Childcare Services

Ceisteanna (609)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

609. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration his views on the reported difficulties that some childcare providers have in operating the IT system pertaining to the schemes provided by his Department and Pobal; the number of complaints received regarding same; and his plans for remedial action. [26466/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

The National Childcare Scheme was launched in November 2019 on the new Early Years Platform. This platform was designed to meet the current and future needs of all childcare schemes under the remit of the Department. The Service Provider portal, the HIVE, has been in use since the NCS opened for applications and has been designed with future proofing in mind for the users.

The ECCE scheme went live on the HIVE/Early Years Platform (EYP) on the 17th August 2020.

For this programme year (September 20th-August 21st) there are almost 130,000 children registered on the platform for the NCS and ECCE. Pobal’s customer services have received 60 complaints since services reopened in late June.

Notwithstanding this, we are very aware that some providers have faced challenges in using the new system and it is taking time for some providers to become familiar with the new requirements. The following training and supports were provided:

-Briefing sessions with City & County Childcare Committees in July & August 2020.

- Service provider training sessions delivered via webinars.

- Recordings of the Webinars sent to all 2973 Providers and CCC’s.

- A series of training guides developed over the past few weeks in relation to contracting, registrations and submitting applications for Higher Capitation & AIM Level 1.

DCYA has already met with a number of representative groups to identify where our systems might work better or target where further support may be required. Pobal will also be looking to engage with users based on their experience to see where further enhancement, training or support may be required.

Pobal continues to provide support and assistance directly to early years providers through their dedicated Early Years Provider Centre (EYPC) and will endeavour to respond to providers as quickly as possible.

If the Deputy is aware of specific issues being experienced by individual providers I would encourage him to refer those providers to Pobal’s Early Years Provider Centre by contacting eypc@pobal.ie or calling 01 511 7222.

Childcare Services

Ceisteanna (610)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

610. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if eligible applicants will continue to be able to access the community childcare subvention scheme; if new entrants will be allowed to the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26467/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

For the 2020-21 programme year eligible applicants to the Community Childcare Subvention Plus (CCSP) programme will continue to have full access provided their child is in attendance in a Tusla registered service and registered on the CCSP Saver Programme before the close of the programme year i.e. up to and including Friday 13 August 2021.

As per previous programme years the registration will apply from the date the child first attends the service and will not be backdated to the beginning of the programme year.

It is important to note that the CCSP programme is not reopening for new entrants, the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) has replaced all previous targeted childcare programmes, details can be found at www.ncs.gov.ie/

My Department funds City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs) who offer a wide variety of services locally including, advice and support for both childcare providers and parents on applying for the various funding schemes administered by my Department. Contact details for all of the CCCs are available at myccc.ie.

Childcare Services

Ceisteanna (611)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

611. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if a crèche (details supplied) will receive payment for its early childhood care and education scheme from the date of operation, that is, 31 August 2020, rather than the date the contract was activated, that is, 7 September 2020, in the interests of fairness and in recognition of the financial challenges the loss of income will present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26468/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Pobal are the administrators of all childcare funding programmes on behalf of my Department.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that ECCE funding will be applied from the date each child first attends the service rather than from the date the funding agreement was activated.

Pobal have responded directly to the service in this regard.

Departmental Data

Ceisteanna (612)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

612. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the number of childcare providers that commenced operation of the early childhood care and education scheme prior to the activation of the contract; if these providers will be paid for the entire period of operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26469/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Pobal administer all childcare funding programmes on behalf of my Department. Pobal have informed my Department that there are 450 services which commenced provision of ECCE services in advance of the activation of their ECCE funding agreement.

My Department has directed Pobal to fund ECCE service providers from the date of a child's registration on an ECCE programme, where the registration happened in advance of the submission of the funding agreement by the provider. These providers will therefore be funded from the child's registration date on the ECCE programme.

Departmental Funding

Ceisteanna (613)

Patrick Costello

Ceist:

613. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the financial support provided by his Department to an organisation (details supplied) since 2010, on an annual basis. [26511/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has no record of any financial support provided to the given organisation since the Department's establishment in June 2011.

Departmental Data

Ceisteanna (614)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

614. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the number of unaccompanied children that arrived here from Greece in 2019 following the agreement in 2018 to accept 36 unaccompanied minors in need of international protection in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26617/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Thank you for your question on this important matter.

The answer to your question is no UAMs were received into Ireland during 2019. The first cohort of 8 young people relating to the agreement arrived in June 2020. 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.

Tusla provides care for two categories of unaccompanied child. These are unaccompanied child refugees who come to Ireland under specific relocation projects like the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) and to children who arrive, unaccompanied by a guardian, to ports of entry. These children are known as separated children seeking asylum (SCSA).

Both categories of child are sometimes referred to as unaccompanied minors or UAMs and are cared for by the same Tusla specialist team called Separated Children Seeking Asylum Team.

Separated Children Seeking Asylum

Over the course of 2019 Tusla's Separated Children Seeking Asylum team received 167 referrals. 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 approximately 46 of these children being looked after by Tusla in 2019.

Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP)

The Irish Refugee Protection Programme is administered by the Department of Justice and Equality. Since 2017, Tusla’s 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

8 from Malta Relief under IRPP

8 from Greece under the IRPP in June 2020

We anticipate the arrival of four further children in the coming weeks. My officials and I are working with Tusla to identify additional resources, in the context of Budget 2021, to meet our commitments to the transfer of unaccompanied children to Ireland as quickly as possible from Greece.

I would appreciate the support of the Deputy in this endeavour.

Departmental Data

Ceisteanna (615)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

615. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the number of unaccompanied minors from Moira refugee camp in Greece it is planned to resettle in Ireland; when it is anticipated that such minors will arrive in Ireland; the details of Tusla’s involvement in the resettlement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26618/20]

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.

Foster Care

Question No. 617 answered with Question No. 607.

Ceisteanna (616)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

616. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the number of mothers of children in foster care and, separately, children in foster care who have died in each year since 2015 in each of Tusla’s 17 service areas. [26704/20]

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.

Question No. 617 answered with Question No. 607.

Children in Care

Question No. 619 answered with Question No. 594.

Ceisteanna (618)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

618. 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 Tusla's 17 service areas in each of the years from 2015 to 2019 and to date in 2020. [26706/20]

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.

Question No. 619 answered with Question No. 594.

Departmental Investigations

Ceisteanna (620)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

620. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if media reports in respect of an organisation (details supplied) and allegations of misconduct are being investigated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26870/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Thank you for raising this issue.

Over the past number of years, there have been examples of organisations not upholding high standards of child protection in Ireland. In response to such situations, a number of policy and legislative improvements have been made to child protection standards over recent years. In particular, the Children First Act 2015, which was fully commenced in 2017, provides for a number of key child protection measures, including improving child protection arrangements in organisations providing services to children.

The Act places an obligation on these organisations to keep children safe from harm, to carry out a risk assessment and to develop a Child Safeguarding Statement (CSS) that outlines the policies and procedures that are in place to manage any risks identified. The Act also provides for Tusla to establish and maintain a register of non-compliance for organisations who fail to provide a copy of the CSS to Tusla when requested to do so. Tusla has established a Child Safeguarding Statement Compliance Unit (CSSCU) to support implementation of these provisions of the Act. The register of non-compliance is available on the Tusla website www.tusla.ie.

Tusla has advised the Department that its Child Safeguarding Statement Compliance Unit engaged with St John's ambulance in 2019 and it was deemed to have a compliant safeguarding statement.

While nothing can undo abuse people have experienced in the past, I hope that this provides some assurance that there are strong measures in place to protect other young people now and in the future.

I'm sure you can appreciate that I cannot comment on matters before the courts, which is the case in this situation. I must also advise that the remit of my Department does not extend into the governance of this charitable organisation.

Departmental Data

Ceisteanna (621)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

621. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the private companies that provide services in respect of residential services on behalf of the State under the auspices of the HSE or Tusla and State agencies under his remit; and the amount remitted to each individual company with an accompanying statement as to the exact type of service that they provide, in tabular form. [26874/20]

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.

Departmental Data

Ceisteanna (622)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

622. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the private companies that provide services in respect of non-residential services on behalf of the State under the auspices of the HSE or Tusla and State agencies under his remit; and the amount remitted to each individual company with an accompanying statement as to the exact type of service that they provide, in tabular form. [26875/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I understand from clarification sought by my officials, that the Deputy's question relates specifically to Tusla and not in relation to other State bodies under my remit or the HSE.

The commissioning of non-residential services is an operational matter for Tusla. I have requested Tusla to respond directly to the Deputy regarding the information sought.

The Deputy may also be interested in Note 7 and the Appendices of Tusla's published 2019 Annual Financial Statements. The Appendices lists the individual service providers that received payments exceeding €50,000 by grant type. The statements were laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in July 2020 and can be found on the Tusla website: https://www.tusla.ie/uploads/content/Tusla-Annual-Report-2019-eng-web.pdf

Children in Care

Ceisteanna (623)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

623. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the number of children who have died in the State care in each of the years from 2015 to 2019 and to date in 2020, by age, geographical location and cause of death. [26889/20]

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.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Ceisteanna (624, 625, 626, 627, 630, 632, 633, 635)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

624. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if an apology will be issued for the shame and stigma imposed on unmarried mothers and their children through the policies and practices of the State. [26917/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

625. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if an apology will be issued to adopted persons who had to grow up with no knowledge of their origins. [26918/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

626. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if an apology will be issued to persons who were illegally adopted. [26919/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

627. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if an apology will be issued to adopted persons for the loss of their identity. [26920/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

630. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if an apology will be issued to adopted persons who had to grow up in abusive families due to the lack of proper assessments and follow ups. [26923/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

632. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if an apology will be issued to natural fathers who wished to raise and-or have contact with their children but were denied the opportunity to do so. [26925/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

633. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if an acknowledgement will be issued of the effects on past and future generations of families affected by the institutional system. [26926/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

635. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if an apology will be issued for the continued stigma and discrimination imposed on adopted persons and natural parents through the lack of statutory rights and services. [26928/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 624 to 627, inclusive, 630, 632, 633 and 635 together.

Many of the matters raised by the Deputy are being considered by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation. The Commission is due to submit its final report to me next month and its remit includes investigating the entry and exit pathways for mothers and their children through certain Mother and Baby Homes. As Minister, I cannot pre-empt the findings of the Commission and I do not intend to make any public statement on historic adoption issues in advance of the final report.

In terms of illegal birth registrations, the Commission's second interim report recognised that these individuals have a need to establish their identity, but also acknowledged that the false registration of births is a very difficult issue to investigate because of a lack of accurate records. The Deputy will be aware that in the case of St Patrick’s Guild, detailed records were kept and 151 cases of illegal birth registrations were identified by Tusla. The process of contacting and then supporting those affected by the illegal birth registrations uncovered on those files is reaching completion, and is being handled very carefully, on a case by case basis, and at the pace of the individual concerned. Tusla social workers are supporting the individuals affected as they deal with the news of their illegal birth registration and have put in place a dedicated counselling service.

In relation to the issue of information and tracing in the context of adoption, the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016 has lapsed and I am currently considering the complex matters involved before deciding on how best to legislate in this important area.

I believe it is acknowledged by all parties that adoption in the past was often a secretive process, carried out sometimes without due regard to the rights and interests of those involved, and to the lifelong impact on those individuals. However, adoption today is a service for children, to provide a family to care for them when their parents are unable to do so, and where adoption is in their best interests.

Today, the safeguards in the adoption acts ensure that the best interests of the child are the paramount consideration in all adoption cases, and in every step of the process. Modern day adoption legislation and practice also ensures that the rights of all involved are vindicated, including birth fathers, within the overarching framework of working for the best interests of the child involved.

I expect to be in a position to comment in more detail on the issues raised by the Deputy, in the context of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation's final report.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

Ceisteanna (628, 629, 631, 634)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

628. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if an apology will be issued for the incarceration of women and children in mother and baby homes and similar institutions. [26921/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

629. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if an apology will be issued to mothers and relatives whose children died in institutions due to abuse and neglect. [26922/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

631. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if an apology will be issued for the policies and practices that caused mothers and children to be separated from each other by forcing and coercing women into relinquishing their babies. [26924/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

634. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration if an apology will be issued to mothers who were denied knowledge of their rights, which prevented them from giving informed consent. [26927/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 628, 629, 631 and 634 together.

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was established by Government to investigate the significant concerns related to the institutional care of unmarried mothers and their babies during the period 1922 to 1998. The Commission is tasked with providing a full account of what happened to vulnerable women and children in these institutions.

I am acutely aware of the importance of this Commission's work and how much its final report is anticipated by former residents and their families.

Notably, all of the specific concerns raised by the Deputy are central to the Commission's terms of reference. The Commission has the robust statutory powers, resources and expertise necessary to examine these matters in a way that has never been possible before.

I absolutely share the desire of all interested parties to see the Commission conclude its work, and I look forward to receiving the final report at the end of October. However, in the interim, it is not appropriate to pre-empt the findings and conclusions of the Commission on these deeply personal and sensitive matters. To do so could potentially compromise the outcome of this important work.

As members of an Oireachtas which called for the establishment of this Commission, we owe it to all those who have so courageously shared their experiences with the Commission, to carefully and calmly examine its final report before responding. Our duty to the women and children who passed through these institutions, and to their families, is to ensure that their lived experiences are shared, acknowledged and understood.

When the Commission delivers its final report next month, its conclusions on all matters regarding the treatment of former residents of Mother and Baby Homes, and related institutions, will be taken into careful consideration in determining the appropriate State response.