consultation was advertised; the reason the public consultation process only ran for six weeks; if her attention has been drawn to a large number of parents who were unaware of the public consultation and have concerns regarding the drafting of regulations including the crèche-based model at the centre of proposals and the overall lack of engagement with childminders in the sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53069/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I strongly believe that childminding has an important and distinctive role to play in the future of early learning and care and school-age childcare in this country. The public consultation on the Draft Childminding Action Plan was extensive, and I warmly welcome the high level of participation in the consultation by both childminders and parents.

A central part of the consultation process was a series of 32 focus groups of childminders that were organised around the country by the local City and County Childcare Committees, with a total of 205 childminders taking part. The focus groups were designed specifically to enable childminders to take an active part in the consultation: all 32 events were run in the evenings, and they were organised at county level, with the help of the new team of regional Childminding Development Officers that I have put in place this year.

In addition to the focus groups, the consultation process involved an online survey, a call for submissions, and an Open Policy Debate (with 55 participants) that took place in the daytime to facilitate participation by other stakeholders. The online survey had 467 respondents, of whom nearly 40% were parents and nearly 60% were childminders. 14 submissions were also received.

The public consultation process on the Draft Action Plan was widely publicised through the National Voluntary Childcare Organisations (including Childminding Ireland) and the local City and County Childcare Committees, all of whom communicate on an ongoing basis with Early Learning and Care providers, School Age Childcare providers and parents.

The consultation with parents and childminders on the proposed reforms also included a major consultation process that was carried out by the Working Group on Reforms and Supports for the Childminding Sector. The Draft Childminding Action Plan is firmly based in the Working Group's report, which was submitted to me last year. The Working Group itself was chaired by Childminding Ireland, and its work included an online survey of childminders and parents, in which there were 3,630 participants.

While a significant amount of consultation has already taken place, the Draft Action Plan also commits to further consultation with childminders, parents and other stakeholders during development of regulations specific to the home environment, during Phase 1 of the Action Plan.

The Draft Childminding Action Plan is very much about recognising and supporting all that is distinctive about childminding and about the home and family setting in which childminders work. The Draft Action Plan proposes to move away from the current situation in which childminders face the same regulations as centre-based providers, and proposes instead to develop new regulations that are specific and appropriate to childminding, and to develop bespoke training and resources to support the quality of childminding provision.

Childcare Services Regulation

Ceisteanna (662)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

662. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53108/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Draft Childminding Action Plan sets out a phased approach to achieving Government commitments in First 5,the Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and Families. The Draft Childminding Action Plan is firmly based on the 2018 report of the Working Group on Reforms and Supports for the Childminding Sector ('Pathway to a Quality Support and Assurance System for Childminding'), which was chaired by Childminding Ireland and included a number of representatives form the childcare sector.

Childminding is of huge importance to children, to parents, to our economy, and to our society. Until now however, it has not received the support it deserves in terms of public funding or our system of quality assurance or regulation. The Draft Action Plan aims to recognise the valuable work that childminders do and to ensure they can access the supports they need. The Draft Action Plan sets out positive reform proposals to bring childminding into the mainstream of regulation, funding and support.

I am very aware of the unique nature of a childminding service; that is why I established the expert group and called for the development of a bespoke plan for childminders. The Draft Childminding Action Plan makes clear that the intention is to develop regulations that are specific and appropriate to childminding, and to develop customised training and resources to support the quality of childminding provision, including through the development of staffed local networks to provide professional development and peer support. The new regulation and inspection process for childminders is yet to be developed, but the Draft Childminding Action Plan stresses the importance of regulation and inspection being proportionate and appropriate to the home and family setting in which childminders work.

The public consultation process on the Draft Action Plan was widely publicised on social media, through National Voluntary Organisations (including Childminding Ireland) and City/County Childcare Committees. The consultation process was carefully designed to ensure strong participation by childminders. In particular, a series of 32 focus groups were organised around the country by the local City and County Childcare Committees. The focus groups were designed specifically to enable childminders to take an active part in the consultation. The focus groups were at county level – run through the City and County Childcare Committees and organised with the help of the new team of regional Childminding Development Officers that I have put in place this year. The focus groups were organised in evenings to make it easier for childminders to take part.

In addition to the 32 focus groups in the evenings, an Open Policy Debate took place in the daytime to facilitate participation by other stakeholders. There was also an online survey and a call for submissions. The online survey had 467 respondents, of whom nearly 60% were childminders.

The Draft Childminding Action Plan proposes that a Steering Committee be appointed to drive and oversee the implementation of the Action Plan, and that the Steering Committee should include representation of childminders, parents and other key stakeholders within the early learning and care and school-age childcare sectors. The role of the Steering Committee will include monitoring and review of the implementation of the plan. During Phase 1 it is proposed that four Advisory Groups will be established and will meet, under the auspices of the Steering Committee, and will work with officials in relation to the following: Regulation and Inspection, Qualifications and Training, Funding and Financial Supports and Consultation and Communications.

With the completion of the consultation process, my officials will soon commence a process of consideration of all the feedback received from the various fora and methodologies. A final plan will then be brought for approval which will reflect the results of the extensive consultation exercise.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Ceisteanna (663)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

663. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when the State will begin the collection of DNA samples for the purpose of returning human remains in Tuam, County Galway to identifiable relatives for dignified burial. [53122/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

My Department, in consultation with other relevant Departments and Agencies, is developing detailed proposals consistent with the findings of Dr Geoffrey Shannon's 'Report on the Collection of Tuam Survivors' DNA' (published in September 2019). The proposals relate to the establishment of a voluntary administrative scheme under which biological samples could be collected from possible family members before the legislation to enable Government exhume the children interred at Tuam and undertake an identification programme is enacted. I hope to bring these proposals to Government early in the Spring session.

DNA profiles will not be generated from biological samples collected as part of any administrative scheme, until such time as the legislation based on the General Scheme of a Certain Historical Burials (Authorised Interventions) Bill is enacted and it is established whether viable DNA profiles for the purpose of comparison can be generated from the remains at the site.

In terms of the identification programme envisaged in the General Scheme, its purpose is to enable assurance to be given to family members on respectful re-interment or to return remains to family members. While it is the intention to return remains to family members if this is reasonably possible, it must be acknowledged that this may not be possible. As set out by the Expert Technical Group Report on the Tuam site, significant difficulties arise because the juvenile remains at the site are extensively commingled and have been buried there for a significant period of time. It is unclear if it will be possible to generate DNA profiles from the remains and, even if it does prove possible, individualising full sets of remains may not be achievable.

Childcare Services Regulation

Ceisteanna (664)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

664. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to reconsider the policy in respect of the implementation of stringent funding agreements and rules within the community managed not-for-profit childcare sector in the context of recent compliance audits by Pobal (details supplied) following meetings with service providers in counties Carlow and Kilkenny and the general level of concern expressed by service providers nationwide in respect of same; her views on the need for an appropriate level of oversight within the sector while striking a balance with the practical needs and genuine requirements by providers if the system is to be effective at ground level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53143/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Assisting families to access high quality, affordable early learning and care and school age childcare is a priority for me as Minister and hence I take all questions and concerns raised by service providers very seriously.

The Deputy will be aware that investment in the sector has increased by an unprecedented 141% over the last five budgets, now totalling €638m per year. Community services access much of this growing investment.  Given the large amount of public money that is used in funding these programmes, there needs to be an appropriate level of oversight and accountability. My Department believes that our approach to compliance and supporting services strikes a necessary and appropriate balance. Our approach has been informed from a variety of sources, including audit reports which needed to be taken seriously. Our approach now involves setting out the rules very clearly for the receipt of State funding, supporting providers to deliver services, and at the same time, the approach offers assurances to the taxpayer that the funding assigned is being spent as it was intended.

 I very much appreciate that settings, such as the ones referred to in the Deputy's question, provide a valuable service to children and families across the country. I also appreciate the impact potentially reduced income, as a result of compliance visits, can have on their service, but, there are also opportunities that can be explored that will benefit children and the service.

Significant support is available to service providers to ensure sustainability, whilst ensuring the necessary level of compliance with scheme rules.  My Department oversees an integrated Case Management system, operated by Pobal, through which a dedicated team assesses services facing challenges. This Case Management service provides non-financial assistance or support in the first instance. Financial supports are also available for community services facing certain challenges which may also be accessed through Case Management following a financial assessment.  

Results from compliance visits during the 2018/19 programme cycle showed high levels of non-compliance within the sector. Pobal, local City/County Childcare Committees and officials in my Department have engaged with service providers to support them through this process and help them to become compliant. This has involved listening to the concerns expressed by service providers and interest groups through proactive engagement with the sector, sometimes involving meetings with such groups.

I, along with officials from my Department, met a group representing community services in the Carlow Kilkenny area, where I was able to hear their concerns first hand. Such meetings are valuable in building an understanding of the realities for services on the ground. During a compliance visit, Pobal, when determining what constitutes a pattern of attendance, aim to apply the rules in a manner which maximises the amount payable to providers. As such, while the rules link funding to attendance levels, flexibility is shown in the way those rules are applied. Officials in my Department continue to review the link between compliance and sustainability, to ensure that it operates in an effective manner. As has been the case in 2018/19, funding and repayment plans will be available for community services who are facing sustainability concerns in the 2019/20 programme year.

Compliance visits for the legacy programmes (CCSP, CCSU, CCSR(T), TEC) and ECCE have begun for the 2019/20 programme year. My Department will once again be focused on balancing the responsibility to protect public monies with the need to support children, families and service providers. Along with the supports that were previously available, the National Childcare Scheme is also now open for families to access.

The National Childcare Scheme is Ireland’s pathway to quality, accessible, affordable ELC and SAC. The Scheme replaces the existing targeted childcare programmes with a single, streamlined and more user-friendly scheme, and includes ‘wraparound’ care for pre-school and school-age children. The scheme seeks to address poverty traps that have been identified on a cross government basis. The demand for the scheme, covering almost 20,000 children in its first 4 weeks of operation, is positive.

The scheme rules, particularly the attendance rules, are designed to be flexible and responsive to family life. The rules recognise the business requirements of our dedicated childcare service providers, as well as the need to protect State finances and represent value for money for taxpayers.

The National Childcare Scheme has marked another significant milestone for ELC and SAC in this country, creating an infrastructure from which Government can further increase investment in services over the next decade. This is in line with the commitment made in First 5, the Whole of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families. First 5 also commits to a DEIS type model for early learning and care services in areas of disadvantage, and to exploring the extension of AIM beyond ECCE and disability. Both these commitments, and many others within First 5, will have a positive impact on community services.

Domestic Violence Refuges Provision

Ceisteanna (665)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

665. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if a copy of a report (details supplied) produced in respect of the need for a facility will be provided; the action taken on the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53219/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I have requested that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, responds to you directly on this matter.   

I am informed that Tusla has conducted a needs analysis project in the Carlow area, in conjunction with local stakeholders.  

The allocation of outreach workers in Carlow was prioritised in 2019, and funding was provided for this purpose. Tusla has advised my Department that one outreach worker has been recruited and is in place, while another outreach worker will be in place in early 2020. The provision of outreach services in the county will greatly increase the capacity of services to respond to service users in Carlow on a local basis.  

Future developments will be informed by Tusla’s review of emergency refuge accommodation nationwide, which will be completed in early 2020. It should be noted that the responsibility for investment in new refuges falls under the remit of a number of Government bodies, including local authorities.

Child Abuse Reports

Ceisteanna (666)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

666. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of allegations of child sexual abuse that were determined as unfounded in 2018 and 2019; if it will ensured that Tusla creates a mechanism by which the data can be obtained within the next three months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53225/19]

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 reply be provided to the Deputy.

Child and Family Agency Funding

Ceisteanna (667)

John Lahart

Ceist:

667. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if funding will be channelled from Tusla through a partnership (details supplied) that has a SLA with Tusla via her Department to address the hidden harm amongst children of parents struggling with crack cocaine and other substance misuse issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53290/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency provides funding to a range of family support services throughout the country that provide services and supports to vulnerable children and families.

In 2019, Tusla and the HSE established a national project, to inform and improve service planning in relation to the hidden harm caused by parental alcohol and substance misuse.

In addition, Signs of Safety, which Tusla has adopted as the national practice approach to Child Protection and Welfare continues to include parental use of drugs and alcohol as a core part of risk assessment.

The allocation of funding to services is an operational matter for Tusla, and I have requested Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to potential relevant funding that it may be possible for the partnership in question to apply for. 

Inland Fisheries

Ceisteanna (668)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

668. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if funding is available to property owners who allow fishermen access through their land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52589/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

I understand that the Deputy's question relates to access for people fishing in rivers and lakes. 

My Department does not provide funding for landowners who allow fishermen to access their lands for this purpose.

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has policy responsibility for the conservation, protection and management of our inland fisheries resource and the Deputy may wish to contact that Department for any information they may be able to provide on the matter.

Noise Pollution

Ceisteanna (669)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

669. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the role local authorities should play in tackling the issue of excessive dog barking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52742/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Rural)

Under section 25 of the Control of Dogs Act 1986, the District Court may act on a complaint where a nuisance has been created by excessive dog barking.  A copy of the relevant complaint form is available from local authorities.

While complaints in relation to barking dogs are largely dealt with under the provisions of the Control of Dogs Acts, generally, a person experiencing noise nuisance may contact their local authority, which may initiate proceedings under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992.  This Act also provides for any person, or group of persons, to seek an order in the District Court to have noise giving reasonable cause for annoyance abated.

Details outlining the legal avenues available to persons experiencing noise nuisance are available on the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment website: Please find link here.

Addressing the issue of barking dogs in a tenancy agreement would also be a matter for the relevant local authority.