Departmental Circulars

Ceisteanna (589)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

589. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will place on the record of the Houses of the Oireachtas a copy of a circular sent to social welfare representatives relating to administration of rent allowance (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27236/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Rent supplement continues to play a key role in supporting families and individuals in private rented accommodation, with the scheme currently supporting approximately 19,600 recipients.

The scheme provides short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.  The scheme ensures that for those who were renting, but whose circumstances have changed due to temporary loss of employment, can continue to meet their rental commitments.

A copy of the rent supplement circular has been forwarded to the Deputy.  If he has any further queries relating to the circular, please revert to the Department.

I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Schemes Data

Ceisteanna (590)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

590. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of Defence Forces personnel that received family income supplement or working family payment in each of the years 2013 to 2019 and to date in 2020. [27237/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

Working Family Payment (WFP) is a weekly tax-free payment which provides additional income support to employees on low earnings with children.  WFP is designed to prevent in-work poverty for low paid workers with child dependents, and to offer a financial incentive to pursue employment.

The number of Defence Forces personnel that received WFP for each of the years 2013 to 2019, and to date in 2020 are as follows:

   Year 

  Number

   2013

  251

   2014

  255

   2015 

  249 

   2016

  225

   2017

  180

   2018

  111

   2019

  113

* 2020     

  100

* Up to 25 September 2020

It should be noted that the above figures refer to the numbers of Defence Forces personnel in receipt of WFP at week 52 of the relevant year.  The figures may fluctuate marginally from week to week. 

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

SOLAS Administration

Ceisteanna (591)

Cathal Crowe

Ceist:

591. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) will be considered for a SOLAS training course while temporarily out of work due to Covid-19. [27345/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

This person is in receipt of PUP since April 2020.  PUP is not a qualifying scheme for Education and Training courses.  We have a number of such customers who are potential FET (Further Education and Training) participants and I wish to advise that this matter is currently under consideration by the Department and we will revert to the person concerned once a determination has been made in relation to same.  Individuals may apply online for Solas/FET courses. It is not possible to reserve places on those courses, waitlists apply and numbers are restricted due to social distancing requirements.

Jobseeker's Payments

Ceisteanna (592)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

592. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the options available to a person (details supplied); when they will be entitled to a payment in their own right; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27352/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

According to the records of my Department, the person concerned was awarded a Jobseeker's Benefit (JB) claim on 07/10/2019.  Entitlement to JB ended on 02/09/2020 when the person concerned reached 234 days of payment thereby exhausting her entitlement.

The person concerned applied for a Jobseeker's Allowance and a Basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance payment on 03/09/2020 and 22/09/2020 respectively, both of these claims are currently pending.  The figure referred to by the Deputy is not relevant as the claim has not yet been decided.   

Following information provided on the SWA application, an officer of my Department contacted the person concerned to request additional documentation.  When the necessary documentation is received a means assessment will be undertaken and a decision made on the claims.  The person concerned will then be advised of the outcome. 

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (593)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

593. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of requests on hand from her Department and from State agencies under the aegis of her Department for approval to increase staff levels; the number of public and civil servants in total involved in these requests; the method by which decisions are made on the requests; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26474/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Social)

My Department uses workforce planning processes to identify the critical resource needs required to deliver its business goals.  Workforce planning is a key tool in enabling my Department to forecast its current and future staffing needs (subject to the limits of the annual estimates process, the usual budgetary constraints and approvals by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform). The Workforce Plan aims to ensure a long-term, proactive and strategic plan by which my Department aims to have the right people, with the right levels of talent and skills, in each location and Division, doing the right thing at the right time. 

My Department operates in a rapidly changing environment and its structure must facilitate the flexibility to deploy resources to priority work, as the need arises.  As business needs arise, staff are allocated to support organisational priorities within my Department.  Overall staffing levels within Divisions are continually monitored and staff transfer in and out of Divisions as the workload demands.  Where skills gaps have been are identified, the HR Division reviews these requests on a quarterly basis and approves staff assignments on the basis of business cases made by Divisions.  One such iteration of this process has just been completed, so no requests are currently on hand for consideration from within the Department.   

The question of staffing levels in the State Agencies under the aegis of my Department is an operational matter, generally delegated to the Agencies themselves and I will ask the Agencies to respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.  However, I am aware of one request for additional staff resources, related to Brexit.

Early Years Sector

Ceisteanna (594, 596, 597, 619)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

594. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if he will consider a proposal (details supplied) in Budget 2021. [26593/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

596. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if he will consider the issues raised in correspondence (details supplied) in relation to early education; and if additional funding will be provided in Budget 2021 for the sector. [26845/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

597. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if he will consider the issues raised in correspondence (details supplied) in relation to early education; if additional funding will be provided in Budget 2021 for the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26857/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

619. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if consideration will be given to matters raised in correspondence by a person (details supplied) in relation to early education; if additional funding will be provided in Budget 2021 for the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26841/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 594, 596, 597 and 619 together.

I acknowledge that 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. I have met with employee and employer representatives on a number of occasions and have listened to their concerns. I will consider any proposals which seek to resolve the difficulties faced by the sector, including the proposals for Budget 2021 shared with me by the Deputies.

However, there are significant challenges associated with implementing the proposals put forward in the SIPTU Big Start Campaign, including the current economic context in which Budget 2021 is being prepared. In particular, as the State is not the employer, my Department does not pay the wages of staff working in early learning and care settings, and 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 in the context of the wide range of policy ambitions of Government and likely budget constraints from 2021 onwards.

Overall, Budget 2020 saw a 9% increase in investment in early learning and care and school age childcare. Additional investment of €63.6m brought spending to €638m in 2020, a 141% increase in investment over five budgets. This increase has included specific measures to assist employers to improve the pay and conditions of their staff whilst also addressing administrative demands, such as: 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.

Nevertheless, whilst this welcome level of investment needs to continue if we are to offer services that are of high quality, affordable and accessible, increased investment by itself will not ensure that staff wages and conditions will improve.

Work continues to progress the Workforce Development Plan, which 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 working towards a more gender-balanced and diverse workforce.

I launched an extensive consultation with the sector on the Workforce Development Plan on 19 August. The consultation process includes a call for submissions/survey which is available to anyone who wishes to provide feedback. On 22 September, I addressed an online information webinar on the consultation process, which was very well attended. This event provided an update to the sector on the consultation process and how those working in the sector can take part.

Delivering on a further commitment in First 5, an expert group has been appointed 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. A public consultation process on the development of a new funding model is taking place in parallel to the public consultation on the Workforce Development Plan.

Refugee Resettlement Programme

Questions Nos. 596 and 597 answered with Question No. 594.

Ceisteanna (595)

John Brady

Ceist:

595. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the reason Ireland has only allowed a minimal number of children in from the Moria refugee camp; and his plans to allow more children into Ireland. [26633/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Thank you for your question on this pressing matter.

I am extremely concerned with the plight of the refugees in Moria following the fires there, especially young people who are without parents or family in the camp. Ireland has committed to bringing four children from Moria in the coming weeks.

The state’s capacity to bring unaccompanied children to Ireland is determined by the available care placements, and the commitments the state has made to unaccompanied children who are already here.

Due to the level of need among refugees since the destruction of the Moria camp, I am seeking to expand Ireland’s capacity to care for unaccompanied children. My Department and Tusla officials are examining the immediate requirements to fulfil Ireland’s existing commitments, including expansion of care placements and working with Department of Justice officials to identify unaccompanied children who wish to come to Ireland.

Ireland provides care for two groups of unaccompanied children - children who arrive as part of refugee relocation programmes, and children who arrive without parents or guardians to ports of entry and seek asylum. All children who are unaccompanied are received into care under the Child Care Act 1991.

Both categories of child are sometimes referred to as unaccompanied minors or UAMs and are cared for by the same Tusla specialist team called the Separated Children Seeking Asylum Team. The young people are, in the main, young boys aged between 15 and 17 years on arrival.

Separated Children Seeking Asylum (SCSA) .

This is the largest cohort of unaccompanied children who come into Tusla care when they present to the immigration authorities at our sea and air ports. The service provided to these children is demand-led, and accurately estimating future demand is challenging, particularly as the effects of Brexit are yet to be seen. The children are received into care at are placed in residential and foster care.

Tusla's Separated Children Seeking Asylum team received 167 referrals in 2019. These referrals include children who arrive unaccompanied at a port of entry but who have an adult relative or friend who lives in Ireland and is willing to care for them. The SCSA team carries out preliminary enquiries to ensure that the person has a genuine relationship with the child, and does agree to care for them before placing the child in their care.

The children who do not have adult relatives or guardians are received into care, and there were 46 of these children in 2019.

Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP)

The Irish Refugee Protection Programme is administered by the Department of Justice and Equality. Since 2017, Tusla has participated in the European Union Relief Projects (EURP) which include IRPP, Calais Special Project (CSP), Malta Relief, Greece Relief. The following is a breakdown of the programmes to date:

41 from France under CSP

6 from Greece Relief under IRPP[1]

8 from Malta Relief under IRPP

8 from Greece under the IRPP in June 2020

I hope I can rely on the Deputy's support in my efforts to receive more unaccompanied young people from Greece under the IRPP programme.

Questions Nos. 596 and 597 answered with Question No. 594.

Youth Work Supports

Ceisteanna (598)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Ceist:

598. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if there will be increased investment for youth work in County Cork in Budget 2021 to support increased resources for young persons in view of the fact that youth work funding is still 17% below 2008 levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27104/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

In recent years funding for the provision of youth services has increased on an annual basis. Between 2016 and 2020 the annual current youth funding available to my Department increased from €51.9m to €61.79m. This additional funding is being used for programmes that target disadvantaged young people and to assist national youth organisations in their work to support local voluntary youth services.

In addition, in 2020, my Department launched the most significant reform of youth services ever undertaken with the launch of UBU Your Space Your Place. This will provide an opportunity to identify need and to focus funding on young people most in need of intervention.

I recognise the value of youth work from both a social and an economic viewpoint, so strengthening our investment in youth work makes sense. In this regard, I am committed to increasing the budget for youth service funding should available resources allow.

Youth Services

Ceisteanna (599)

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

599. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the financial supports allocated to an organisation (details supplied) and its new national training centre in Tallaght, Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27174/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The organisation referred to by the Deputy receives annual funding as a national youth organisation under the Youth Service Grant Scheme, and in 2020, it has been allocated some €418,000 under this scheme.

In early 2019, the organisation was advised of the capital funding that was available from my Department for youth organisations. Following a successful application, €20,000 was allocated under the 2019 capital scheme for national youth organisations, and it is understood that this allocation was for furniture, kitchen equipment and the IT server. In the capital scheme for 2020, the organisation was allocated €50,000 as a contribution to ICT costs, including an upgrade to its phone systems, audio/visual equipment for their training facility and computers for staff.

The continued funding of voluntary youth organisations through the Youth Services Grant Scheme is intended to ensure the emergence, promotion, growth and development of youth organisations with distinctive philosophies and programmes aimed at the social education of young people.

The overall funding across all my Department's schemes for youth organisations and clubs supports the delivery of a range of youth work programmes and services for all young people, including those from disadvantaged communities, by the voluntary youth work sector.

Child and Family Agency

Ceisteanna (600)

Réada Cronin

Ceist:

600. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the number of children removed from their parents by Tusla in each of the past five years at birth or later; the number of reunification plans for same; the number of reunifications completed; the number of each of in north County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26297/20]

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.

Child and Family Agency

Ceisteanna (601)

Réada Cronin

Ceist:

601. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the number of Tusla social workers reported to CORU since its inception; the number and type of sanctions made by Tusla in the matter of its social workers in each of the past five years; the number of each referring to north County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26298/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

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

Child and Family Agency

Ceisteanna (602)

Réada Cronin

Ceist:

602. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the number of children reaching a majority and exiting Tusla care in each of the past five years; if each was released into secure housing; if each was transferred into the care of the relevant bodies providing necessary care; if he will provide the same information for north County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26299/20]

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.

Child Detention Centres

Ceisteanna (603)

Réada Cronin

Ceist:

603. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if he will publish the report into Oberstown Children’s Detention Campus commissioned from persons (details supplied); and if not, the reason therefor in the context of publication being a condition of its commissioning from the expert authors. [26300/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

An external independent review of operations and best practice at the Campus was commissioned by the Board of Management of Oberstown Children Detention Campus in September 2016. The report of the review was submitted to the Board of Management in February 2017 and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in March 2017.

The Board of Oberstown took independent legal advice on the question of publication of the review, which stated that there were legal risks around publication. Following careful examination, the Board was not satisfied that fair procedures had been applied before the report was finalised and submitted. In light of the legal risks associated with publication, the Board, with great reluctance, decided not to publish the report. The Board considered it necessary to strike the balance between the public interest in publishing the report and avoiding the substantial legal risks associated with such publication. The Board published the recommendations of the review in full, together with a detailed Board response to each recommendation.

The then Minister also sought the advice of the Attorney General, who advised that publication of the report was fraught with legal risk. Following detailed consideration of the complex matters involved, she concluded that it was not appropriate to publish the full report. This remains the position.

Child and Family Agency

Ceisteanna (604)

Réada Cronin

Ceist:

604. Deputy Réada Cronin asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the number of children and cases awaiting the allocation of a social worker; the number of these children and cases in north County Kildare; the length of time each case and child has been waiting both nationally and in north County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26301/20]

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.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Ceisteanna (605)

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

605. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if it will be ensured that no parents are penalised in obtaining the benefit of the ECCE scheme for their child as a consequence of Covid-19 related delays in the distribution of public services cards as in the case of a school (details supplied); if no child will lose a portion of their entitlement to two full academic years, that is 76 weeks on the ECCE scheme due to Covid-19 related delays in the administration of the cards; if a system will be put in place to ensure the childhood care provider can both obtain and give the parent the ECCE benefit retrospectively while the parent awaits receipt of the public services card; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26335/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme is a universal two-year pre-school programme available to all children within the eligible age range.

To avail of ECCE for their child, parents/guardians must provide the child’s full name as per birth certificate or passport, child’s date of birth and child’s PPSN in order to register their child on the programme. There is no requirement to have a Public Services Card to avail of ECCE.

Any parent or childcare provider experiencing seeking information on ECCE or any other childcare funded programmes should contact their local City/County Childcare Committee for assistance, details can be found on myccc.ie

Foster Care

Ceisteanna (606)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

606. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the number of mothers of children in foster care that have died in each of the years 2015 to 2019 and to date in 2020; and the number of mothers that died in each of the 17 service areas of Tusla. [26422/20]

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.

Child and Family Agency

Ceisteanna (607, 617)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

607. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the amount paid by Tusla in each of its 17 service areas to lawyers representing GALs for each of the years 2015 to 2019 and to date in 2020. [26423/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

617. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the amount paid by Tusla on legal fees in each year for the past five years in each of the 17 service areas; and the amount that has been spent on lawyers representing GALs in each of the years 2015 to 2019 and to date in 2020. [26705/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 607 and 617 together.

I have requested Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy regarding the information sought.

Children in Care

Ceisteanna (608)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

608. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the number of children of Traveller ethnicity taken into State care in each of the 17 service areas of Tusla in each of the years 2015 to 2019 and to date in 2020. [26424/20]

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.