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 Header Item Childcare Costs (Continued)
 Header Item Child Poverty
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone] The development of the ICT system is progressing in an oversight group process. This involves a special office of people with expertise in information systems to ensure that what is ultimately delivered will be correct, and will last. That is outside my control. It is a process that involves other systems that are being developed from scratch, as significant as this one in terms of, as the Deputy rightly points out, the sharing of Revenue and social protection data that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and other Departments have identified needs to be done in order that we get that right. I hope that we can deliver but it is outside of my control. It is in the context of that process that we will deliver the best system for children and families.

Child Poverty

 30. Deputy Denise Mitchell Information on Denise Mitchell Zoom on Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the extra efforts being taken to tackle youth poverty and child homelessness; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43809/17]

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy Question No. 30 is in the name of Deputy Denise Mitchell. Unfortunately, Deputy Mitchell cannot be here. Deputy Ó Laoghaire is taking the question. I am sure the House is okay with that.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Deputy Mitchell conveys her apologies. The Deputy asks about the extra efforts being taken by the Department and the Government generally in regard to youth poverty and child homelessness, both of which are related, and asks that the Minister to make a statement on the matter and outlines what actions were taken in the budget to deal with this.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The reduction of child poverty and supports for homeless children and families are key political priorities for the Government.

My Department works closely with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection which has lead responsibility for child poverty in informing the development of this cross-sectoral priority.

My Department administers a range of funding schemes and programmes to support the provision of youth services to young people, including those from disadvantaged communities, throughout the country. In 2017, I provided current funding of €57.4 million to support the provision of youth services.

Recently my Department operated a youth employability initiative funded under the dormant accounts funding scheme. The programmes assisted over 1,000 young people, aged 15 to 24 years, to build skills that enhanced their employability. A review of the initiative to inform any future linked development is taking place.

During 2016 and 2017, I also gave approval for funding of 14 new youth projects and the expansion of seven others. These sample projects will provide youth services, including those related to homelessness, in areas of need as identified by the local education and training boards across the country.

There are 109 family resource centres currently in receipt of funding from Tusla and I have provided Tusla with resources for an additional 11 centres to be opened. I have also provided extra supports for family resource centres and will be making a significant announcement on this later this week.

In relation to housing, we are working closely with Tusla to provide supports for families in emergency accommodation in order to mitigate the challenges faced by parents and children in this situation. I have introduced free child care for the children of families experiencing homelessness. Regarding school attendance, Tusla's educational welfare service offers a number of supports to children and families experiencing homelessness and works together with other statutory and voluntary agencies in this regard. Actions taken by Tusla include the provision of funding for child-support workers and the appointment of a homelessness liaison officer.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire As the Minister stated, these are cross-sectoral issues and there are many Departments responsible for them. Nonetheless, in terms of the Government as a whole, it is fair to say that the number of children in emergency accommodation, at almost 3,000, is at quite a shocking level at this stage. The related welfare issues are quite serious. There is the issue of food poverty and its implications for them. Generally speaking, there is the question about how suitable some of the emergency accommodation is.

In the first instance, I want ask the Minister whether she would support, in regard to the homelessness issue, some form of further independent inspection regime for emergency accommodation, in particular for families, and whether there has been any progress in Tusla's engagement with the existing forms of emergency accommodation.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I agree with the Deputy that the number of children in emergency accommodation is unacceptable. I indicated in my speech in response to the budget that the Government could be doing more, particularly in regard to preventive measures, in order to prevent as many people and families as possible moving into the emergency accommodation. One of the difficulties is that many children and families are moving out but, as the Deputy identified, the numbers continue to increase. Many children and families have received some form of a home but the fact that the numbers are continuing to go up is the difficulty. I agree there needs to be, as I said, further preventive measures. The Deputy will be aware that Tusla has worked with others to develop standards on ensuring the safety and protection of children while they are in emergency accommodation.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire I am aware the Minister has committed moneys again in this year's budget to the area-based programme on tackling child poverty. The Minister also mentioned the family resource centres, which I would be a strong advocate of. What is the Minister's vision for the area-based projects over the next few years because there are some projects which are the remnants of Atlantic Philanthropies' investments and others that are probably more directly coming from the Department. All of these do good work. Some may have slightly different models of practice. I very much believe that this area-based approach is crucial in tackling poverty as well as some of the Barnardos centres, but I am unclear as to where the Government sees the future of all these centres and projects and what the strategy and roadmap for these projects are.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I thank Deputy Ó Laoghaire for the excellent question. As the Deputy will be aware, I was able to secure funding in budget 2018 in order to ensure the continuation of the area-based programmes that are going on in different places throughout the country. As the Deputy indicated, there are different models being employed in that regard, but they certainly are all focused on prevention and early intervention, and the provision of services in the context of the communities where they are located.

The overall programme is currently being evaluated and reviewed by the Centre for Effective Services. The purpose of the evaluation is to assess the impact of the programme nationally. Work on the evaluation is ongoing but initial indications are positive for improving outcomes for children in 13 areas of disadvantage. Of course, I will await that report, but I have some views on ways in which we can continue to ensure communities, in the context of encouraging them to participate with children and families, between State and NGO and voluntary bodies, do the best they can to ensure that the children who are able to access those initiatives' services receive the best health, educational and care outcomes possible.

Departmental Expenditure

 31. 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 the amount of funding that will be ring-fenced for the roll-out of mandatory reporting in 2018; her views on whether this will be sufficient; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [44020/17]

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte I ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the amount of funding that will be ring-fenced for the roll-out of mandatory reporting in 2018, her views on whether this will be sufficient and to make a statement on the matter.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I recently announced my intention to commence the mandatory reporting provisions of the Children First Act 2015 with effect from 11 December this year.

It is not possible at this stage to be precise about the amount of funding to be allocated to a specific area such as Children First. Children First mandatory reporting, for example, could benefit from social workers who are dealing in part with other aspects of Tusla's work and also from elements of staff training and IT costs. Exact funding requirements will become clearer as Tusla develops its business plan for 2018. However, I have emphasised to Tusla that mandatory reporting is a critical requirement for 2018 and the agency has committed to taking all actions necessary to achieve effective implementation.

I will shortly be issuing Tusla with its 2018 performance statement in line with the provisions of the Child and Family Agency Act 2013.


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