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Social Welfare Bill 2012: Committee Stage (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton] I want to move to an approach that sees them as parents and children, rather than using the kinds of label we have used in this country for many good reasons for over 40 years. Parents should have a range of services. Their local social welfare officers should approach them to tell them in advance that a significant change is taking place. They should meet them to see how they can be helped to get back into education, training or work placement. We need to see how we can assist. That is what happens in many other countries across the EU. In that way, the social welfare offices and the Intreo offices will help people get to a new stage of opportunity in their lives. We have just started to roll out the first ten offices in full, and we will open a significant number of additional offices next year.

In this amendment, I have sought to allow more time to make those services available to people such as lone parents so they can avail fully of the services offered to them. That is the purpose behind the proposal in this amendment to put the date back by six months. In practice, the new date will probably help parents because it means we will talk to them in May and June - before the school holidays - as they start to think about new opportunities in September and October, when their children will be at school. Deputy Joan Collins mentioned that we are expanding child care opportunities by more than 6,000 places, encompassing both preschool and after-school care, in a similar way to many other EU countries. The Deputy knows from her own constituency that after-school care is extremely popular with parents and children. It is very successful. By pursuing this model, we can copy many of the good things that are done in other countries. We can also examine the good practices that have developed in this country, particularly in many community and family centres. I hope we will get an opportunity to discuss this in greater detail at a later stage. I have set out the purpose of this amendment.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy The proposal to extend the timeframe is helpful. The Minister will accept that we are starting from a very low base. Those who will be required to sign on will no longer be regarded as lone parents. One cannot sign on unless one is available for full-time work, as opposed to part-time work. Those who do not get child care places will have a serious dilemma. When they sign on, they may well be offered places on Tús schemes, community employment schemes or education placements. What can they do with their children if they accept such offers, as they might well love to do, but they do not get child care places?

Deputy John Halligan: Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan Yes.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Will a place be available for every child who requires it on the commencement date targeted by the Minister? Will she have to come back to us to talk about the commencement, or will it happen automatically in the Department when the Minister signs the commencement order? This might be the only opportunity we have to argue that children could be put at risk by the State if those who are too young to be left without adult supervision do not get such supervision. That would not be something the State could stand over.

  Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

  The Dáil adjourned at 11.15 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 13 December 2012.

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