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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 152-65
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Payments
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item School Completion Programme
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Departmental Strategies
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Early Child Care Education Issues
 Header Item Early Child Care Education Issues
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 73 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 152-65

Departmental Expenditure

 152. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the reason for the underspend of €30 million, €19 million current and €11 million capital, against profile at the end of November; the steps being taken to ensure no underspend at year end in view of the pressure on farmers due to the poor weather and the number of farmers who have not received payments this year that are due to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [56118/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The total Vote funding provided for my Department in 2012 is €1.339 billion. This includes €27 million capital funding carried over from 2011.

A profile of projected expenditure on a monthly basis is drawn up at the beginning of each financial year in order to anticipate the Department’s funding requirements and financial management over the course of the year. The profile which is the best estimate of expenditure available at that time is difficult to forecast and may vary significantly during the year for a variety of reasons, such as the level of payments under demand led schemes, the pattern of draw-down of Grants-in-Aid by State bodies, etc.

The data published in the Exchequer return quoted in the question was prepared by my Department towards the end of November and was based on anticipated expenditure to the end of the month. The variation on net expenditure was €103m, arising mainly due to the fact that substantial payments under REPS scheduled for the last days of November actually issued in early December. The divergence between profiled and actual expenditure is due to the fact that, for a variety of reasons, a number of other budget lines were also behind profile at the end of November.

I expect that in most cases expenditure will ‘catch up’ before the end of the year. All elements of expenditure is being monitored and managed carefully by my Department with a view to minimising savings on this year’s Vote. While the final outcome is to a large extent driven by factors outside the Department’s control, I do not expect a significant underspend this year.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Payments

 153. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney when a decision will issue on a disadvantaged area payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56122/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Payment under the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme has not yet issued as, at this stage, the holding concerned has not yet satisfied the Scheme minimum stocking density requirements for 2012. Immediately the holding concerned is confirmed as having met these requirements, the case will be further processed with a view to payment at the earliest possible date thereafter.

Child Care Services Provision

 154. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald when a person (details supplied) in County Cavan will be seen by the Health Service Executive children and family services local social work duty service; when the family may expect dialogues, interaction and regular meetings with the service on this CSA case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56073/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy with the most up-to-date information.

School Completion Programme

 155. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the funding being allocated for the school completion programme in 2013; the way it compares with 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [56026/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The School Completion Programme (SCP) is one of three service strands, which also includes the Home School Community Liaison and the Education Welfare Service, being integrated under the remit of the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB). The SCP aims to retain young people in the formal education system to completion of senior cycle and to generally improve the school attendance, participation and retention of its target cohort. The SCP is a key programme under the Department of Education and Skills' DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) action plan.

I wish to inform the Deputy that €26.456m is being allocated to the programme in 2013. This compares with an allocation of €28.256m in 2012. The allocation is in line with the proposals in the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure for savings of 6.5% per annum in the SCP in each of the years 2012-2014.

In September 2012, the Local Management Committee responsible for each individual project was notified that a reduction on last year’s allocation would apply for the coming academic cycle. The full year budget for the SCP was confirmed earlier than in previous years to assist local committees to effectively refine programmes and deliver targeted interventions within budget.

Each Committee was requested to review its Retention Plan to support young people who are at risk of educational disadvantage in their school, home and community life, to remain in education and to finalise a programme of supports to effectively target available resources to meet local needs. Projects were advised to scrutinise all elements of expenditure and to seek to reduce costs and achieve efficiencies while prioritising evidence based services to support children’s educational outcomes.

The NEWB, which is responsible for the operational management and direction of the SCP, has made assistance available to each local project to review its planned programme. The NEWB continues to work closely with management committees, schools and local SCP co-ordinators to ensure student supports are tailored to meet local needs.

The adjustment identified in CRE for 2013 and 2014 will be further considered in the context of a review of the programme to be undertaken in 2013. This review will address the potential to achieve greater consistency in programme delivery, administration and other costs amongst the 124 local projects and related initiatives.

A core objective of the review will be to ensure that available funds are appropriately targeted to support those most at risk of educational disadvantage and early school leaving.

Child Care Services Provision

 156. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she is committed to the further development of accessible, affordable and quality child care, recognising its role in achieving economic and social prosperity; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [56037/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald It is recognised that intensive and targeted early childhood services have the potential to significantly enhance the life chances of many children. Investment in early childhood care and education benefits not only the individual child but also the wider economy. In recognition of this, considerable funding is already provided by my Department through the provision of three childcare support programmes - the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme, the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme, and the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme - to assist parents in accessing quality and affordable childcare.   

  The CCS programme provides funding to community-based childcare services to enable them to provide childcare at reduced rates to parents in receipt of social welfare payments or on low to middle incomes. For the purpose of the CCS programme, eligibility is determined by reference to a range of means-tested allowances and payments including receipt of a social welfare payment, Family Income Supplement (FIS) and qualification for a medical or GP visit card. Eligibility for a GP visit card is based on net income and takes account of outgoings such as rent and mortgage repayments and other expenses including childcare costs and travelling expenses. As a result, low and middle income working parents may qualify for support. Parents who qualify for the top rate of subvention under the programme receive €95 per week towards full-day childcare costs.

The CETS programme provides €145 towards the weekly cost of full time childcare places to participating childcare services for trainees and students who are deemed qualified by FÁS or the VEC.    Students on part-time courses are funded on a pro rata basis.    

  The ECCE programme provides one free pre-school year to all eligible children in the year before commencing primary school.   Children aged between 3 years 2 months and 4 years 6 months at 1 September in the relevant year qualify for a maximum of 15 hours per week free pre-school provision over a 38 week period. This is a universal programme to which all children have access.

  In 2012, the total expenditure by my Department on these three programmes is expected to be in the region of €240 million. These programmes have been maintained despite the ongoing need to reduce Government expenditure and they represent a significant investment in supporting parents with the cost of childcare.    

  You may also be aware that, as part of Budget 2013, I announced with my colleague the Minister for Social Protection, a joint school age childcare initiative which will provide further additional support to both the community and private childcare sector. This initiative, which represents an annual investment of €14 million, will provide important support to parents in low income families wishing to take up employment, along with ensuring that quality after-school care is in place to support children's development.

  My Department has begun work on Ireland’s first Early Years Strategy which is an innovative and dynamic blueprint for the future development of Ireland’s Early Years sector aimed at providing a coherent approach to seeking to improve the lives of children from birth to age six.    This Strategy, which is expected to be completed in the first half of 2013, will cover a range of issues affecting children in their first years of life such as health, family support, learning and development, and care and education and will identify the structures and policies needed to improve early years experience in Ireland.

Departmental Strategies

 157. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she intends to consider or act upon any of the proposals made in the consultation (details supplied) Being Young and Irish that concluded in November, 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56056/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Given the experience of my Department in consulting with children and young people, it was represented on the oversight group for the President's Being Young and Irish initiative. The recommendations of the report, where they concern policies related to children and young people, will be taken into account in drafting both the Children and Young People's Policy Framework and the Youth Strategy, both of which are due to be published in 2013.

In the last nine years my Department, and previously the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, has worked to ensure the establishment or consolidation of the following key structures: Comhairle na nÓg (local youth councils); Dáil na nÓg (national youth parliament); and the children and young people’s participation support team and consultations/dialogues with children and young people.

In March 2009 the Children and Young People’s Participation Support Team was created. The Team is made up of the staff in the Citizen Participation Unit of my Department and three regional Children and Young People’s Participation Officers, from two national youth organisations (Foróige and Youth Work Ireland). The reports of the independent evaluation of the Comhairle na nÓg Development Fund (2008-2009) and (2009-2010) highlight the value of the support, information and training provided by the three regional Participation Officers. They note the marked improvement in the operation of many child and youth councils resulting from the involvement of the Participation Officers. They also note the important role played by these officers in creating a strong link between child and youth councils at local level and my Department at national level.

In addition to their direct work with organisers of the 34 child and youth councils, the DCYA Participation Officers were involved in the planning and management of a wide range of children’s participation initiatives including consultations with children and young people on Reform of the Junior Cycle, the National Children and Young People’s Strategy (2013-2017) and the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in Primary Schools.

500 teenagers from the 34 Comhairle na nÓg around the country attended the first-ever Comhairle na nÓg National Showcase on Friday, 9 November 2012.

On the day there were four TOPIC ZONES run by key decision-makers where young people could seek advice and support on how to become more effective improving the lives of young people in relation to mental health, sexual health, youth facilities and engaging with Decision Makers.

My Department provides opportunities for children and young people to contribute their views on issues of national and personal importance, and has conducted national consultations/dialogues with children and young people on a range of issues, including: the Taskforce on Active Citizenship (2006); the age of consent for sexual activity (2006); the Irish Youth Justice Strategy (2007);the misuse of alcohol among young people (2007) and Teenage Mental Health: What Helps and What Hurts (2008).

A Thematic Group on the development of a national policy on children and young people’s participation in decision-making was established in 2011, comprising representatives of Government Departments, State Agencies, the research community and other key stakeholders. Its work will feed into the National Children and Young People’s Policy Framework (2013-2017).

Child Care Services Provision

 158. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the number of children in low income households that will benefit under the community child care subvention programme in 2013; the way this compares to 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [56126/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme is implemented by my Department and provides funding to community-based childcare services to enable them to provide childcare at reduced rates to disadvantaged and lower income families.

For the purpose of the CCS programme, disadvantage and low income are determined by reference to a range of means-tested allowances and payments including receipt of a social welfare payment, Family Income Supplement (FIS) and qualification for a medical or GP visit card. Eligibility for a GP visit card is based on net income and takes account of outgoings such as rent and mortgage repayments and other expenses including childcare costs and travelling expenses. As a result, parents with middle incomes may also benefit from subvention.

Parental returns are submitted by participating community childcare services to my Department following the commencement of each school year and the information in these returns is verified by the Department of Social Protection to determine the parents that are eligible for support under the programme. The information supplied in the returns submitted in September 2012, following the commencement of the 2012-2013 school year, is currently being collated and it is expected that a provisional figure for the number of children availing of the programme in this school year will be available shortly. In the school year 2011-2012 approximately 26,000 children were supported under the CCS programme.

Child Care Services Provision

 159. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald in view of the low number of voluntary and Health Service Executive notified child-minders nationally, her plans to regulate this sector by bringing all paid child-minders under the Child Care Pre-School Regulations 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56132/12]

 160. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald in view of the fact that the only local support to non-regulated child-minders is provided through the Health Service Executive funded child-minders advisory worker post within a number of county childcare committees, the way in which this sector will be supported when HSE funding is discontinued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56133/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 160 together.

My Department has begun work on Ireland’s first Early Years Strategy which will provide an innovative and dynamic blueprint for the future development of Ireland’s Early Years sector aimed at providing a coherent approach to seeking to improve the lives of children from birth to age six.

One of the issues of policy which I have identified for consideration in the preparation of the new Strategy is the development of the childminding sector as a fully-integrated component of early childhood care and education, in particular for the under-one age group.

At present pre-school services are regulated under the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No.2) Regulations 2006, as provided for under Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991.

Services providing care for children who have not yet commenced primary school are required to notify their service to the Pre-School Inspectorate of the Health Service Executive (HSE) and are subject to inspection and report by the Inspectorate on a regular basis. Services covered by the Regulations include full-time, part-time and sessional services as well as childminders taking care of more than three pre-school children from different families in the childminder’s home.

The National Guidelines for Childminders, compiled by the National Childcare Co-ordinating Committee which oversees the development of an integrated childcare infrastructure throughout the country, provide guidance to childminders on good practice, and assist them to decide whether they are subject to the Regulations, as well as providing other useful information on the role of the childminder in the provision of childcare services.

As is the case with all regulatory requirements, the Child Care Regulations set the minimum standards which services are legally required to comply with. However, my Department is pro-active in monitoring, promoting and developing the highest standards of care and education throughout the sector, including the regulatory environment, given the important role which these services play in this crucial phase of children’s lives.

My Department provides annual funding to each CCC to enable it to support and advise all childcare providers at local level. In 2012, the total amount allocated to the CCCs was €11.3m.

I understand that there has been reduction in funding by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to City and County Childcare Committees in some areas. The HSE has, however, confirmed that it will endeavour to support the CCCs wherever possible. I have asked my Department to engage further with the Committees and the HSE and to provide a report to me on this matter.

My Department also provides annual funding, totalling €2.85m in 2012, to the seven National Voluntary Childcare Organisations, who provide support at a local level to their members.

Of the childminders covered by the Regulations, 257 had notified the HSE at the end of 2011, the last full year for which figures are available and also at that date, 1,250 childminders not covered by the Regulations had voluntarily notified the HSE.

Early Child Care Education Issues

 161. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald in view of the fact that child care funding schemes are presenting more demands on childcare services to avail of particular training or have certain competencies, and that in service training is often carried out by early childhood staff voluntarily on their own time, the solutions she will put forward to address this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [56134/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme was introduced in January 2010 with the objective of providing one free pre-school year for all eligible children prior to commencing primary school.

Childcare services participating in the ECCE programme are paid a standard capitation fee of €62.50 per week for each eligible child enrolled for the free pre-school year. Under the terms of the ECCE programme, the pre-school leaders delivering the programme must hold a certification for a major award in childcare/early education at a minimum of level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) or an equivalent nationally-recognised qualification or a higher award in the childcare/early education field. My Department has part-subsidised on-line courses, developed by one of the National Voluntary Childcare Organisations, for unqualified practitioners in the current workforce who wish to achieve a level 5 award.

In keeping with the Government's commitment to increasing standards in the pre-school sector, a higher capitation payment of €73 per week is available to childcare services in which all childcare workers have qualification levels above the minimum requirements for the programme. One of the requirements for the higher capitation is that the pre-school leader holds a qualification in a relevant discipline at a minimum of a full level 7 award on the NFQ.

I have been successful in maintaining the ECCE programme as a free and universal programme despite the reduced funding available to my Department. Funding of €176 million is being made available this year to ensure that the increased cohort of eligible children have access to a quality free pre-school year.

Early Child Care Education Issues

 162. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if resources for a national implementation programme regarding Síolta, Aistear and the national literacy and numeracy strategy will be a key feature of the forthcoming national early years strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [56135/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The implementation of Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood, and Aistear, the Early Education framework, is being overseen by the Early Years Education Policy Unit of the Department of Education and Skills, which is co-located with my Department.

The National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy was formally launched by my colleague,the Minister for Education and Skills, last year.

Future developments relating to early years care and education are being considered as part of the preparation of the National Early Years Strategy which is expected to be completed in the first half of 2013. The Strategy will cover a range of issues affecting children in their first years of life, such as health, family support, learning and development and care and education. The Strategy will identify the structures and policies needed to improve early years experience in Ireland and it is expected that the issue of resources to support frameworks referred to by the Deputy will be considered as part of this process.

Child Care Services Provision

 163. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if discussions have taken place with Health Service Executive regarding the discontinuation of complementary funding supports to county childcare committees as a result of a refocus of role of the Child and Family Support Agency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56136/12]

 164. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald in view of the proposed discontinuation of Health Service Executive complementary funding used to provide essential low cost and accessible continuing professional development opportunities and quality compliance supports for childcare staff through county childcare committees, the way in which these valuable supports will be provided at local level if HSE funding is discontinued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56137/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 164 together.

 My Department provides annual funding to each CCC to enable it to support and advise all childcare providers at local level. In 2012, the total amount allocated to the CCCs was €11.3m.

  I understand that there has been reduction in funding by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to City and County Childcare Committees in some areas. The HSE has, however, confirmed that it will endeavour to support the CCCs wherever possible. I have asked my Department to engage further with the Committees and the HSE and to provide a report to me on this matter.

  My Department also provides annual funding, totalling €2.85m in 2012, to the seven National Voluntary Childcare Organisations, who provide support at a local level to their members.

Child Care Services Provision

 165. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the financial supports she will put in place to assist full-time working parents who pay fees for child care provision who are outside the bands of the community childcare subvention scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [56138/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My Department currently provides targeted support to parents to assist them with the cost of childcare. This support is provided through the provision of three childcare support programmes - the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme, the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme, and the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme.

  The CCS programme provides funding to community-based childcare services to enable them to provide childcare at reduced rates to parents in receipt of social welfare payments. For the purpose of the CCS programme, eligibility is determined by reference to a range of means-tested allowances and payments including receipt of a social welfare payment, Family Income Supplement (FIS) and qualification for a medical or GP visit card. Eligibility for a GP visit card is based on net income and takes account of outgoings such as rent and mortgage repayments and other expenses including childcare costs and travelling expenses. As a result, middle and low income working parents may also qualify for support. Parents who qualify for the top rate of subvention under the programme receive €95 per week towards full-day childcare costs. Parents who do not qualify under the programme are expected to pay the full economic cost of providing the service.

The CETS programme provides €145 towards the weekly cost of full time childcare places to participating childcare services for trainees and students who are deemed qualified by FÁS or the VEC.    Students on part-time courses are funded on a pro rata basis.    

  The ECCE programme provides one free pre-school year to all eligible children in the year before commencing primary school.   Children aged between 3 years 2 months and 4 years 6 months at 1 September in the relevant year qualify for a maximum of 15 hours per week free pre-school provision over a 38 week period. This is a universal programme to which all children have access.

  In 2012, the total expenditure by my Department on these three programmes is expected to be in the region €240 million. These programmes have been maintained despite the ongoing need to reduce Government expenditure and they represent a significant investment in supporting parents with the cost of childcare.    

  You may also be aware that, as part of Budget 2013, I announced with my colleague the Minister for Social Protection, a joint school age childcare initiative which will provide further additional support to both the community and private childcare sector. This initiative, which represents an annual investment of €14 million, will provide important support to parents in low income families wishing to take up employment, along with ensuring that quality after-school care is in place to support children's development.

  Future developments relating to early years care and education will be considered during preparation of the new National Early Years Strategy which is currently being developed by my Department and is expected to be completed in the first half of 2013. This Strategy will cover a range of issues affecting children in their first years of life such as health, family support, learning and development and care and education and will identify the structures and policies needed to improve early year's experience in Ireland.


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