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 Header Item Child and Family Agency Funding (Continued)
 Header Item Other Questions
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education Funding
 Header Item Child Protection

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] Part of their focus will be on linking in with family hubs in their areas to ensure there are ongoing ways of supporting children in accommodation in that context, for example by bringing their prevention and early intervention services to them.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I do not know whether the ABC question is relevant because I am not sure whether it comes under Tusla. I would be very interested to hear if there are plans to ensure these programmes are protected.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I apologise for not having time to answer the Deputy's question in my previous reply. As I indicated in response to another Deputy, I have secured funding for 2018. The programme is under evaluation by the Centre for Effective Services. I would expect a report to be delivered to me in the near future so I can review the evaluation of the impact of this provision. So far, the signs are positive. If the evaluation is positive, we will review the overall approach to see whether it is something we wish to continue. For example, we will look at the exact locations. We will consider whether we want to open it up and, if so, whether sufficient resources are available to facilitate this. We will think about other ways in which we can support the overall ultimate aim of reducing children's poverty in disadvantaged communities.

Other Questions

Early Childhood Care and Education Funding

 34. 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 to set out the measures being taken to ensure childcare services have the capacity to cope with the expansion of the free preschool year scheme as announced in budget 2018.  [43694/17]

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Perhaps the Minister can comment on how she has dealt with some of the anomalies and gaps that exist in the free preschool year scheme.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Department of Children and Youth Affairs monitors the capacity of childcare providers on an ongoing basis. In April 2017, more than 120,000 children participated in the early childhood care and education, ECCE, scheme at peak demand. While pressure on places was high in some areas, the system successfully accommodated all children for whom a place was sought. From September 2018, the structure and entry points of ECCE will change as a result of the additional investment that has been made available to fund a full two programme years. It is estimated that 114,000 children will register for ECCE for the full programme year at that point. As the system was able to accommodate 120,000 children in 2017, I am confident that there should be no problem accommodating 114,000 children in 2018. The one entry point will reduce the overall pressures on the system and make it simpler for parents to secure places on the ECCE programme for their children.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs, through the city and county child care committees and Pobal, will continue to monitor issues of capacity and need. The Department is continuing to work with the Department of Education and Skills and the Central Statistics Office to identify the number of children who are eligible for the free preschool years. As it did on previous occasions, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will make information available to each of the 30 city and county child care committees on the number of children in each electoral division who are eligible for the ECCE scheme. This will enable the committees to support providers and parents in their local areas to ensure sufficient capacity exists. If any future capacity issues are identified, the Department will consider any intervention necessary, such as the provision of capital funding. I am pleased that the funding I have received in budget 2018 means we can provide for a full second year of the ECCE scheme. I believe this will be to the considerable benefit of children and their families. I look forward to working with providers to ensure we have sufficient capacity to meet the needs of all families.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire The issue of capacity goes beyond mere places. We have previously discussed issues like capacity and the sustainability of the sector. Does the Minister believe the additional funding that is being provided will lead to improved pay? How does she intend to ensure the many lower-paid people working in this sector, who are overwhelmingly female, will see their pay increase on foot of this additional funding? I have previously raised the sustainability of community childcare facilities, many of which might now begin to focus largely on the ECCE programme because of the more comprehensive nature of the funding available for it. What steps will the Minister take to ensure such providers will be able to provide other services?

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I think we are both very committed to the sustainability issue. As the Deputy is aware, €1 million was provided in budget 2017 to ensure the sustainability of certain services. The Department has worked very hard to assist those who have come forward to work with us in this regard. I have secured an additional €700,000 in budget 2018 to continue this work. This will continue to be an important aspect of our efforts to build capacity in these contexts. As the Deputy has rightly pointed out, additional quality measures to support the workforce are part of the building of capacity. I have a number of things to say in that regard. Specifically, I would like to answer the Deputy's question about additional moneys by saying I intend that some of the key measures I have identified for increased funding in budget 2018 will lead to service providers having more pay to offer to dedicated childcare professionals.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire As we have sought to provide for early childhood education, not just over the past two years but also over a longer period, much of our strategy has involved the provision of subsidies to the private sector. While that makes sense in the context of this sector as it currently exists, do the Minister or the Department have any sense that we should be moving towards an early childhood care sector that is more substantially publicly provided?

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I would have been disappointed if the Deputy had not asked me that question. I know this is part of his vision. Speaking personally, I think much of that vision would make sense in some ways if it were possible. It would take a long period of time to translate or transfer the early childcare and education sector into something that is a public service in the same way that our schools are public services, if that is what the Deputy is speaking about. A considerable rethink would be needed to move in that direction. I guess I am trying to tackle some of the reasons such a change might be good in the context of the system we currently have. I am providing public moneys to ensure the best possible early-years education and care is delivered for our children and the best outcomes are achieved. In many cases, these services are provided by private providers. In other cases, they are provided by community providers. The ultimate aim is to ensure the best outcomes for our children.

Child Protection

 35. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the status of the 572 adult retrospective reports of abuse that were unallocated by Tusla in June 2017; and if the number of unallocated cases in this category has increased or decreased in the period since June 2017.  [43745/17]

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly The Minister told me in September that at the end of June, 572 retrospective abuse cases were awaiting allocation. Actions had been taken in respect of just 4% of those cases at that time. At that stage, 70% of cases had been live for at least two months. Does Tusla have any plans for a system-wide approach to change that? What is the status of it now? Are any efforts being made to clear the backlog?

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Tusla has advised me that 1,949 historical or retrospective cases were on hand at the end of July 2017. This represented an increase of 51 on the number for June. Of the cases on hand, 1,370 were allocated to a social worker and 579 were awaiting allocation. The number of unallocated cases has increased by seven since June. All of these referrals have been reviewed by a social worker.

As the Deputy is aware, an historical or retrospective disclosure is one in which an adult discloses abuse experienced in childhood. I understand the overwhelming majority of such disclosures are about sexual abuse.

This is a very complex and worrying situation. The safety of children today is my top priority.


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