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 Header Item Departmental Staff (Continued)
 Header Item Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)
 Header Item Priority Questions
 Header Item Childcare Costs

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 4

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The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar There is a much greater political role in the appointment of a Secretary General than there is in suggesting that somebody get a position.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Taoiseach is wrong.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy Let the Taoiseach speak without interruption.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar To answer the other questions, since I thought this would come up-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That is not true.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----the list of staff I read out includes staff assigned to Independents, to the Chief Whip and drivers. For comparison, that adds up to 20, compared with 23 under the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny. I have fewer staff than did my predecessor and the total cost of their salaries is considerably lower than the cost of salaries under former taoisigh, former Deputies Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern. I spend less and have fewer staff. I hope somebody will report on that since it is a fact.

On the matter of the cost of running-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Does that include the strategic communications unit?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is costly. That does not mean it will cost nothing-----

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin It was six by our count.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----particularly when it comes to running campaigns but that is entirely met by existing resources in my Department. The Deputies will know that from the budget book because my Department is one of the few taking a reduction in its budget in 2018.

Topical Issue Matters

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 29A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Dessie Ellis - the availability of county council lands in Dunsink Lane for social housing; (2) Deputy James Browne - the position with regard to the application for the new special school at St Patrick's in Drumgoold, Enniscorthy; (3) Deputy Tom Neville - Newcastlewest Garda Station, County Limerick; (4) Deputies Niamh Smyth and Sean Fleming - to consider revision of the pension system to take consideration of family and carer commitments; (5) Deputies Thomas P. Broughan, Clare Daly and Jack Chambers - the difficulties with the Aer Lingus second supplementary pension scheme; (6) Deputy Jackie Cahill - to reconsider the new stamp duty regime on agricultural land transfers; (7) Deputy Michael McGrath - the outstanding claims following the collapse of Setanta insurance in 2014; (8) Deputy Noel Rock - the closure of the Finglas East post office; (9) Deputies Mattie McGrath, Paul Murphy and Mick Barry - the resources available in the aftermath of hurricane Ophelia; (10) Deputy Louise O'Reilly - industrial relations in health sector, section 39 agencies; (11) Deputy Frank O'Rourke - the waiting lists for spinal surgery and assessments at Tallaght and Naas hospitals; (12) Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe - the situation at St. Patrick's Community Hospital, Fermoy, County Cork; (13) Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin - the status of the day-care centre in Monasterevin, County Kildare; (14) Deputy Mick Wallace - the accuracy of the system for recording housing and apartment building completions; (15) Deputy Michael Moynihan - to discuss the liquidation of Charleville Credit Union; and (16) Deputy Eugene Murphy - the status of facilities at Moylough national school, County Galway.

The matters raised by Deputies Dessie Ellis, Frank O'Rourke, Michael Moynihan, Thomas P. Broughan, Clare Daly and Jack Chambers have been selected for discussion.

Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)

Priority Questions

Childcare Costs

 29. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on whether the subsidy levels under the single affordable childcare scheme are sufficient to account for the absence of increases to these levels in budget 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44019/17]

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte My question is to ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on whether the subsidy levels under the single affordable childcare scheme are sufficient to account for the absence of increases to these levels in budget 2018, and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I believe that budget 2018 marks another substantial further step forward in supporting families with young children. In recent years, I have secured significant additional investment in the early years sector, focusing investment on different but critical elements of early years care and education. The new measures announced in budget 2018 form part of a trend in continued growth and investment. In budget 2017, I secured a 35% increase in child care funding, following a similar 35% increase in budget 2016.

There has been an increase of 87% in early years funding since 2015. Despite this, Ireland will require many years of significant investment in child care to catch up with our OECD counterparts. The increase in targeted subsidies introduced last month does, however, represent a major step towards accessible, affordable, quality child care. These increases reflect my ambition to support the provision of quality child care services with appropriately supported and qualified staff.

The increases in the targeted schemes introduced last month are considerable, up to 50%. This will significantly decrease the amount of co-payment required of low-income families or parents in education or training. Some families will benefit from as much as €7,500 per child per year. I also introduced a universal subsidy worth up to €1,040 per year. This subsidy is aimed at children not yet in the free preschool programme.

I have used budget 2018 to deliver fully on the commitment in the programme for Government regarding early childhood care and education, ECCE, and to increase investment to support the quality of services.

All of these changes are points towards our goal to deliver affordable, accessible, quality child care.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte I welcome what was delivered in the budget for ECCE. Focusing on the affordable childcare scheme, will the Minister confirm what she has started with regard to the affordable childcare scheme, and that our ICT system will be in place for September 2018? I am seeking a commitment from the Minister to have a pathway for that to ensure it will be there. How is the legislative framework proceeding to make sure that the Revenue and social protection pieces of the jigsaw related to the affordable childcare scheme will also be in place for September 2018? While I compliment the fact that some families will be in receipt of €7,500, some are missing out and will not even get as much as €12 per week. There are as many as 9,000 not included because of the threshold of €47,500. Was there much uptake of the GP cards or have any of the Minister's staff a reflection on that? That was an avenue to bring more people into the affordable subsidy level in the affordable childcare scheme.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Those are very helpful questions with regard to the Deputy's original question. On subsidies provided for families to ensure that the cost of child care is more affordable, the Deputy's first question asked if we are on track to ensure that the affordable childcare scheme will be able to be delivered in 2018 in light of the ICT issues. As I understand it, that process is continuing within the context of an overall group that is outside of my control and needs to ensure that proper quality and systems are put in place over a period. That is an oversight group, as the Deputy is aware. As I have said before, it is much better to get this right, because it is going to be in place for generations, than to get it wrong. I hope it will be able to be delivered but I cannot absolutely guarantee that now.

I understand that the legislation, asked about in the Deputy's second question, is on track. On the threshold for families, some may have missed out because we do not have the affordable childcare scheme fully developed to be delivered in the way that was originally intended, although we will deliver it. That issue was behind my judgment to ensure that every child is entitled to two full free years of preschool. That will add to the affordability issue for families.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte I ask the Minister about ICT in every session. She has said she hopes that it will be there. Is funding the issue? Is it very complex? Is it difficult for one Department to work with three others? Is it that we are introducing a new system that has never been brought in before? Is the Minister looking at the model with regard to the student universal support Ireland, SUSI, system? I am trying to understand where we are going with this ICT because it all hinges on the ICT. Child care costs cripple parents. None of us will deny that. If this is holding up progress in delivering the affordable childcare scheme, I hope to understand what the hold-up is.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I know the Deputy is aware of this, but it is important to put on record that significant increases to reduce the cost of child care for families are being put in place and have begun to be delivered since September. There is a significant sign-up rate for those various schemes, including the universal scheme for under threes, which was the first time that the Government has put in place subsidies for families for children under three. As the Deputy is aware, a significant additional investment is being made in targeted funding. That is just beginning to roll out. Families are beginning to feel that and there has been a significant sign-up rate for those schemes. It is important to place that on the record of the House.

The Deputy identified the issue of the ICT system.


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