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 Header Item Early Years Sector (Continued)
 Header Item Child and Family Agency Funding

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Niamh Smyth: Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth] I thank Deputy Anne Rabbitte who came to Cavan-Monaghan with me before the Dáil summer recess to meet those who were working at the coalface. Their experience has been one of hardship in the sense there are such high expectations of them from the Department, and while there is no harm in having high expectations, they are being pulled from Billy to Jack with the huge administrative burden in the sector. There is also the issue of the low salary that workers in the sector earn, the issue of continuous professional development for child care workers, the expectation they would have a level 8 qualification only to be paid the minimum wage and the issue of what career opportunities they will have in the years to come. There is no encouragement for young people coming through third level to go into this profession even though child care workers are badly needed. Access to child care facilities is a major issue for women wishing to return to work and it is important that they would have such a facility on their doorstep.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Those are many of the arguments I brought forward to the Minister for Finance to persuade and negotiate to get the increases that I got. Therefore, I am not at all in disagreement with the Deputy.

Deputy Niamh Smyth: Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth I appreciate that.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I expect and hope that the sector understands that. The measures I identified are trying to address those issues. I cited for the Deputy a couple of case studies in terms of the increase in capitation. As she is aware, I have also provided for a measure of ensuring two full years of entitlement to the early childhood care and education, ECCE, scheme and she might ask how will that help. When the ECCE scheme was originally extended from 38 weeks to 61 weeks, it gave the ECCE scheme providers the option of increasing their income by 60% if they had the space and capacity to expand. That is guaranteed State income, paid at intervals by Pobal. In terms of moving it to one entry level and increasing and extending the time of the entitlement of all children to a full two years, that increased income and profit margin also goes to the providers. There is more money going to the providers with that measure, as well it being one that hopefully provides more affordable child care for families.

Deputy Niamh Smyth: Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth I hope the Minister will stick to her commitment to come to Cavan to meet those child care workers that we talked about.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy As Deputy Durkan is not here, Question No. 41 cannot be taken.

  Question No. 41 replied to with Written Answers

Child and Family Agency Funding

 42. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if she is satisfied that the funding increase afforded to Tusla in budget 2018 will improve the current functioning within Tusla with regard to its child protection policy and the operations of family resource centres throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [43743/17]

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace The Minister for Finance announced €40.6 million extra for Tusla in the budget. Presumably the vast majority of this increased funding will be swallowed up by the effects of the introduction of mandatory reporting of child abuse concerns from January onwards. How much additional funding in reality will be made available to improve the fulfilment of Tusla's child protection policy? In particular, does the Minister, Deputy Zappone, believe that Tusla is adequately funded to implement Professor Geoffrey Shannon's report? Also, is the additional funding sufficient to meet the needs of the family resource centres?

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am satisfied that the funding increase of €40.6 million which my Department is providing to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, will bring about positive improvements for vulnerable children and families. Tusla will have available to it some €753 million in funding next year. The additional funding will allow for the recruitment of over 300 new staff during 2018.

With regard to child protection, Tusla is being provided with additional resources to support the roll-out of the remaining provisions of the Children First Act 2015, which will commence on 11 December this year. Under the legislation mandated reporters will be required by law to report serious concerns about child abuse and neglect to Tusla. Tusla also intends to implement its new child welfare and protection strategy in 2018, which is designed to ensure timely responses to children at risk.

The additional funding provided will also allow for the expansion of Tusla’s out of hours social work service in 2018. The three existing services will be integrated into one national service with a national contact number and access to a social work service on a 24-7 service basis. This development is most welcome.

I am also pleased to announce that additional funding in 2018 will allow for 11 new family resource centres to be included in the family resource programme in 2018. Additional funding will also be provided to existing family resource centres following the submission of plans for services, and their approval by Tusla. The primary role of family resource centres, as the Deputy is aware, is prevention and early intervention, and I very much value their role in supporting local communities.

I am pleased to be in a position to support Tusla in its work through the targeting of additional resources to services that will impact positively on vulnerable children and families.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace That sounds good. I hope it turns out as well as the Minister would hope. As she is aware, Professor Geoffrey Shannon was very critical of the lack of serious out-of-hours services. He pointed out that because of the lack of facilities available to Tusla, the private sector was being relied upon, especially during the out of hours period. He pointed out that, especially with respect to children with serious behavioural problems, the private sector was picking and choosing the children it would take. This is something a State body would not do. One cannot tell a private body that it is obliged to take all children. Private sector providers have not done that by all accounts. There are no mandatory rules in place to make them take every child who needs their help. Will there continue to be a dependence on the private sector, given that Professor Geoffrey Shannon pointed out that it is not to be depended on and that the State sector is a more reliable source for these children?

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I thank Deputy Wallace. In terms of the Shannon report and Tusla's response to it, the focus is on the extension of out of hours services, particularly in the critical phase of ensuring social workers are available to work with the gardaí in order to ensure that the situation of difficulty or trauma is responded to in the best possible way. There are a number of measures that Tusla has identified that it will put in place to ensure a better way of gardaí working with Tusla in order for that to happen. From my perspective, I would like to see more social workers working with gardaí and available to the wider public beyond just the gardaí to indicate their concerns in regard to children. I will stop on that note as I know the Deputy has a further supplementary question.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace With regard to resources, there are five family resource centres in Wexford, namely, in Gorey, Raheen, Taghmon, Ramsgrange and the Southend centre in Wexford town. They are all located in areas where there is significant need. I have been told there is talk of them each getting an extra €10,000. They have said the extra €10,000 would certainly be welcome but it would merely alleviate the pressure the centres are already under in terms of their deficits and running costs. For example, the centre in Taghmon is seeking to set up a Traveller boys group. There is a large Traveller population in the area. It also seeks to set up a youth club and a parent and toddler group. The €10,000 additional funding will not allow it to do that. It is already under serious pressure in meeting the demand for child counselling and is relying on voluntary help in order to make that happen. The additional funding of €10,000 will not be enough. It would be money very well spent by the State to give funding to centres such as the Taghmon centre to do what it would love to do because it would make such a difference to the area.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I cannot agree with the Deputy more in terms of the importance of family resource centres and the ways in which they provide the services that are required by children and families in a manner that is exceptionally efficient and that also truly respects the ways in which communities operate at their best.

In terms of the talk of €10,000 in funding, through my budget negotiations I have made available up to €10,000 for every existing family resource centre. The centres will have to go through an application process and I hope to outline the detail of that by the end of this week. It is the first time in a long time there has been such a significant increase in funding for family resource centres across the board.

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