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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1 - 72
 Header Item Child Care Services Staff
 Header Item Youth Services Funding
 Header Item Child and Family Agency Services
 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
 Header Item Child Care Services Funding
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Homeless Persons Supports
 Header Item Unaccompanied Minors and Separated Children
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Youth Services Provision
 Header Item Youth Services Provision
 Header Item Children and Family Services Provision
 Header Item Family Resource Centres
 Header Item Child Detention Centres
 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
 Header Item Family Support Services
 Header Item Aftercare Services Provision
 Header Item Youth Services Funding
 Header Item Unaccompanied Minors and Separated Children
 Header Item Child Care Services

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 938 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 87 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 1 - 72

 The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].

  Questions Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive, answered orally.

  Questions Nos. 10 to 39, inclusive, resubmitted.

  Questions Nos. 40 to 46, inclusive, answered orally.

Child Care Services Staff

 47. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties being experienced by the operators of private creche facilities in recruiting and retaining staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6714/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am very much aware of the difficulties being reported regarding the recruitment and retention of early years staff. The matter has been discussed at the Early Years Forum which I chair, and in other fora with my Department.

We are working with the Department of Education and Skills to develop a new Early Years workforce plan. This will examine workforce supply issues.

I am also aware that pay and conditions of staff is a significant barrier to retaining staff in the sector. Whilst my Department is not an employer of childcare workers, we are a significant funder. I am committed to the development of high quality services in this country and it has been proven that high quality care is dependent on a workforce that feels valued. My Department is working with the sector to explore how we can improve retention rates. The Programme for Government contains 14 commitments to improving access to high quality, affordable childcare. The Affordable Childcare Scheme I am introducing this year will provide an important infrastructure for future investment in the Early Years sector.

It is clear that we need to focus collaboratively on how best to make the early years sector an attractive and personally rewarding place in which to work. I think that pay is only one issue, although clearly an important one. The fact that we are investing considerably increased resources in the sector will also be important. In Budget 2017 I secured a 35% increase in childcare funding, up by €120m to €466m. This was on top of a 35% increase in Budget 2016 also.

These increases reflect the emphasis I am placing on developing a quality service with appropriately supported staff. In this regard, the City & County Childcare Committees are assisting services who experience difficulties in recruiting or retaining staff, and the Learner Funds are in place to support staff in achieving minimum qualification requirements, both regulatory and contractual.

Childcare workers are part of a growing sector, which the Government is strongly supporting. I believe that by working together we can ensure that it is a viable and strong sector which makes a significant contribution to the care and personal development of our children.

  Questions Nos. 48 to 52, inclusive, answered orally.

Youth Services Funding

 53. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on the cuts in funding that many organisations in the youth services sector have experienced since 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6754/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am pleased to confirm that I have allocated an extra €5.5m in current funding to support the provision of youth services in 2017. This will bring the total youth funding by my Department to €57.4m, an increase of 10% over last year's allocation. The additional funding will be used for programmes that target disadvantaged young people and to assist national youth organisations in their work to support local voluntary youth services.

My Department administers a range of funding schemes and programmes to support the provision of youth services to young people throughout the country including those from disadvantaged communities. The funding schemes support national and local youth work provision to some 380,000 young people. They involve approximately 1,400 youth work staff in 477 projects and 40,000 volunteers working in youth work services and communities throughout the country.

I acknowledge, and very much regret, the cuts that were made to youth funding in earlier years.

My Department, along with all Government Departments, was required to deliver substantial savings on all funding programmes in line with the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure 2012 – 2014. My Department sought to ensure that front line youth services, particularly those for the most vulnerable young people, were protected as far as is possible from the impact of any necessary reductions in funding.

I am pleased that we have turned the tide of these cuts now, with a 10% increase this year over 2016. My Department has carried out a Value for Money and Policy Review of a number of schemes supporting youth services. The review involved an in-depth scrutiny of the impact youth service provision has on young people’s lives and made a number of recommendations for the future operation of the youth schemes and their development in the years ahead.

I want to streamline the various funding schemes for youth services so that we maximise their benefit and target money to best effect. I have prioritised the work on developing a new integrated funding scheme as recommended by the Value for Money and Policy Review. Consultations with youth services are continuing with a view to introducing the new youth funding programme in line with the Value for Money and Policy Review of Youth Programmes in a planned way.

Finally, I am committed to continuing to seek additional support for youth services in Budget 2018 and beyond.

Child and Family Agency Services

 54. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the steps that can be taken to increase resources to the Tusla specialist team for separated children. [7020/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am very conscious of the need for additional resources for the Separated Children Seeking Asylum team in Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to allow us to respond to the current crisis facing all of us in Europe. I saw this for myself when I met with Greek ministers and with vulnerable families being assisted by our efforts in Greece under the Irish Refugee Programme. I want to acknowledge the work of the Tanaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality and the support of our Cabinet colleagues in pushing forward the work of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme and the Dail resolution on Calais .

I have asked Tusla to expand the Separated Children's team to progress the Dail resolution on unaccompanied minors who were previously in unofficial camps near Calais. Tusla is putting in place a project office and increasing the number of staff on this team. The additional staff will include a senior social work practitioner, social workers and social care staff. I understand that Tusla is examining how best to manage the required psychological support for the young people, including the recruitment of a psychologist into the team. I have been assured that residential accommodation being sourced will be homely in nature and in line with national standards.

I have committed to making sure that this service is properly resourced, and that the high standard of the current service continues. Estimates of the cost involved will be kept under review as the situation evolves. For example, the range of therapeutic and legal supports to be provided will only become clear once the young people have arrived and been assessed. I am closely monitoring the emerging situation and am determined to ensure this humanitarian effort will be successful.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

 55. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the additional matters that are delaying the publication of the second interim report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes. [7021/17]

 66. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone when the second interim report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes will be published; when the final report will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6804/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 66 together.

As I have previously outlined to the House, it is my intention to publish the Second Interim Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes in conjunction with the Government's response to the Report.

Given the broad scope of the Commission's work a number of issues in the Report extend beyond the remit of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Therefore, it has been necessary for me to consult with Cabinet colleagues and the Attorney General on these matters. I also needed to seek additional information from the Commission to assist in these deliberations and I am due to meet with the Commission again this month.

I do acknowledge that this process has taken longer than I initially envisaged and I am sensitive to the expectations of former residents and their advocates in this regard. For this reason, I also want to assure the Deputies that the Government's consideration of this Interim Report is not affecting progress of the Commission's investigations. The Commission is continuing its comprehensive investigations with a view to completing its final report by 17 February 2018 in accordance the three year timeframe provided in its terms of reference. The Commission will also complete its Social History Report and Confidential Committee Report by this date.

I will ensure that arrangements are made to inform representative groups of developments on the Report before making any public announcement. I hope to conclude matters as quickly as possible.

Child Care Services Funding

 56. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on the fact that the single affordable child care scheme will not take rent or mortgage payments into consideration when calculating parents' level of subsidisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6752/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I have given considerable thought to the question of taking rent or mortgage payments into account when calculating the subsidy under the new scheme. In doing so, I was conscious that excluding housing costs is fairer for families with the same income but different housing choices.

Allowing the deductibility of housing costs would, in effect, mean that the Affordable Childcare Scheme would part-subsidise families’ housing choices. For example, we may consider two families that have the same income level, but one family has chosen to live in a larger or more expensive house. If housing costs were deductible from the income-assessment for the Affordable Childcare Scheme, then the family that chose to live in a larger house would receive a larger childcare subsidy, and would do so solely because of how that family had chosen to spend its income. The Affordable Childcare Scheme would thus provide additional financial support to families who choose larger or more expensive housing options. If we were to allow for the deduction of housing costs, this allowance would generally benefit higher-income earners more, which would run counter to the intention of the Scheme to target supports primarily at those with the lowest incomes.

Eligibility for the Affordable Childcare Scheme (ACS) is based on net parental income, and the highest levels of support will be offered to those on the lowest incomes. ACS is fairer and more accessible than the current targeted childcare programmes, under which many low-income families are not currently able to access subsidised childcare because of the requirement to be in receipt of certain State benefits or attending certain training programmes. ACS will also enhance affordability, offering greater levels of support overall to low income families than the current targeted childcare programmes. For example, parents on the lowest incomes, who previously received a subsidy of €95 per week, may now receive a subsidy of between €150 and €205 per week, depending on the age of the child. The amount payable by a parent in such a case will – in an average childcare service – fall from €72 per week at present to between €0 and €17 per week under ACS, again depending on the age of the child.

While I acknowledge the financial burden of housing costs for many families with children, ACS aims to target subsidies on the basis of an equitable assessment of the total income coming into a family. Housing costs are not considered. As I have already outlined, this approach to assessing means is very much in line with most means-assessment Government schemes currently in operation.

I believe that this is the right way forward. We will no doubt debate this and many other matters when the House considers the forthcoming legislation on the Affordable Childcare Scheme.

Child Care Services Provision

 57. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the further supports she will introduce to support community child care providers' work towards sustainability following the changes whereby the community employment workers have been removed from the staffing ratio. [7049/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I recently announced that €1m of additional funding will be made available to childcare providers who have been facilitating the training of Community Employment (CE) scheme workers, to ensure that regulatory changes do not impact on service delivery or the availability of childcare places.

In preparation for the implementation of the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016, Childcare Committees Ireland were commissioned by my Department to investigate the impact of new childcare regulations on community childcare providers.

This research indicated that the vast majority of services would not face financial hardship as a result of changes required under the regulations. However this did find that some services had come to rely on Community Employment scheme workers, and I determined that these services should be provided additional funding to enable them to recruit and retain qualified staff to work alongside their CE scheme participants.

As a result, I have made available up to €2,000 for services to assist with the recruitment process or to provide expert support in HR management, with additional money being provided to each service after analysis of their individual financial situation, to ensure that they can fully meet the cost of these staff. No service will be forced to close.

Delivering high quality, accessible and affordable childcare is my key goal, and this funding will ensure that every child will be cared for by a qualified professional, and that services can sustain existing levels of provision, while they prepare for the new Affordable Childcare Scheme. Services are also providing more ECCE places than ever before, and I am confident that over 125,000 children will be receiving free pre-school care and education this summer.

All Community Childcare services around the country were afforded an opportunity to engage with this project during 2016, and detailed analysis has been completed. As some services clearly needed additional funding to maintain service levels, this money has now been allocated from the provision made for Sustainability Funding in Budget 2017, and will be available for drawdown from next week, with Pobal making payments on behalf of the local Childcare Committee.

Homeless Persons Supports

 58. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her plans with the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government to monitor and protect the well-being of children experiencing homelessness; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6740/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone As part of a whole-Government approach to homelessness, with input across different departments, I am also committed to helping children and families by supporting implementation of Rebuilding Ireland: the Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness. While the concerted efforts and actions outlined in the Action Plan will result in families moving on from hotels more quickly, my Department, together with Tusla, is working to support parents and children in order to minimise, as much as possible, the impacts of living in emergency accommodation.

  My Department has policy responsibility for children under 18 who present as ‘out of home’ without their parent(s) or guardian(s) and any child welfare and protection concerns that may arise in the context of the Child Care Act 1991. Children under 16 who present as out of home to emergency services are taken into care. Children aged 16 and 17 may be taken into care, or provided with a service under section 5 of the Child Care Act 1991 (accommodation for homeless children).

  A child, irrespective of accommodation status, who comes to the attention of Tusla will, where the appropriate threshold has been reached, have an assessment carried out by a social worker. Where Tusla has concerns regarding the welfare and development of a child, due to parenting difficulties or adverse environmental factors, they will provide family supports to assist the family and child. Ongoing monitoring will form part of the response by Tusla where it is required. In addition, referrals to other services e.g. mental health services, will be made where appropriate.

  My Department understands that enhanced National Quality Standards for Homeless Services are currently being developed by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive on behalf of all local authorities. A national advisory group has been in place since 2014 with representation from non-governmental homelessness service providers, the Health Service Executive, Tusla and others, as well as the housing authorities. Draft standards were piloted in services in four of the nine homeless regions during 2016 and it is expected that they will be implemented nationally in the first half of this year. This will, over time, enhance the quality of homeless service provision.

Unaccompanied Minors and Separated Children

 59. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the services her Department will be making available to unaccompanied minors arriving here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2574/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am very conscious of the need for additional resources for the Separated Children Seeking Asylum team in Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to allow us to respond to the current crisis facing all of us in Europe. I saw this for myself when I met with Greek ministers and with vulnerable families being assisted by our efforts in Greece under the Irish Refugee Programme. I want to acknowledge the work of the Tanaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality and the support of our Cabinet colleagues in pushing forward the work of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme and the Dáil resolution on Calais.

I have asked Tusla to expand the Separated Children's team to progress the Dail resolution on unaccompanied minors who were previously in unofficial camps near Calais. Tusla is putting in place a project office and increasing the number of staff on this team. The additional staff will include a senior social work practitioner, social workers and social care staff. I understand that Tusla is examining how best to manage the required psychological support for the young people, including the recruitment of a psychologist into the team. I have been assured that residential accommodation being sourced will be homely in nature and in line with national standards.

I have committed to making sure that this service is properly resourced, and that the high standard of the current service continues. The estimates of the cost involved will be kept under review as the situation evolves. For example, the range of therapeutic and legal supports to be provided will only become clear once the young people have arrived and been assessed. I am closely monitoring the emerging situation and am determined to ensure this humanitarian effort will be successful.

Child Care Services Provision

 60. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if the affordable child care scheme will be available to parents from September 2017 through an online information technology system; the supports being developed for parents with the application to ensure that the support is not requested from the already over-burdened early years practitioners; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7022/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I acknowledge the concern of both parents and childcare providers who are understandably anxious to receive further information about the roll-out of the Affordable Childcare Scheme. The Scheme is being introduced to an ambitious timeframe, and my officials are working hard to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to introduce the Scheme on time.

The Affordable Childcare Scheme will commence in September 2017. The timeframe is ambitious, and it is possible that there may not be a fully automated system by then. However, officials from my Department and staff of Pobal are working intensively to make sure an initial IT system is in operation by September.

This system is being designed so as to minimise the administrative burden on both parents and childcare providers. Full information on the Scheme will be made available well in advance of September, and a range of supports will be provided to help both parents and childcare providers manage the transition to the new Scheme.

Youth Services Provision

 61. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her plans to support the youth services sector and acknowledge the work being carried out by organisations within the community; her further plans to increase funding through the youth services grant scheme in line with predicted population increases of 13% in the age group between 18 to 25 year olds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6757/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone My Department administers a range of funding schemes and programmes to support the provision of youth services to young people throughout the country including those from disadvantaged communities. The funding schemes support national and local youth work provision to some 380,000 young people and involve approximately 1,400 youth work staff in 477 projects and 40,000 volunteers working in youth work services and communities throughout the country. In 2016, funding of €51m was provided to my Department for these schemes.

These schemes include the Youth Service Grant Scheme under which funding is made available on an annual basis to thirty national and major regional youth organisations amounting to €10.15m. This funding 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.

Budget 2017 provided an additional €5.5m in current funding to my Department to support the provision of youth services. This will bring the total youth funding in 2017 to €57.4m. This additional funding will be used, inter alia, to assist national youth organisations in their work to support local voluntary youth services. My Department has commenced the process with national organisations to identify service development needs for 2017 and to agree their 2017 allocations.

Budget 2017 also provided €2.6m to my Department for a capital funding scheme for youth projects and services. Work on the development of a new capital funding scheme for 2017 is underway and I hope to announce details of this new capital scheme in the coming months.

Youth Services Provision

 62. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the status of discussions between her Department and the Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board on the appointment of a dedicated youth officer for County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7025/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am pleased to inform the Deputy that Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board has requested funding from my Department for the provision of a full time youth officer for County Kildare. My Department is engaging with the ETB in this regard and I hope to be in a position to make a determination on this request in the coming weeks. In the interim, the ETB has a Youth Officer who is very active in both counties.

Children and Family Services Provision

 63. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the details of any study and research undertaken by her Department in association with the Department of Justice and Equality regarding the damage to children affected by parental imprisonment and the way in which it could be addressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7041/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone My Department has not engaged in any specific study related to potential damage to children affected by parental imprisonment.

  However, I note my colleague the Tánaiste Deputy Fitzgerald has been advised by the Irish Prison Service of the Department of Justice and Equality, that following publication of the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) report entitled: “Picking Up the Pieces: The Rights and Needs of Children and Families Affected by Imprisonment” in November 2012, the Director General of the IPS established the Families & Imprisonment Group (FIG) chaired by a Prison Governor, tasked with examining existing visiting facilities for all prisoners and in particular to address the needs of children and families as highlighted in the report.

  The Irish Prison Service recognises

  - the importance for those in prison of maintaining, and if at all possible, developing their relationships with their children and families.

  And

  - that parent-child visitation is one of the most important elements to ensure the well-being of children when their parent is imprisoned.

  Parent-child visitation can substantially decrease the negative impacts of imprisonment by preserving the child’s relationship with the parent. Maintaining contact during imprisonment has also been correlated with reduced recidivism rates by the parent.

  Following a period of research, which included a detailed survey of existing visiting facilities and supports, the Families & Imprisonment Group (FIG) identified a number of essential pillars that should be in place to ensure that visits in Irish Prisons become a core element of rehabilitation and support for both the people in our care and their families. The essential pillars identified by the FIG are as follows:

  - Communications

  - Physical Improvements

  - Staff training

  - Parenting courses and resettlement interventions; and

  - Community Partnerships.

  A pilot parenting programme entitled ‘Parenting Plus’ was developed in partnership with Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) and delivered in Limerick prison in 2015 and 2016 as part of an overall ‘Family Links’ Programme. The programme aims are:

  - To support small groups of prisoners to better understand their parenting role, and to develop practical skills which support them in positive parenting;

  - To develop a parenting programme specifically for the prison population, which is effective and replicable;

  - To support partners of prisoners to engage positively with their children and to offer families consistent language and approaches;

  - To maximise opportunities for positive parent-child engagement within the limitation of a custodial setting; and

  - To increase awareness of and responsibility for supporting positive parenting as an important element of imprisonment and resettlement planning.

  A number of significant objectives have been achieved so far; most notably enhanced staff training, delivery of the ‘Parents Plus’ parenting programme, the establishment of more family-friendly visits, and refurbishment of visit spaces.

  In addition, Family Liaison Officer training has been provided by the IPS to enable participants to:

  - Understand the role and function of a Family Liaison Officer;

  - Understand the logic model process, and the rationale and evidence underpinning the Family Links programme;

  - Have knowledge regarding community services and structures supporting and working with children and families;

  - Have an understanding of the experience of being a parent in prison and the impact on family dynamics;

  - Heightened empathy for, and ability to support, parents in prison.

  An independent evaluation of the Family Links Programme in Limerick which was undertaken by the University of Limerick was launched by the Tánaiste yesterday (13 February) in Dublin.   

  Finally, I note that children may be impacted by events affecting their parents, for instance parental ill health, mental health problems or parental absence, by way of the need to work away from home or by imprisonment.

  Where this is the case, parents can seek assistance from family support services in their communities by direct referral or through a child welfare referral to Tusla. Such services can provide child counselling, family therapy or art and play therapies to help children understand and deal with their feelings, and to assist the parent who is caring for them.

  In relation to children (under 18) in detention any issues of concern are addressed by their individual care regimes.

Family Resource Centres

 64. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her plans to review and increase the number of family resource centres in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7029/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I very much value the role that Family Resource Centres play in providing support to vulnerable children and families around the country. Tusla provides financial support to some 109 communities through the Family and Community Services Resource Centre Programme. This typically covers the employment of two to three members of staff and some overhead costs. In 2016, Tusla provided €13.5m in core funding under the Programme. Also, in December, 2016, and in recognition of the valuable work that the Family Resource Centres do, Tusla provided additional once-off funding of €1.422m to the centres. This additional funding, which was in the form of minor capital assistance, allowed for the upgrade of equipment and other remedial works at centres.

Last November, I met with representatives from the Kildare Youth Service, Kildare Children and Young People's Service Committee, Kildare Local Community Development Committee and the Tusla Area Manager in relation to the provision of services to children and young people in Co. Kildare.

At that meeting, I was informed of a number of issues including a request for the provision of additional Family Resource Centres in Co. Kildare. I advised the Co. Kildare representatives at the meeting to submit a Business Case to Tusla in relation to the establishment of new Family Resource Centres in the County as Tusla provides financial support to Family Resource Centres under its Family and Community Services Resource Centre Programme.

Tusla plans to build on the strengths of the programme in the years ahead to deliver its mandate for community-based early intervention and family support.

Tusla is currently finalising details of the funding to be allocated to the Family and Community Services Resource Centre Programme, and will be confirming funding levels for individual centres shortly.

Child Detention Centres

 65. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the number of children currently in adult prisons; the reason they remain in inappropriate facilities; the steps being taken to end this situation; the date it is expected that this will be resolved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6803/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone It is Government Policy to end the practice of detaining children in adult facilities. Currently all children, other than 17 year old boys serving a sentence, are referred by the Courts to Oberstown Children Detention Campus (the Campus); 17 year old boys who are serving a sentence of detention are currently detained in Wheatfield Place of Detention. Currently (as of 8 February 2017) there are seven young people (aged 17 years) detained in Wheatfield Place of Detention.

When the requisite number of places are available, following the completion of works required following a serious incident on the Campus in late August 2016, 17 year old boys who are serving a sentence will be referred to the Campus.

It is hoped that the Campus will be in a position to accept the 17 year old boys serving a sentence at an early date which will end the practice of any children being detained in adult facilities.

  Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 55.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

 67. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the status of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes. [7089/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters was established by Government Order on the 17th February 2015.

In accordance with its comprehensive Terms of Reference, the Commission is tasked with thoroughly examining the experience of mothers and children resident in 14 named Mother and Baby Homes and a representative sample of County Homes.

The Commission is required to address seven specific questions on the practices and procedures relating to the care, welfare, entry arrangements and exit pathways for the women and children who were residents of these institutions. The primary function of the Commission is to provide a factual account, in a timely manner, of what happened to vulnerable women and children in these institutions during the period 1922-1998.

As the Deputy will be aware the Commission is independent in the conduct of its investigations. Therefore I am not in a position to provide progress updates on its investigations. Updates are posted by the Commission on their website, www.mbhcoi.ie.

In relation to milestones to date the Commission submitted its First Interim Report in July 2016. The Government agreed to a request from the Commission to extend the time frame of two of the three Reports the Commission is preparing. The Social History Report and Confidential Committee Report will now be submitted along with the Final Report by February 2018. In granting the extension the Government also asked the Commission to separately report on any additional matters outside of its scope which it considers may warrant further investigation in the public interest as part of its work.

A Second Interim Report has been submitted by the Commission in response to this request. Since receiving this report I have met with the Commission to discuss the report and the general progress being made with the investigation. It is my intention to publish the report as soon as possible in conjunction with Government's response to the Commission's findings.

The Deputy may also wish to note that the Commission has set a closing date for applications to meet the Confidential Committee of Wednesday 1 March. I want to encourage former residents who are in a position to share their experiences to make contact with the Commission. Further details can be found on the Commission's website.

Family Support Services

 68. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her plans for the evaluation of outcomes from the ABC programme; the arrangements being made for the future funding of the work being done with vulnerable children and their families through the programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7017/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The ABC programme is a prevention and early intervention initiative led by my Department. The programme commenced in 2013 and was designed as a time-bound co-funding arrangement for the period 2013 to 2017 in conjunction with the Atlantic Philanthropies.

  The aim of the ABC Programme is to test and evaluate prevention and early intervention approaches to improve outcomes for children, and families living in poverty in 13 areas of disadvantage. The ABC programme is currently being evaluated by the Centre for Effective Services.

  Data is being collected locally at the Area-level so as to assess the success and effectiveness of the totality of the investment across the five broad outcomes of the Programme.

  Three national programme outcomes concern the achievement of outcomes for individual children and their parents participating in ABC-funded services:

  I. Improved child health and development;

  II. Improved children’s learning;

  III. Improved parenting.

  The remaining two outcomes are concerned with achieving systems change among service providers:

  I. Integrated service delivery;

  II. Services embedded in mainstream services.

  The national evaluation is focussing on three core evaluation questions:

  1. How did the outcomes for children and families in ABC Areas change?

  2. To what extent did the ABC Programme make progress in implementing evidence-informed programmes and approaches in the ABC Areas?

  3. What costs were associated with the services provided under the ABC Programme?

  The final national evaluation report will be produced in 2018. However, preliminary analysis of initial outcomes data indicates promising impact.

  A key purpose of the ABC programme is to identify the learning across the sites and transfer this learning into existing and established services. In budget 2016, my Department secured an additional €4.5 million to extend all of the existing ABC programme to the end of December 2017, bringing the total investment to €34.2 million. This extension also brings the existing programme closer in line with the expected timeline for delivery of the national evaluation report in 2018. We will utilise the learning from the programme and the findings from the national evaluation to inform the design of prevention and early intervention initiatives that comprehend the Programme for Government commitments.

  I look forward to the continued engagement of all ABC sites with my department in 2017 as we work towards the implementation of quality prevention and early intervention initiatives in order to achieve our shared goal of improving the lives of children and families throughout Ireland.

Aftercare Services Provision

 69. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if her attention has been drawn to widespread reports that a large number of those children leaving foster care here on their 18th birthday do not receive aftercare support plans; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6756/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Under Tusla's current National Leaving and Aftercare Policy, young people leaving care are expected to have an aftercare plan. Tusla has informed me that from January up to the end of September 2016, 467 young persons in care turned 18 years of age. Of these, 457 young people were eligible for aftercare supports and 412 are availing of the aftercare supports. There were a total of 1,841 young people aged 18 to 22 years in receipt of aftercare supports from Tusla at the end of the third quarter in 2016, and 82% of these young people had an aftercare plan in place.

  Tusla is putting in place revisions to its operational National Leaving and Aftercare Policy to bring it into line with the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015. Once the amendments to the 1991 Act are commenced there will be a statutory obligation on Tusla to have an aftercare plan prior to the young person leaving care. Those who have left care before the changes, and who do not have an aftercare plan, can under these amendments obtain an aftercare plan from Tusla up to their 21st birthday. Tusla is identifying gaps in the aftercare service nationally and has indicated that this will require an expansion in aftercare management and workers. Tusla is currently finalising arrangements for the publication of its 2017 Business Plan which sets out the priorities for these important services in 2017. Tusla's 2017 budget was increased by €37 million this year, bringing the Tusla funding to over €700 million in exchequer funding, and this included additional funding to support service delivery to implement legislation.

  I am concious that the transition to independent adulthood can be challenging for many young people. A key factor in achieving success is ensuring that assessment, preparation and planning for leaving care begins in the years prior to leaving care and continues as part of the care planning process. This work is based on collaboration with the young person, their carers and partner agencies to generate an aftercare plan that is specific to the individual young person's needs. Advice, guidance, support and signposting are key elements of the supports available to care leavers.

Youth Services Funding

 70. Deputy Eugene Murphy Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the reason funding has been withdrawn from an organisation (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6713/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone It is important to say at the outset that there is no reduction in funding for youth services in Roscommon North East Galway. The decision to withdraw funding from the Special Projects for Youth projects in Ballaghaderreen and the Youth Information Centre in Roscommon town, both of which were operated by Youth Work Ireland Roscommon North East Galway, was arrived at based on a Finance and Governance Review and a Service Review of the organisation that were carried out on behalf of my Department by its funding intermediary, the City of Dublin Youth Service Board. My Department withdrew funding from the Special Projects for Youth projects in Ballygar, County Galway earlier in 2016.

Following engagement with Youth Work Ireland Roscommon North East Galway, my Department received no assurances that the youth services being provided by them were to a level that met the needs of young people in the region. Nor was my Department provided with any assurances as to the organisation's capacity to support, operate and manage the provision of quality youth services and to make good use of Government funding for these purposes.

It is important to note that the Department's decision to cease funding to Youth Work Ireland Roscommon North East Galway was supported by Youth Work Ireland's National Office and by the Galway Roscommon Education and Training Board, which has a statutory role in the provision of youth services.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that Galway and Roscommon Education and Training Board is putting in place replacement quality youth services in all three locations from this month onwards, on a transitional basis, with more permanent targeted services to be in place from later this year.

Unaccompanied Minors and Separated Children

 71. Deputy Eamon Ryan Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the integration and mental health services being made available for refugee children upon entering Ireland; the number of child refugees that her Department is anticipating in 2017; and the capacity that her Department has for the provision of such services. [7043/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone In regard to children being relocated from France, I requested that Tusla put in place a project office to manage the assessment and reception of children being relocated following the Dail resolution last November. As the Deputy may appreciate, the needs of the young people have to be assessed carefully. At the moment it appears that many will need support in a residential setting. The resources required will need to be monitored closely as the process unfolds. Tusla is part of the delivery of Ireland's commitments to the EU and UN which are being coordinated under Irish Refugee Protection Programme. Tusla's Separated Children Seeking Asylum team also receive unaccompanied minors who present at our ports and are referred by the immigration services.

Based on current commitments and the likely number that will be referred from immigration services, which can vary from year to year, it is expected that there will be at least 160 unaccompanied minors received by Tusla's Separated Children Seeking Asylum team over the course of the year.

The separated children's team is being expanded to include additional social workers, social care staff and residential centres for assessment and accommodation. This team has developed a well regarded set of expertise and supports to work with children and young people who are found to be unaccompanied minors when they arrive at our borders. I understand that Tusla is examining how best to address the psychological supports needed for the service, including the option of recruiting a psychologist onto the team.

I have been advised that the residential accommodation and additional staff to expand the separated children's team is in hand. I have committed to providing Tusla with the necessary funding to expand this service and I am closely monitoring this to ensure this humanitarian effort will be successful.

Child Care Services

 72. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the supports that have been put in place towards the re-opening of a centre (details supplied) in County Longford. [7050/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Since early 2015, my Department has supported intensive engagement with Pobal and Longford County Childcare Committee to maintain childcare provision in the service in question. Unfortunately, following an EGM of the board in March 2016, my Department was informed of the intention to proceed with an orderly wind-down of the service.

Following this closure I delegated Pobal, as agents of my Department, along with Longford County Childcare Committee, to work with local bodies in relation to McEoin Park and the re-establishment of a service for the local community. Proposals were requested from a number of existing community based services in May 2016 and none were forthcoming at that time. As the Deputy will be aware, my Department does not directly provide childcare - rather we work with individuals, companies and community/not-for-profit groups to fund childcare provision. Pobal and Longford CCC have had discussions with a number of groups regarding the re-opening of a childcare facility, and are still pursuing options locally in this regard. Longford County Council have also been proactive in making a suitable premises available, and in the refurbishment and maintenence of same.

Unfortunately, to date we have not yet been able to secure a partner to operate this service. Pobal and Longford CCC are still pursuing options locally in this regard, and I am open to receiving proposals from local/community groups who may be in a position to assist.


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