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 Header Item Written Answers Nos 1-90
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Ministerial Responsibilities
 Header Item Bullying of Children
 Header Item Aftercare Services
 Header Item Children in Care
 Header Item Child and Family Support Agency Establishment
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Child Benefit Payments
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Child and Family Support Agency Funding
 Header Item Foster Care Provision
 Header Item Corporal Punishment
 Header Item Childhood Obesity
 Header Item Children in Care
 Header Item Child Abuse Reports
 Header Item Homeless Persons Data
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Child and Family Support Agency Remit
 Header Item United Nations Conventions
 Header Item Child and Family Support Agency Funding
 Header Item Youth Unemployment Data
 Header Item Youth Work Supports
 Header Item Childcare Education and Training Scheme Places

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 96 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos 1-90

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 7, inclusive, answered orally.

  Questions Nos. 8 to 59, inclusive, resubmitted.

  Questions Nos. 60 to 67, inclusive, answered orally.

Child Care Services Provision

 68. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the number of children who used the services of the out-of-hours projects in counties Donegal and Cork each month since they were established; the number of children who repeatedly used the services during each of those months; the number of children who used the emergency place of safety service and separately, the crisis intervention service each month since it was established and the number of these children who were repeat users; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56771/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As part of the ongoing ‘change agenda’ in Child and Family services I am committed to developing the capacity of our child protection services to appropriately and effectively address the needs of children who present in emergency situations outside of normal working hours.

Two out-of-hours pilot projects, one in Donegal and the other in Cork, were commenced by the HSE in 2011. The Donegal project started mid-year and the Cork project started in the third quarter. Both projects were internally evaluated by the HSE, which then commissioned an independent external assessment, undertaken by Trinity College Dublin. Data provided by the HSE in relation to the pilot evaluation period in Donegal from April to December 2011 indicates that a total of 8 calls were recorded. One call related to a child not being picked up from school, one an alleged rape and the remaining were categorised as 'other', including one public order concern. In three of the eight calls, the child was removed by Gardai under Section 12 of the Child Care Act, 1991. Data provided by the HSE in respect of the Cork pilot project from September 2011 to April 2012 indicates that 40 referrals were made to the service. Of these, Section 12 was invoked in 23 cases. Data in respect of monthly activity or in respect of repeat users of the service is not maintained by the HSE.

It should be noted that at present the Health Service Executive provides out-of-hours emergency services for children at risk in the greater Dublin area through the Crisis Intervention Service, and outside the greater Dublin area through the Emergency Place of Safety Service.

The Crisis Intervention Service provides out-of-hours emergency social work assistance to young people aged under 18 years. The service operates across the greater Dublin area (Counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow). Referrals are made by service providers outside of normal working hours i.e. Gardai, hospital and ambulance service personnel.

In relation to activity data for the crisis intervention service, information provided by the HSE indicates that in 2009 there were 830 referrals to the service, of which 441 were males and 389 were female and that in 2010 there were 856 referrals to the service, of which 426 were males and 430 were female. In 2011 there were 1,076 referrals to the service, of which 179 individual young people accessed emergency accommodation, of whom 100 were male and 79 were female. 

The Emergency Place of Safety Service, operates outside the greater Dublin area, whereby Gardai can access an emergency placement for children found to be at risk out-of-hours. This service involves the placement of a child in a family setting until the next working day, when the local social work service assumes responsibility for the case. As part of this service Gardai have access to advice and information from a non-HSE social work off-site resource which is provided on a contract basis.

As regards usage of the Emergency Place of Safety Service, which commenced in June 2009, information provided by the HSE indicates that in the period June to December 2009 the service received a total of 166 referrals, of which 66 led to a placement with the place of safety service. In 2010, a total of 288 referrals were received, of which 172 led to a placement. In 2011, a total of 369 referrals were received, of which 253 led to a placement and to date in 2012 the service has received 266 referrals, of which 186 have led to placements.

In the light of the evaluation of the two pilot out of hours initiatives and experience with those other services mentioned above which operate outside normal working hours, the HSE has been asked to examine an appropriate model for the provision of out of hours social work services. Clearly this model will need to address the varying demographic demands in both rural and urban settings as highlighted by the pilot projects.

Ministerial Responsibilities

 69. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her top priorities for 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56685/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My Department was set up to drive the delivery of key commitments in relation to children and young people. The Department was established in June 2011 with a mandate to put in place a unified framework of policy, legislation and provision across Government in respect of children and young people.

My priorities for 2013 relate primarily to the ongoing implementation of the Programme for Government commitment relating to my Department. These priorities include:

- Establishment of the Child and Family Support Agency in early 2013, with legislation to be introduced in January.

- Introduction of legislation to place the Children First National Guidance on a statutory footing, building on the extensive work of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health & Children in considering the draft heads of legislation earlier this year,

- Maintaining the free Pre-School Year in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and improving its quality as resources allow.

- Enacting legislation on adoption.

- Implementation of a new area based approach to child poverty as announced in Budget 2013.

- Construction of new children detention facilities at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin to ending the practice of sending children to St. Patrick’s Institution.

In addition, work is continuing on preparation of the Government’s Children and Young People’s Policy Framework as well as Irelands’ first-ever National Early Years Strategy which will be published in 2013.

2013 is a particularly important year as Ireland will assume the Presidency of the European Union and I will chair the EU Council of Youth Ministers. Ireland’s national priority themes for the Youth Council Presidency will aim to promote understanding of the contribution of quality youth work to young people’s development, well-being and social inclusion and maximise the potential of youth policy and youth services in attaining the goals of Europe 2020, in particular in addressing youth employment.

Subject to finalisation of matters in relation to the constitutional amendment of children a top priority for my Department for 2013 will be to implement the necessary changes to policy and legislation arising from the amendment, both within my own Department and, in consultation with my Cabinet colleagues, across all relevant Government Departments. Finally, the Deputy will be aware that the recent Budget made additional provision for key initiatives in relation to area based poverty and school age opportunities. My Department will be working on the detailed arrangements to support the role out of these initiatives next year.

Bullying of Children

 70. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her policy to combat cyberbullying; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56696/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As Minister for Children & Youth Affairs I am concerned about the impact that bullying of any kind.

  My Department’s 'Growing Up in Ireland' study has found that over 24% of 9 to 17 year olds have reported been bullied. A recent EU study to examine the safety of children on the internet found that 4% of children between the ages of 9 and 16 in Ireland experienced online bullying compared with an EU average of 6%. This finding is also supported by the "Growing up in Ireland" research which showed that 5% of 9 year olds experienced cyber-bullying.

  Bullying and cyber-bullying can have a terrible and corrosive impact on our children and young people, on their confidence, learning outcomes, self-esteem and mental health. The affects of bullying can last for years. Sadly, in some case they can result in the loss of young lives. In recent times we have learned of a number of very tragic cases where bullying was involved. On behalf of the Government and on my own behalf I wish extend my sympathies to the families and friends of the young people who have died.

  Cyber-bullying is, in most cases, simply an extension of bullying in other forms and other settings. However rather than simply extending bullying beyond the schoolyard, the internet has been used to amplify the venom of bullying. In seeking to respond to cyber-bullying, we should seek to start by addressing bullying in the round through a ‘whole-school-community’ approach.

Parents have an important role to play here and I would hope that parents would take a more pro-active role in discussing with their children their online activities in the same way the school day might be discussed. In recent weeks I have become aware that many schools and parents associations in community right around the country have arranged information events for parents on issues relating to internet safety and cyber-bullying. I wish to commend all involved in organising such and I would encourage other schools and parents associations to do likewise. I would remind all parents, teachers and young people that information on cyber-bullying is available at www.webwise.ie   which is supported by the National Centre for Technology in Education.

  Last month I met with Simon Millner, Policy Director for Facebook in Ireland and the UK. I was impressed with the child-focused and user-friendly safeguards and supports which Facebook have put in place to protect children and respond to concerns over cyber-bullying and inappropriate online behaviour. I subsequently arranged for the National Anti-Bullying Forum working group to meet with Facebook. However it is a matter of concern that certain other websites popular among Irish teenagers do not include the same safeguards. I refer in particular to website such as the ‘ask.fm’ website which has come to attention in Ireland in recent weeks due to its use as a platform for cyber-bullying. While I have asked the Latvian authorities to investigate lack of safeguards applying to this website, I appreciate that given the global and open nature of the internet, options of regulation are constrained.

  Earlier this year the Minister for Education and Skills and I jointly hosted the first National Anti-Bullying Forum to bring relevant stakeholders together to consider the strategies and practices required to address bullying in schools and the new challenges associated with modern communication technologies.   Since then, a dedicated working group, on which my Department is represented, has been working to develop an action plan to effectively tackle bullying in schools. The group is examining the need for collaborative ‘whole-school-community’ approach to addressing bullying which I have referred to.

   I understand the group expects to complete its work by end of year and it is envisaged that their final report will address issues including:

Updated anti-bullying guidelines for schools;

Supporting teachers and schools;

Enhanced awareness and information initiatives.

  The Government has allocated €500,000 for anti-bullying measures in schools in the 2013 estimates for the Department of Education & Skills. My Department will also seek to support implementation of the report’s recommendations including engaging with parents’ group and internet industry. It is my intention to ensure that the actions recommended by the Anti-Bullying Working Group and other measures to respond to bullying will be prioritised in the new Children & Young People’s Policy Framework which is currently being prepared by my Department.

Aftercare Services

 71. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if the report she has requested the National Director for Children and Family Services to prepare on aftercare provision, including best practice, assessment criteria and most effective aftercare supports has been completed; the date on which this will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56769/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Deputy will be aware that I am currently examining options, in association with the Attorney General, to strengthen legislation to make explicit the HSE's obligations in the provision of aftercare. In this regard, the National Director for Children and Family Services in the HSE was asked to prepare a report on aftercare to guide the development of policy to underpin the strengthening of legislation for services in this important area. The HSE responded to my Department at the end of November in relation to the key findings of the National Implementation Group and provided information on the current provision of aftercare, assessment of need, multi-agency working and the HSE policy regarding Section 5 of the Child Care Act 1991, which provides that the HSE must take all reasonable steps to make suitable accommodation available to a child who is in need of accommodation. The response of the HSE provides an important update on the significant progress in developing aftercare supports, the development of greater consistency nationally and the challenges in making supports available to individual young people, including the need for multi-agency cooperation and the need to take account of the views of those leaving care who, ultimately as young adults must wish to avail of the aftercare arrangements being made available.

The HSE National Aftercare Service which is underpinned by a National Policy and Procedures Document, commits to promoting and achieving the best outcomes for young people leaving care and in ensuring consistency of support to these young people. An intra-agency National Aftercare Implementation Group, comprised of NGO groups representing aftercare, child advocacy, foster care and other groups, was established by the HSE to monitor progress in implementing the national policy.

The HSE has reported on the key findings of the National Implementation Group's review of aftercare provision. The review has shown that there is now a more systematic approach to ensuring that young people around age sixteen are identified through the care planning review process for assessment and through care planning. A standardised aftercare planning template is now being utilised nationally and this approach is helping to identify young people with special needs, such as learning disabilities, earlier and has led to good examples of interagency working. There have also been improvements in the statistical information available with additional new data being provided.While an aftercare service is provided across all areas, variations in how this is delivered and the level of aftercare allowances have been highlighted by the Group.

Currently the annual spend on aftercare is €17 million. The most recent information available indicates that there are 1,387 young people in aftercare, the majority of whom are aged 18-19 years. Most young people who were in foster care remain living with their foster carers supported financially by the HSE. Young people leaving residential care move into transitional accommodation, the private rental sector and supported lodgings. There are currently 42.2 whole time equivalent aftercare workers in the HSE, the majority of whom are in the west, with the others distributed relatively evenly across the other three regions. In addition, the HSE commissions aftercare services from Focus Ireland, Don Bosco and Cross Care.

The National Policy and Procedures Document sets out the eligibility criteria for an aftercare service. The care planing review process identifies young people as they approach 16 years and a process of assessment commences at that point, in conjunction with the wishes and views of the young person. Each individual is assessed across a number of areas, including life skills and capacity to live independently in the short and longer term; relationships with family, carers and significant others; emotional and behavioural development; health and overall wellbeing; identity and educational/training requirements.

The aftercare policy has a strong multi-agency dimension, which is particularly important in the context of the HSE Children and Family Services' transition to the Child and Family Support Agency. Protocols are being developed with Social Inclusion, Disability Services, Mental Health Services and Primary Care to support this approach. A protocol has been signed with the Irish Youth Justice Service which covers joint working arrangements for young people in Detention Schools. In addition, a protocol with the Housing Authorities which will set out a clear framework for identifying quality aftercare accommodation and commit local authorities to consider the needs of young care leavers is in the final stages of preparation.

Clearly, there have been improvements in the delivery of aftercare service and the issue is under ongoing active consideration by the National Implementation Group. My officials will continue to engage with the HSE to ensure that the service is addressing the needs of these vulnerable young people. I am happy to share the HSE response with the Deputy and to discuss proposals for the further development of policy in this area when the latest information on both the current service provision and the legal provisions is fully considered.

Children in Care

 72. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the waiting time that applied in the cases of the three young persons who were approved and are awaiting a special care placement and the one young person approved and awaiting a high support placement on 23 October 2012; if those young persons had received their placements on 23 November 2012; the number of children awaiting placement in high support or special care unit residential places on 12 December 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56772/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald There are three designated special care units in the country where children are detained on order of the high court for their own safety. There is a unit in Ballydowd in Dublin, Gleann Álainn in Cork and Coovagh House in Limerick. There are two National High Support Units in Ireland, Rath Na nÓg, Castleblaney and Crannóg Nua, Portrane.

As of the 23rd October 2012, there were 3 young people approved and awaiting a special care intervention and one young person approved and awaiting a placement in a High Support Unit. The HSE has advised me that one of these young people was removed from the list on 31st October; one was placed in special care on 11th December 2012 and the third young person was removed from the list on 12th December 2012 as they no longer required a special care intervention.

The HSE has advised me that as of 12th December, one young person has been approved for and is awaiting a special care intervention.

With regard to the young person awaiting the high support placement, the HSE has advised that the young person is currently on transition into a high support residential unit. The HSE has advised me that as of 12th December 2012, there are six young people currently under review for placement in high support.

Child and Family Support Agency Establishment

 73. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if adequate resources to employ social workers for children are in place for 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56708/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Government has given approval to the drafting of a Bill to establish the Child and Family Support Agency. Work on the preparation of the legislation is proceeding as a priority and the intention is that the Agency will be established in early 2013. This will involve the transfer of over 4,000 staff.

I welcome the allocation of €546 million in the HSE vote for 2013 in respect of children and family services. This consists of €545 million in current expenditure and €1 million in capital. The provision has been successfully maintained at the level of that made available in 2012 with modest adjustment based upon reclassification of expenditure following the detailed review of the composition of the children and family services budget. This level of budgetary provision for child welfare and protection services reflects the priority attached by the Government to this important area. The overall level of resources being provided will be increased further by the inclusion within the remit of the new agency of the budget of both the Family Support Agency and the National Educational Welfare Board. Some final adjustments to the budget provision are likely to be required based upon the finalisation of the detailed service responsibilities and staff transferring to the new agency and on completion of a due diligence exercise which is currently underway within the HSE and which is due to be completed prior to the establishment of the new agency.

The budget set out above includes provision for the 260 social workers recruited on foot of the Ryan Report Implementation Plan and the establishment of the Assessment, Consultation and Therapy Service (ACTS) to provide a service to children in both special care and detention.

Once the Agency is established, the Chief Executive designate, Gordon Jeyes, will be responsible for the management of the overall combined resource. In this context he will have the discretion to fill vacant posts across all grades, including social workers, taking account of identified need and subject to services being delivered within available resources.

Child Care Services Provision

 74. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will provide a breakdown of the way that the €16.5 million has been redirected into childcare places for low income workers and targeted early childhood care and education supports for disadvantaged areas. [56777/12]

 105. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her views on whether the joint initiative between her Department and the Department of Social Protection to develop a new after school childcare scheme targeted at low income families will create a two tier system of after school care here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56763/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 105 together.

As part of Budget 2013, together with my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection, I was pleased to announce the introduction of two new initiatives for children's services, which together are expected to receive funding of up to €16.5 million in 2013.

The first of these is the new 'Area Based Approach to Child Poverty' initiative which is expected to receive €2.5 million in Exchequer funding in 2013. This initiative will build on and continue the work of the Prevention and Early Intervention Programme (PEIP) which has supported projects in Tallaght, Ballymun and Darndale. Like the PEIP, it is also hoped to secure philanthropic funding for the new initiative. In line with the Programme for Government commitment, the new programme will be adopt an area based approach to child poverty which draws on best international practice and existing services to break the cycle of child poverty where it is most deeply entrenched.

In the coming months my Department will be working, in conjunction with the Office of the Tánaiste and key Departments, to expand the number of project sites from 3 to 6 and to evaluate the relevance of existing interventions which have proven to be effective for national level programmes. By 2015, Exchequer funding for the initiative is expected to be in the region of €4.75 million.

The second initiative is the provision of new After-School Childcare places to be managed jointly between my Department and the Department of Social Protection. These places will be targeted at low-income families and supporting parents availing of employment opportunities. The initiative is expected to receive full year funding of €14 million to provide over 6,000 quality after-school places for children attending primary school, as well as supporting parents to take up employment. This is in line with the Government's overall strategy to support parents of low income families to take up employment and demonstrates how Departments are working together to deliver the Government's agenda on promoting employment and supporting children's development.

The new childcare scheme will augment my Department's existing programme of childcare supports for low income families. These include the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) and the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programmes, both of which provide subsidised childcare for low income parents, together with the universal free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, available to all children in the relevant age group.

The After School places, as with those funded under the CETS and ECCE programmes, are expected to be available in both commercial and community providers. It is also intended to encourage the provision of services in primary school settings. I do not consider that a two tier system will be a feature since childcare facilities are availed of by a wide cross section of the community, with the State providing both universal supports and additional assistance for parents on the lowest incomes.

Child Benefit Payments

 75. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her views on whether the reduction in child benefit will undermine her Department’s objective of achieving better outcomes for children and young persons and providing support for parents and families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56689/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The issue of Child Benefit payments is a matter for the Minister for Social Protection.

  My Department currently provides support to parents to assist them with the cost of childcare through the implementation of two targeted childcare support programmes, the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme and the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme. The total cost of these programmes in 2013 is expected to be in the region of just over €70 million.

  The CCS programme provides funding to community-based childcare services to enable them to provide childcare at reduced rates to disadvantaged and low income working parents. Parents qualify where they are in receipt of social welfare payments or Family Income Supplement and where they hold a medical or GP card. Parents qualifying for the top rate of subvention, of €95 per week for a full-day childcare place, have their childcare costs reduced by that amount. Some 25,000 children are currently availing of subsidised childcare places under this programme.

The CETS   programme is provided through both community and commercial childcare services and provides in the region of 2,500 full-time equivalent childcare places each year to trainees and students who are deemed qualified by FÁS or the VEC. Parents qualifying for places have their weekly childcare costs reduced by €145, in the case of a full time childcare place, and pro-rata amounts in the case of part-time or after school childcare.    

  In addition, my Department implements the universal free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, under which all children have equal access to free pre-school education in the year before commencing primary school. Some 65,000 children are currently availing of the ECCE programme at an annual cost of some €175 million. Together, these programmes represent a significant investment in supporting parents with the cost of childcare and the fact that they have been maintained at a time of on-going need for reductions in Government expenditure, demonstrates this Government's commitment to supporting services for children and families.

  As part of Budget 2013, together with my colleague the Minister for Social Protection, I was pleased to announce a new school age childcare initiative. The initiative is expected to receive full year funding of €14 million to provide over 6,000 quality after-school places for children attending primary school, as well as supporting parents to take up employment. This is an important further support measure as a lack of access to affordable, quality childcare is a significant barrier to many low income and disadvantaged families when seeking to avail of work and training or educational opportunities.

  By providing over 6,000 after-school childcare places, the initiative will provide an important support measure to enable parents to avail of job opportunities. This is in line with the Government's overall strategy to support parents of low income families to take up employment and represents how Departments are working together to deliver the Government's agenda on promoting employment and supporting children's development.

  Oficials in both my own Department and the Department of Social Protection are currently working to finalise the details of the scheme and its operational arrangements. As is the case with the CETS scheme, the new scheme is expected to be open to both community and commercial childcare providers across the State and it is anticipated that places will become available on an interim basis from early 2013 with the full roll-out of the programme commencing in September 2013. As soon as this work has been completed, further information will be made available.

  My Department is currently developing a five year Children and Young People's Policy Framework. This Policy will set out an overarching framework for the delivery of policies and services across Government which provide the best possible outcomes for children within available resources. As part of this overall Policy Framework, 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 by mid 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 years experience in Ireland.

Child Care Services Provision

 76. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her plans to develop a Scandinavian model of childcare here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56688/12]

 92. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her views on the proposed after school childcare scheme which falls short of calls for the development of a system of Scandinavian style childcare here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56764/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 76 and 92 together.

As part of Budget 2013, together with my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection, I was pleased to announce a new After-School Childcare initiative which will be targeted at low-income families and supporting parents availing of employment opportunities.

The initiative is expected to receive full year funding of €14 million to provide over 6,000 quality after-school places for children attending primary school, as well as supporting parents to take up employment. Lack of access to affordable, quality childcare is a significant barrier to many low income and disadvantaged families when seeking to avail of work and training or educational opportunities.

By providing over 6,000 after-school childcare places, the initiative will provide an important support measure to enable parents to avail of job opportunities. This is in line with the Government's overall strategy to support parents of low income families to take up employment and demonstrates how Departments are working together to deliver the Government's agenda on promoting employment and supporting children's development.

The After-School Childcare Scheme will further augment my Department's programme of childcare supports for low income families. These include the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) and the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programmes, both of which provide subsidised childcare for low income parents, including qualifying parents who are on approved VEC and FÁS education and training courses. In 2013, my Department expects to spend almost €71 million on the CCS and CETS programmes, supporting over 30,000 childcare places.

My Department also implements the universal free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, under which all children have equal access to free pre-school education in the year before commencing primary school. Some 65,000 children are currently availing of the ECCE programme at an annual cost of some €175 million.

Future developments in the area of early childhood care and education, will be considered by my Department in the context of its National Early Years Strategy. The Strategy is currently being developed within my Department and is expected to be completed in mid 2013. It is my intention that it will cover a range of issues affecting children in their first years of life as well as identifying best practice in other jurisdictions that might be applied here.

There has been significant development in supports for childcare in recent years. The existing childcare schemes operated by my Department have been fully maintained, including the universal, free Pre School Year made available to every child in the country in the relevant age group.

Budget 2013 contained a very important initiative in the development of support for School Age Childcare for low income parents taking up employment opportunities. I believe these developments clearly demonstrate the Government's commitment to improving childcare provision.

Child and Family Support Agency Funding

 77. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will outline her proposals in relation to the proposed Child and Family Resource Agency; if she will confirm that resources granted to the new agency will be given on the understanding that they will be applied over as wide a geographical spread as possible; if she will outline the proposed budget for the new agency; if she will describe the way she intends the new agency to develop once it is established; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56650/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I am firmly committed to the transformation of Ireland’s child protection and welfare services, and to the establishment of a new Child and Family Support Agency (CFSA).

The Government has approved the Heads of the Child and Family Support Agency Bill and has also agreed to the priority drafting of this Bill. The necessary legislative and organisational preparations are being prioritised so that the CFSA can be established early in 2013. A precise target date for the transfer of staff will be set when consideration of the legislation is advanced. From its establishment the Child and Family Support Agency will have service responsibility for:

- Child welfare and protection services currently operated by the HSE including family support and alternative care services.

- Child and family related services for which the HSE currently has responsibility including pre-school inspections and domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services.

- Community based psychology services as they relate to children and families services covered by the Child and Family Support Agency and to services provided by the HSE. With regard to psychology services my Department and the Department of Health are currently jointly undertaking an impact analysis of the proposed future arrangement.

- The Family Support Agency which currently operates as a separate body under the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and will be merged into the new Agency.

- The National Educational Welfare Board which also currently operates as a separate body under the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and will be merged into the new Agency.

It is my intention that the CFSA will address the persistent issues which have been raised regarding the standardisation and consistency of service provision across the country particularly in the areas of child welfare and protection. At the same time, the CFSA will have a stronger role in supporting families - providing less complex, less intrusive, less expensive responses which have a preventive function. In order to achieve genuine improvements for children and families, the CFSA will have a broad focus. Prevention, early intervention, family support and therapeutic and care interventions are all key to the provision of integrated multi-disciplinary services for children and families based on identified need.

Inclusion of the Family Support Agency and the National Educational Welfare Board will also broaden the professional, accessible, service and community based resources of the organisation which will assist in creating more holistic and accessible approaches to support for children and families, particularly those that are most vulnerable.

An amount of €546 million has been allocated in the HSE vote for 2013 in respect of children and family services. This consists of €545 million in current expenditure and €1 million in capital. This level of budgetary provision for child welfare and protection services reflects the priority attached to the Government to this important area. The overall level of resources being provided will be increased further by the inclusion within the remit of the new agency of the budget of both the Family Support Agency and the National Educational Welfare Board. Some final adjustments to the budget provision are likely to be required to reflect the final service configuration of the Agency on completion of a due diligence exercise which is currently underway within the HSE and which is due to be completed prior to the establishment of the new agency.

Foster Care Provision

 78. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her plans to rectify the situation whereby some children in foster care on reaching 18 years are then placed in the care of the Department of Justice even when their foster carers wish for them to remain in their care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56773/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The immediate and ongoing needs of separated children seeking asylum (SCSA) as well as their application for refugee status are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE) in accordance with the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) and the Child Care Act, 1991. Where children are identified by An Garda Síochána, at the point of entry as unaccompanied minors, the circumstances are investigated and if there are any concerns about the welfare of the child, they are placed into the care of the HSE. Young children are always placed with foster carers, and older young people are either placed with a private foster company or, by their own preference, in dedicated children's residential accommodation. On reaching 18 years of age, or on completing their second level education during their 18th or 19th year, they are then referred by the HSE to the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA). The Reception and Integration Agency arranges for their transfer to adult accommodation and service provision in the direct provision system.

The HSE and the RIA have an agreed policy in relation to the accommodation of separated children seeking asylum who reach the age of 18 years and there is regular liaison between the two agencies. I am advised by the Department of Justice that detailed discussions take place between the Separated Children's Team in the HSE and RIA, to ensure the best RIA centre match for the young adult concerned. RIA provides these young adults with full board and accommodation in a direct provision centre. In practice and with the agreement of the Department of Justice, the HSE has retained young adults in after care for various durations and in very exceptional circumstances, for example where there is severe disability or serious mental or physical health issues. In addition, the HSE is committed to ensuring continuity of care for all young people who are undertaking their leaving certificate and therefore interprets "18th birthday" as the end of a school year/leaving certificate year following their 18th birthday. Any change of placement would only be in exceptional circumstances and in the young person’s best interests.

The above arrangement reflect the legislative provisions and the different statutory responsibilities of the HSE and the RIA as it relates to those seeking asylum.

Corporal Punishment

 79. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Ireland's failure to ban corporal punishment has resulted in the State being in violation of Article 17 of the Revised European Social Charter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56780/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Amongst the Conclusions on Ireland by the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) of the Council of Europe (CoE) in respect of Article 8 of the Revised European Social Charter is that the situation in Ireland is not in conformity with Article 17.1 of the Charter on the grounds that corporal punishment of children is not explicitly prohibited in the home.

  It is important to note that Ireland has no law or statute which specifically permits corporal punishment in the home setting. On the contrary, Section 246 of the Children Act 2001 provides very clear legal deterrents to the use of excessive physical discipline within the home setting or otherwise, as follows:

Section 246.—(1 ) ‘It shall be an offence for any person who has the custody, charge or care of a child wilfully to assault, ill-treat, neglect, abandon or expose the child, or cause or procure or allow the child to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, abandoned or exposed, in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to the child's health or seriously to affect his or her well-being.’

  The Children Act of 2001 also specifically prohibits physical punishment of children in all other settings such as schools, crèches, detention, public care settings etc

In relation to corporal punishment within the home, a limited defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’   exists in common law, but successful high profile prosecutions have also been taken by the State under section 246 where parents are deemed to have used excessive or unreasonable force in disciplining children.

  There is a balance to be found between supporting parents in effective parenting, in particular, in use of non-violent forms of discipline, and the use of criminal law to impose criminal sanctions on parents who do not adhere to best practice in parenting. It is important to emphasise the considerable progress made in recent years in encouraging parents to use alternative non violent forms of discipline in the family setting. Recent official independent research undertaken by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs indicates that the practice of corporal punishment in the home setting is now relatively rare in Ireland. This research indicates that the vast majority of Irish parents never use corporal punishment as a means of disciplining children, opting instead for alternative means of discipline.

Childhood Obesity

 80. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the contribution her Department can make to reduce obesity in teenagers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56693/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Government shares with many other agencies and professional groups, concerns about the growth and nutrition of children and teenagers and the immediate and longer term health risks posed by obesity. Understanding factors associated with physical activity levels and overweight/obesity in Irish children is therefore critical to effective prevention efforts.

  The large scale study, ‘Growing Up in Ireland’ longitudinal study, for which by my Department is responsible, recently re-interviewed 7,400 children aged 13 years, some four years after they were initially interviewed, and gathered information on the extent of overweight and obesity in the group. From this work, and comparable international studies, we know child overweight and obesity is increasing. This data collected revealed that 74% of 13-year-olds were not overweight, 20% were overweight, and 6% were obese. As was the case at 9 years, more than one in four 13-year-olds was either overweight or obese. Girls were more likely to be overweight than boys (22% compared to 18%) and were slightly more likely to be obese (8% compared to 5%).

  The data also showed that relatively few non-overweight 9-year-olds had developed weight problems by age 13 while those with weight problems at 9 years tended to maintain them. This reinforces the importance of early intervention. Children who are a healthy weight at aged 3 or age 9 are much less likely to have weight problems as a teenager.

  It is widely accepted by researchers that there is a strong link between physical activity and overweight and habits formed in youth tend to carry over into adulthood. The Growing Up in Ireland Study also clearly confirms this finding with young people who took more exercise being less likely to be overweight or obese, especially in comparison with those who never exercised.

  The National Play and Recreation policies, for which my Department has responsibility, seeks to actively promote the participation of children and young people in play and exercise, an effective way of helping them maintain a healthy weight. In February 2012, I established the Local Authority Play and Recreation Network (LAPRN) to introduce a more coordinated and interagency approach to achieving the goals of the play and recreation policies at both national and local level. An early achievement of the network has been the development, expansion and branding of National Play Day & National Recreation Week which now take place annually in Local Authority areas with the Play Day being held in July and October. This year saw the largest ever participation with 26 Councils staging events. For the first time every county in Ireland participated in National Recreation Week 2012.

  My Department is participating in the Department of Health led Special Advisory Group on Obesity. In conjunction with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) the Group has been considering a number of issues including, for example, how technical support might be provided to small restaurant/coffee shop owners to assist them to provide calorie content information as this could facilitate young people in making healthier choices.

Children in Care

 81. 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 the institutions in which children with special care needs have been placed overseas by the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56768/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Under the Child Care Act, 1991, the Health Service Executive has a duty to promote the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care or protection. The policy of the HSE is to place children in care settings, preferably in foster care, as close as possible to their home and community. There were 6,249 children in the care of the state in September 2012, the vast majority of whom were in foster care (5,744) and general residential care (330).

  A very small minority of young people under 18 years of age have highly specialised needs arising from severe behaviour difficulties, due to their childhood experiences or in some cases as a result of injury, accident or disability. The care needs of these young people are generally met by directly provided residential services or services commissioned by the HSE within Ireland.

  For this small number of young people, the HSE is on occasion; in exceptional cases, required to make arrangements for their placement in care and treatment facilities outside of the State, primarily in the UK, to allow for access to an individually tailored mix of care and highly-specialised therapeutic services and psychiatric treatment not available in this country. This is done on as infrequent a basis as possible and only where such placement is considered to be in the best interest of the child. These placements are made in line with the HSE National Protocol for Special Arrangements   and are made under the order and supervision of the High Court.

  The HSE has advised me that at present, seven young people are the subject of High Court orders and in out of State placements. Six of these young people are placed in St. Andrews, Northampton, while one is placed in Kibble in Scotland.

  Where children are placed abroad they remain in the care of the State, they have an allocated social worker who visits them in their placement, they have a care plan and this is reviewed within the statutory framework. All units in which children are placed are subject to the regulatory and inspection framework of that jurisdiction and HSE Children and Families Services makes itself aware of any reports prior to placing a child abroad. HSE Children and Families Services supports visits from family members to children placed abroad by paying for travel and accommodation costs. The level of requirement for these services is closely monitored by the HSE's National Director for Children and Family Services and my officials.

  The HSE has advised that it is currently engaged in a major process of change and improvement for Children and Family Social Services. Part of this work includes improvement in the areas of management, development and the provision of National High Support and Special Care Services and the future direction these services should take.

Child Abuse Reports

 82. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the recommendations of the Ryan Report that she has yet to implement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56783/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Ryan Report Implementation Plan - Third Progress Report was laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas on 12 November 2012. This Report contained full details of the implementation status of each of the 99 actions specified.

  Of the ninety-nine actions detailed in the Plan, 37 actions had a timeframe of ‘ongoing’. These are, by their nature, not once off actions and while they may be deemed complete for the purpose of this report they will necessarily continue to be implemented on an ongoing basis. The remaining 64 actions had a specific timescale. An indicative overview status of the actions in the Plan is as follows:

Complete: 59

Implementation ongoing: 13

Not yet complete: 27

The 99 actions identified in the Ryan Implementation Plan are the responsibility of a number of Government Departments and Agencies. In order to effectively monitor implementation, I chair a High Level Monitoring Group with representation from relevant Departments, the HSE, the Gardaí and the Children’s Rights Alliance.

  The Implementation Plan for the Ryan Report specified a four year reporting period. The final phase of implementation, in 2013, will therefore focus on bringing each of the recommendations to full implementation.

Homeless Persons Data

 83. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her plans to undertake a comprehensive review of the coordination, implementation and continued relevance of the youth homelessness strategy. [56776/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My Department has engaged the Centre for Effective Services (CES) to undertake a high level review of the implementation of the 2001 Youth Homelessness Strategy.

The purpose of the review is to establish the extent that the strategy has been successful, to identify blockages and challenges to its implementation in respect of any outstanding actions and to make recommendations for future action.

Consultations were held with the relevant service providers, non-Government agencies and young people as part of this process. It is envisaged that this review will be launched early next year. This review will inform the development of a framework to address ongoing problems identified for children out of home over the next five years.

Child Care Services Provision

 84. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the discussions she has had with the Health Service Executive regarding complementary funding supports to county childcare committees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56713/12]

 101. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the way she will fund child minders advisory worker posts in county childcare committees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56710/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 101 together.

The City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs) are funded by my Department to assist it in implementing its early years programmes, including supporting service providers and advising parents, at local level. In 2012, the total amount allocated by my Department to the CCCs was €11.3 million.

Childminding advisory officers have been funded in the past by the Health Service Executive (HSE), in a number of counties, often directly through the local Childcare Committee. I understand that there has been a reduction in this funding in recent years and I have asked my Department to engage with the HSE and CCCs on this matter and report. This issue will also be looked at in the context of the move of support services for children and families from the HSE to the new Child and Family Support Agency, later this year.

Child and Family Support Agency Remit

 85. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the date on which she will publish the implementation plan for the roll out of State wide out of hours emergency social care service; if this plan will be published before Christmas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56770/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As part of the ongoing ‘change agenda’ in Child and Family services I am committed to developing the capacity of our child protection services to appropriately and effectively address the needs of children who present in emergency situations outside of normal working hours.

Two out-of-hours pilot projects, one in Donegal and the other in Cork, were commenced by the HSE in 2011. The Donegal project started mid-year and the Cork project started in the third quarter. Both projects were internally evaluated by the HSE, which then commissioned an independent external assessment, undertaken by Trinity College Dublin. I have discussed this issue with Gordon Jeyes, National Director for Children and Family Services in the HSE.

I am informed by the HSE that it is currently reviewing the recommendations of the Evaluation Report in the context of the preparation of the Service Plan for 2013. The HSE is committed to further development and expansion of the service subject to resourcing and the terms of the Croke Park agreement. I am further informed by the HSE that implementation planning is underway and will be finalised in early 2013.

What is important is that children in crisis, no matter where they are, have access to 24 hour social work assistance, and this is what the HSE's National Director for Children and Family Services and I are working towards. Clearly whatever model emerges will need to address the challenges of varying demographic demands in both rural and urban settings.

It should be noted that at present the Health Service Executive provides out-of-hours emergency services for children at risk in the greater Dublin area through the Crisis Intervention Service, and outside the greater Dublin area through the Emergency Place of Safety Service.

The Crisis Intervention Service provides out-of-hours emergency social work assistance to young people aged under 18 years. The service operates across the greater Dublin area (Counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow). Referrals are made by service providers outside of normal working hours i.e. Gardai, hospital and ambulance service personnel.

The Emergency Place of Safety Service, operates outside the greater Dublin area, whereby Gardai can access an emergency placement for children found to be at risk out-of-hours. This service involves the placement of a child in a family setting until the next working day, when the local social work service assumes responsibility for the case. As part of this service Gardai have access to advice and information from a non-HSE social work off-site resource which is provided on a contract basis.

United Nations Conventions

 86. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her plans to ratify the third Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure which would enable children and their families to make complaints to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. [56774/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The third Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was opened for signature by member states in February 2012. I have previously stated that it was my intention to sign the protocol on behalf of Ireland as soon as possible. My Department is currently finalising the State's combined 3rd and 4th Reports to the UN Committee on the Reports of the Child. This is the first report to be submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in over five years.

Once the report is finalised and submitted to the UN Committee it would be my intention to sign the third Optional Protocol in due course on behalf of Ireland. Ratification would generally take place some time after that, once the State is satisfied that the necessary legislative and administrative procedures are in place to enable full compliance. This matter will be assessed by the legal unit of my Department in due course.

Child and Family Support Agency Funding

 87. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the way she plans to resource the yet to be established Child and Family Support Agency in view of the fact that that the Children and Family Services Health Service Executive budget has been cut by approximately €5 million to €546 million; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56778/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I welcome the allocation of €546 million in the HSE vote for 2013 in respect of children and family services. This consists of €545 million in current expenditure and €1 million in capital. This level of budgetary provision for child welfare and protection services reflects the priority attached to the Government to this important area. The overall level of resources being provided will be increased further by the inclusion within the remit of the new agency of the budget of both the Family Support Agency and the National Educational Welfare Board. Some final adjustments to the budget provision may be required on completion of a due diligence and disaggregation exercise which is currently underway within the HSE and which is due to be completed prior to the establishment of the new agency.

Youth Unemployment Data

 88. 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 contribution her Department will make to tackling youth unemployment in 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56681/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Government is committed to tackling unemployment and is working to create the environment for a strong economic recovery and jobs growth. Youth unemployment is a particular concern because of the prospects it holds for individual young people, their families and the economic and social life of the country.

The Government’s action plans contain a range of measures across departments and agencies to support young people to get a foothold in the jobs market. These include the Youthreach programme for early school leavers, measure to support apprenticeships and training, jobsearch and work experience programmes.

My Department has a specific role in supporting the provision of youth services and programmes for young people aged primarily between 10 and 24 years. In 2013, €53.173m has been provided to my Department for these services. Some 477 youth projects and services receive support under 5 funding schemes. There are 1,400 paid staff and some 40,000 volunteers in local communities involved in the provision of services and activities for young people.

The benefits of participation in youth work for young people are well documented. As a non-formal learning practice, youth work offers educational, developmental and recreational experiences which complement formal education and training. It provides young people with opportunities to acquire life skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, creativity, and innovation. These are essential skills for educational, training and career readiness. Recent policy developments, particularly at EU level, suggest that youth work opportunities have a special relevance and potential for those young people who are not in education, employments or training –the so called NEETS.

My Department will be working closely with the Departments of Education, Social Protection, Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, to identify, in what ways, the youth sector can contribute to shared policy objectives to enhance support for this particularly vulnerable cohort of young people.

In addition, the contribution of quality youth work to young people’s development, well-being and social inclusion and its contribution to attaining the goals of Europe 2020, in particular the youth employment challenge are priority themes for the Irish Presidency of the Youth Council over the next 6 months. As part of my Presidency plans, I will host an expert round table on the issue in June, 2013.

My Department works closely with the Department of Social Protection on the Government’s activation programme. Funding provided under the community childcare subvention programmes supports the provision of some 25,000 childcare places. These target low income families, including unemployed young parents and young people who have left school early, as part of a whole of Government approach to address unemployment and to support young people to get access to the labour market.

Youth Work Supports

 89. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the way the findings of the recent Indecon report on youth work will impact on her policies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56692/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I welcome the recent publication of the Economic Assessment of the Value of Youth Work carried out by Indecon on behalf of the National Youth Council of Ireland.

The report illustrates the breadth, depth and value of the youth work sector in Ireland and provides an assessment of the value and contribution of youth work to the economy, to young people themselves and to the social fabric of Irish society. I have brought the report to the attention of the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform, Social Protection and Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Funding of €53.173m has been provided to my Department for the provision of youth services in 2013 through the different schemes which include the Youth Service Grant Scheme, the Special Projects for Youth Scheme, the Young People’s Facilities and Services Fund, Youth Information Centres, the Local Youth Club Grant Scheme, the Local Drugs Force Task Scheme and certain other programmes including Gaisce- the President’s Award. These funding schemes support national and local youth work provision and involve 1,400 paid staff and some

40,000 volunteers in 477 youth projects around the country.

My Department is working on the determination of the funding allocations for youth services in 2013 and is seeking to ensure that, in the determination process for the allocations, effective youth services, particularly those for the most vulnerable young people are protected as far as is possible from the impact of any necessary reductions in funding. Youth organisations and projects will be advised of their 2013 allocations as soon as possible.

There will be no reduction in funding in 2013 for the 1600 local volunteer-led youth clubs and groups which offer quality youth activities for some 100,000 young people throughout the country. The impact of the social capital which is built in local communities through such activities is a core element of the Indecon Economic Assessment of the Value of Youth Work.

My Department is developing proposals to streamline the existing five separate funding lines in 2013 so that youth projects will receive one funding stream allowing more flexibility in setting priorities, managing savings and reconfiguring service provision. A formal Value for Money review of youth programmes is also being initiated by my Department for completion in 2013. The Indecon report is timely in this regard and the findings will be considered as part of the review process.

I look forward to continued collaboration with the youth sector in implementing the necessary reforms and rationalisation in a way that ensures the realisation of our shared objectives for the provision of efficient and effective quality youth services for young people.

Childcare Education and Training Scheme Places

 90. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald in view of the fact that childcare 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. [56711/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme was introduced in January 2010 and provides all pre-school children with equal access to early childhood care and education.

The only requirement in regard to staff qualifications which is currently required by the ECCE programme, is that Pre-School leaders 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. During the initial period of January 2010 to August 2012, the programme accepted Pre-School leaders who held 4 core modules at level 5, rather than the full award. During this period, my Department worked in partnership with a major national voluntary childcare organisation to provide subsidised, on-line training to facilitate staff holding the interim qualification to achieve the full award. As and when any additional staff competencies or qualification requirements are planned for and introduced, my Department will continue to work with the sector to support any change process.

Services in which all staff are more highly qualified than the standard requirement, that is where all pre-school leaders hold a full level 7 or higher award, and all pre-school assistants hold a full level 5 award, qualify for a higher capitation rate under the programme. This is intended to encourage services which engage more highly qualified staff.


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