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Departmental Budgets (Continued)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

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  3 o’clock

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Yes.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath What percentage of the €443 million is spent on wages and administration compared to front-line services? Deputy Durkan and many others have raised the issue of cyber-bullying. Another issue is the number of serious assaults on children taking place in Irish society that are not even reported to the Garda. I welcome the Minister's comments about the Garda diversion programme, which is excellent, but every day I get complaints about 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds being seriously assaulted with knives by gangs. Such incidents concern small issues like mobile telephones, etc. It is a miracle that many children are not seriously and horrifically injured. This societal problem is emerging.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin I can appreciate that the Minister would be concerned but I wonder if she is in a position to give the House any assurance on the funding that will follow in the advent of the Child and Family Support Agency. We know from the supplementary budget secured by the Department of Health that there was an element of the €360 million allocation that impinged on identified needs to get to the end of the year with regard to areas that I hope will transfer to the Minister's Department in good time. There is also the €781 million in cuts to be implemented across the health budget and the HSE. Has the Minister any expectation or, more importantly, assurance that none of those cuts will further impact on areas that will ultimately be under her Department's responsibility and control in the early part of 2013?

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy The Children's Rights Alliance has indicated that, on balance, children were among the key losers in this budget. I could go on further with comments but will not because I must be brief. Children and family services already carry a deficit of over €50 million. I have asked the question before and will repeat it today. Must this deficit be carried into the new Child and Family Support Agency? What kind of impact will that have on a new agency that is trying to start from a clean sheet and fresh approach? The Minister has received support from this side of the House in that regard.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I accept that. Deputy Finian McGrath mentioned violence, taking in both children who are carrying out and who are subject to violence. I agree that the issue is serious. I must repeat that the best way to deal with the matter is to quickly identify vulnerable children and provide the best possible early intervention services. The research is interesting regarding high-quality early years, and it relates to the issues mentioned by the Deputy, including violence and addictions which lead to assaults. These are considerably reduced when attention from child care services is given to people at an early stage. Equally, the Garda diversion services have a role to play with those young people, and it is important that there is engagement.

Many youth work services around the country now specifically work with the more marginalised young people. It is interesting that there are fewer children and young people coming into detention. Those who are 16 years of age no longer go to St. Patrick's Institution and they will be in a purpose-built detention centre with appropriate services for those who, unfortunately, reach that point. Prevention is the key with the issues raised by the Deputy.

Deputies Ó Caoláin and Troy spoke about budgetary matters and much work has been done. Some of the figures quoted by the Children's Rights Alliance regarding the agency are incorrect and I will discuss that with the alliance. The 2013 provision for children reflects the work that has been done during the year in establishing as accurate a budget as is possible. There has been miscoding of expenditure, which is one of the reasons for a slight change of €5 million.

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