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 Header Item Child Care Services Staff (Continued)
 Header Item Other Questions
 Header Item Child Protection

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 938 No. 3

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Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I will take the Deputy's last question, on whether it would feed into the negotiations for budget 2018. The answer is "Absolutely". I am happy to come back with an exact, or almost exact, deadline for when we expect to have it but I need to check with officials first. The terms of the review are being worked on. I appreciate that the child care sector will be looking for them but its own research will feed into the review and is guiding us now in the decisions we make on how to use the money I got in budget 2017.

We anticipate that this will come and will give us more evidence than we have now to enable us to have strong negotiations for budget 2018.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte I compliment the child care providers of programmes like the ECCE and the ACP because they feed into the picture with valuable information. There are concerns among community providers and private providers over the sums provided by Early Childhood Ireland. They show that private providers have to pay commercial rates and this makes them different from community providers, who in turn are concerned over wages. Up to the end of last year they had CE workers to help with their ratios. We talk about universal care and affordability but different providers are quite diverse in their concerns. One has concerns over the ECCE worker and the other over commercial rates.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am very aware of those issues, which the organisations in question have also brought to my attention. There is a diversity of cost bases, depending on where they are located, and we must address these and take them into account in our review of costs. The review will provide us with better evidence than we have at the moment. That will enable us to make the case more strongly for increased resources and to take account of the diversity in the cost of providing services.

I agree that concerns around the pay and conditions of the child care workforce are real, and evidence for these is backed up by the reported difficulties. These concerns have been discussed in the early years forum, where many organisations have raised them. I am delighted that steps are being taken towards the unionisation of the early years sector and I and officials from the Department met ICTU on this subject. We agreed to continue to engage.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger It should also include au pairs.

Other Questions

Child Protection

 45. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the steps her Department has taken or proposes to take to identify and provide the necessary back-up for children at risk, whether from physical or mental abuse, neglect or other failure; if she is satisfied that the existing structures are efficient to meet the challenges of the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [7032/17]

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan This question relates to the extent to which the Minister can investigate, identify and support children deemed to be at risk or likely to become at risk through various means, whether they be mental, physical or otherwise.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I assure the Deputy that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, deals immediately with emergency cases, including for instance if a child has been abandoned or is in immediate physical danger or at immediate risk of sexual abuse. Social work duty teams keep high-priority cases under review by regularly checking to ascertain risk to the child and where necessary will reprioritise the case.

  Tusla holds the statutory responsibility for child welfare and protection and is the appropriate body to receive reports of concerns relating to children at risk. Each referral received by the agency is assessed and dealt with on an individual basis by the relevant social work team. Every report of concern for the safety and well-being of a child is assessed and required action is identified.

  I am committed to commencing the Children First Act 2015, which is due to be commenced by the end of the year. As the Deputy will be aware, the Children First Act 2015 will see mandatory reporting by key professionals, mandated assisting, comprehensive risk assessment and preparation of child safeguarding statements by services for children, and the establishment of the Children First interdepartmental implementation group on a statutory basis. Tusla is developing online training for mandatory reporters. Children First guidelines will continue in parallel with the Act. This sets out the roles and responsibilities for all citizens to report child welfare and protection issues to Tusla and, where criminal matters are involved, the Garda.

  I believe we have made significant progress in our structures and practices for child protection. The Children First Act 2015 is of particular significance but I see it as part of a suite of child protection legislation that includes the Acts relating to the National Vetting Bureau and the withholding of information on offences against children and vulnerable persons.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House  

  There is no room for complacency about our safeguarding measures and we will constantly review them to ensure they are effective.

  Tusla works closely with other care providers, including the HSE, in respect of access to primary care services, child and adolescent mental health services, disability and other services. Tusla and the HSE monitor their interagency relationship to ensure they are working effectively in the best interests of children and families.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan To what extent does the system operate in respect of children admitted to emergency departments with suspected self-harm or who are otherwise hospitalised? Is there a system whereby an investigative team can identify particular households and ascertain the causes for a child being referred in these ways? In a reply to a previous question, I was told that, in the space of one and a half or two years, 300 children aged between ten and 14 were referred to emergency departments having self-harmed. What is the underlying cause? How can the system deal with it? I applaud child care workers for doing what is a very responsible job. It is a difficult job and the public can often be very critical. I am concerned about adequate resources being available and that they can be deployed as necessary.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Tusla is responsible for children who need protection and need to be entered into care. The implementation of the Children First guidelines will be the basis on which concerns about children self-harming can be addressed. There will be training and manuals for persons working with children, across departments and in different settings, and these will assist people in dealing with such matters.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Is there a particular system whereby emergency staff can be deployed to deal with cases of children presenting at emergency departments showing evidence of self-harm? There have been repeat situations with tragic consequences so how can we achieve a speedy response and pursue each case personally, leaving no stone unturned and nothing in doubt?

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Interagency co-operation is key, involving HSE, hospitals and Tusla and the Department. The interdepartmental working group is looking at this and ensuring that protocols of interagency co-operation are developed.

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