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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 337-354
 Header Item Children in Care
 Header Item National Childcare Scheme
 Header Item Youth Services
 Header Item Victim Support Services
 Header Item Childcare Services
 Header Item Childcare Services
 Header Item School Attendance
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education
 Header Item Childcare Services
 Header Item Childcare Services
 Header Item National Childcare Scheme
 Header Item Third Level Institutions
 Header Item Student Grant Scheme
 Header Item State Examinations
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Springboard Programme

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 999 No. 2
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 100 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 337-354

Children in Care

 337. Deputy Patrick Costello Information on Patrick Costello Zoom on Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of children aged under 12 and aged under 18 resident here by Tusla LHO area in tabular form. [29853/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The Deputy is referring to an operational matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. I have therefore referred the matter to Tusla, and asked that Tula respond directly to the Deputy.

National Childcare Scheme

 338. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if a person (details supplied) will be entitled to part funding to allow them avail of the national childcare scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29854/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The National Childcare Scheme incorporates two kinds of subsidy towards the cost of quality of childcare.

The universal subsidy is available to all parents of children aged between 24 weeks and 36 months (or until the child qualifies for the Early Childhood Care and Education programme if later). The universal subsidy is set at a rate of €0.50 per hour and is available for up to 45 hours per week. The universal subsidy is based on the child’s age, and not on income. Parents do not have to undergo an assessment of income to avail of this subsidy.

For income-assessed awards, the highest levels of subsidy will go to families at or below the minimum reckonable income threshold of €26,000, with the level of subsidy tapering down smoothly as income rises towards the maximum net income threshold of €60,000.

Parents with a net income threshold of more than €60,000 per annum do not qualify for an income-assessed award under the National Childcare Scheme. However, they may be eligible for a universal subsidy, if their child meets the age eligibility criteria as detailed above.

If the individual concerned is unhappy with the award, it is open to them to appeal to the scheme administrator through the applicants online portal at ncs.gov.ie

Youth Services

 339. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if he will increase investment in youth services including services such as an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29895/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The allocations under Budget 2021 are being considered by Government in the context of the annual Estimates process for 2021. As this process is ongoing, the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment at this stage.

While I recognise and acknowledge that youth sector funding saw deep cuts during the preceding decade, in recent years, funding for the provision of youth services has increased on an annual basis. Between 2016 and 2020 the annual current youth funding available to my Department has increased from €51.9m to €61.79m. In 2020, Sphere 17's allocation was €925,345.

It is now more critical than ever that our young people are supported as they experience the social, economic, physical and mental health impacts of the pandemic. In recognition of the vital role played by youth work in providing such support to young people, funding levels have been maintained throughout the current challenging period. This has enabled the youth sector to continue to provide supports to young people, particularly to marginalised, disadvantaged and vulnerable young people.

I am committed to supporting this important sector, which has enormous value both to the many young people involved and from a broader social and economic viewpoint.

Victim Support Services

 340. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman his plans to expand the counselling services and supports available for victims of sexual abuse following court proceedings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29931/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has statutory responsibility for the care and protection of victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV). In 2020, I am providing core funding of €25.3m to Tusla to support the DSGBV sector, including support services for those who have experienced sexual violence.

Tusla provides annual funding to 16 rape crisis centres nationwide. Services provided by these centres include specialist counselling for individuals seeking assistance in coming to terms with their experiences.

Barnahus is a child-friendly, interdisciplinary and multiagency model of service that brings child protection, policing, medical, therapeutic and forensic services together to provide services for children who experience sexual abuse and their families. Gardaí, social workers, doctors, psychologists and other professionals can work together under one roof, minimising the number of times a child has to recount their experiences.

In the Barnahus model, health services, including mental health services and treatment for victims of sexual abuse, are provided by professionals with specialised training and expertise. These professionals work with the child in the Barnahus service during the initial crisis phase, and have a role in the identification of therapeutic pathways. If required, a referral is made to existing community-based services for the provision of additional interventions.

It should be noted that overall responsibility for mental health services lies with the Department of Health. The Health Service Executive (HSE) operates the National Counselling Service (NCS), a professional and confidential counselling and psychotherapy service which is available free of charge to service users.

The O'Malley Report, which was recently published by the Department of Justice, reviewed protections for vulnerable witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences. The Department of Justice is also developing an implementation plan with regard to future actions arising from the O'Malley Report. Any future actions regarding the potential expansion of services will be informed by this implementation plan and by the Second National Strategy for DSGBV (2016-2021).

Childcare Services

 341. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the reason parents are required to keep their child’s full attendance up in a crèche or risk funding being cut in view of the fact that County Dublin is in level 3 restrictions and there is a strong encouragement to work from home and have fewer social contacts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29932/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman My Department provides a number of funding schemes which provide help to parents and guardians with childcare fees, including the NCS, CCSP and TEC. Under these schemes parents pay a reduced fee, and the Department compensates the providers for the loss in income. In addition my Department fully funds the universal free preschool programme ECCE. These schemes are administered by Pobal.

  Each of the funding agreements include attendance requirements, to ensure that the Department is subsidising actual attendance. There is flexibility in the current attendance rules. A child can be absent, or have changed their attendance pattern, for four weeks without there being any change to the funding received by the provider.

  If a child is absent, or has a changed attendance pattern, for more than four weeks, the provider may apply to their local CCC for permission to retain the original funding they receive for an additional 8 weeks.

  Any parents who are experiencing difficulties with any aspect of service provision should contact their local County Childcare Committee (CCC) for assistance. Contact details for all of the CCCs are available at www.myccc.ie

Childcare Services

 342. Deputy David Stanton Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the capital supports available to private childcare providers that need assistance in developing premises for early childhood education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29935/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman My Department operates an annual capital funding programme, under which early learning and care and school-age childcare service providers are invited to apply for capital funding to enable them to carry out works to maintain and develop their premises. The purposes for which this funding can be used are determined on an annual basis by my Department.

  I will announce details of the 2021 capital programme in the coming months.

  My Department funds 30 City and County Childcare Committees (CCC’s) across the country who offer support and assistance to childcare providers with all aspects of my Department's funding programmes.

The contact details for all CCCs can be found on www.m`yccc.ie

School Attendance

 343. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the truancy rate for children with a disability at primary and post-primary level; the engagement by school attendance officers with schools and parents in such instances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30033/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The Tusla Education Support Service (TESS) operates under the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 which emphasises the promotion of school attendance, participation and retention.

TESS operates a referral based system. Under Section 22 of the Education (Welfare), Act 2000 each school is obliged to have a statement of strategies to encourage regular attendance among all students. Where a school principal has a concern in relation to a pupil’s school attendance and where the school has made all local efforts to resolve the problem and the school still remains concerned about the student’s attendance a referral can be made to TESS. Currently TESS has 100 Educational Welfare Officers (EWO) in post.

TESS has advised my Department that it does not record the attendance rate for individual cohorts of students including children with a disability at primary or post primary level.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 344. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the provisions in place for childcare facilities with staffing difficulties due to Covid-19. [30110/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman I acknowledge that many early learning and care and school-age childcare services are reporting staffing and recruitment difficulties, with increased pressures as a result of Covid-19. There is no official data on the extent of staff shortages. However, officials in my Department have been actively monitoring the issue and have sought data and evidence-based proposals from sectorial representatives on the Covid Advisory Group on Reopening, which has been meeting regularly over recent months.

  I am committed to supporting providers in responding to current challenges. For example, the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme is available to the early learning and childcare sector, with a full exemption to the turnover rule, to assist them with staffing costs. Specifically in relation to recruitment difficulties, it is important that any measures considered are proportionate to the problem they seek to address and that wider impacts would be carefully considered.

  Staffing and recruitment difficulties are being caused not by insufficient supply of qualified personnel, but by high levels of turnover and attrition. This is predominantly down to poor terms and conditions in the workforce, with for example, the average pay being €12.55 per hour, and half of staff only being able to access part-time contracts. It is expected that poor terms and conditions will be addressed in the medium to long term via three plans currently being pursued by Government: a new funding model, a workforce development plan, and additional investment. Short-term measures are more challenging to find and, as stated above, the Department continues to work intensively with sectorial representatives to examine what might be possible. One potential solution that has been proposed by the sector is being given active attention at the moment by the Department of Education and Skills and my Department.

  In that regard, it is important to stress that the minimum qualification requirement to work directly with children in an early learning care service (Level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications) was introduced in 2016 in order to improve the quality of provision and to achieve better outcomes for children. (There is currently no minimum qualification requirement for staff working in school-age childcare.) To remove this minimum qualification requirement could be contrary to the best interests of children and the vision for the sector that is outlined in First 5, the whole-of-Government strategy to improve the lives of babies, young children and their families. Such a move could be a significant backwards step in efforts to improve quality outcomes for children and could only be considered if there were a very strong evidence base requiring a change.

Early Childhood Care and Education

 345. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the status of ECCE deposits and the mechanism of refunds. [30121/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Childcare services providing the ECCE programme may charge a refundable booking deposit to hold an ECCE place for a child. The maximum deposit a provider may charge is equivalent to four weeks’ ECCE payment, which amounts to €258. The deposit must be returned to the parent or guardian once the child is registered and approved on the ECCE programme. Childcare services may not charge a non-refundable deposit for ECCE.

In circumstances where a service is holding a legacy deposit for a child who has been attending the service prior to their commencement on the ECCE programme, and where the service has not charged a separate deposit for ECCE, the service must return an amount equivalent to the standard ECCE deposit to the parent or guardian once the child is registered and approved on the ECCE programme.

My Department funds a national network of County Childcare Committees (CCCs) who provide support and advice to parents and childcare providers. Any parents who have concerns regarding ECCE deposits should contact their local CCC. The contact details for the CCCs can be found on myccc.gov.ie.

Childcare Services

 346. Deputy Pauline Tully Information on Pauline  Tully Zoom on Pauline  Tully asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the reason qualified and experienced childcare providers that run their businesses from home are prohibited from registering with Tusla preventing them from accessing the national childcare scheme; his plans to change the rule; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30164/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Childcare providers who operate from their homes are required to register with Tusla and are thereby able to take part in the National Childcare Scheme if they care for four or more preschool children, or seven or more children of any age, from different families. The exemption from regulation - and therefore from the National Childcare Scheme - applies to those who care for smaller numbers of children, and is set down in Section 58L of the Child Care Act 1991.

  Prior to February 2019, only childminders who cared for more than three preschool children of different families were subject to regulation and therefore required to register with Tusla (or, prior to the establishment of Tusla, notify the HSE). As from February 2019, when Section 22 of the Childcare Support Act 2018 came into force, the scope of regulation - and of subsidies - broadened also to include a provider who cares for more than six children of any age at one time.

  On the basis of the 2018 report of the Childminding Working Group on Reforms and Supports for the Childminding Sector ('Pathway to a Quality Support and Assurance System for Childminding' ), in 2019 my Department published a Draft Childminding Action Plan, for the purpose of public consultation. The Draft Action Plan set out short, medium, and long-term measures on a phased basis for childminders to formalise their position over the next decade. It included specific proposals to extend regulation over a period of years to all paid, non-relative childminders, and thereby to open access to the National Childcare Scheme for all home-based childcare providers. An extensive consultation process on the Draft Childminding Action Plan took place in the latter part of 2019.   

  The Programme for Government commits to publish a report by year end on options to accelerate access to subsidies for non-relative childminders. Officials in my Department are currently finalising the Childminding Action Plan, drawing on the findings of the recent public consultation. While there has long been a need for such a plan, the introduction of the National Childcare Scheme provides a valuable new incentive for childminders to register with Tusla, giving them - and the parents who choose to use childminders - an opportunity that has not previously existed to access subsidies.

Childcare Services

 347. Deputy David Cullinane Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the funding available to preschools for developing and maintaining premises; the funding opportunities that can be availed of; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30176/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman My Department operates an annual capital funding programme, under which early learning and care and school-age childcare service providers are invited to apply for capital funding to enable them to carry out works to maintain and develop their premises. The purposes for which this funding can be used are determined on an annual basis by my Department

  I will announce details of the 2021 capital programme in the coming months.

  My Department funds 30 City and County Childcare Committees (CCC’s) across the country who offer support and assistance to childcare providers with all aspects of my Department's funding programmes.

  The contact details for all CCCs can be found on www.myccc.ie

National Childcare Scheme

 348. Deputy Richard Bruton Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if allowance has been made for an increase in the income thresholds for the national childcare scheme; and the thresholds of proposed increases. [30295/20]

Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Allowance has been made within the design of the National Childcare Scheme for potential changes to be made to the income thresholds. The Scheme has been designed to be flexible, with income thresholds, maximum hours and subsidy rates which can be adjusted in line with Government decisions and as more investment becomes available. As such, any adjustments deemed necessary by Government can be carried out in a quick and responsive manner.

Currently, for income-assessed awards under the Scheme, the highest levels of subsidy will go to families at or below the minimum reckonable income threshold of €26,000, with the level of subsidy tapering down smoothly as income rises towards the maximum net income threshold of €60,000.

The Scheme also offers a universal subsidy which is unrelated to parental income. The universal subsidy is available to all parents of children aged between 24 weeks and 36 months (or until the child qualifies for the Early Childhood Care and Education programme if later). The universal subsidy is set at a rate of €0.50 per hour and is available for up to 45 hours per week. The universal subsidy is based on the child’s age, and not on income. Parents do not have to undergo an assessment of income to avail of this subsidy.

Third Level Institutions

 349. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if he will address a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29575/20]

 353. Deputy Seán Canney Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the provisions that are being made to assist the 20,000 leaving certificate CAO applicants who sat their exams in previous years and are now at a disadvantage as a result of the 2020 points inflation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29857/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I propose to take Questions Nos. 349 and 353 together.

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are autonomous and manage their own academic affairs including admissions procedures. The CAO process applications for undergraduate courses on behalf of the HEIs. Decisions on admissions are made by the HEIs who then instruct the CAO to make offers to successful candidates. As such, neither I nor my Department have a role in the operation of the CAO.

The CAO system is a system that works on the assumption that grades obtained in the Leaving Certificate by candidates determine their points. It is on this basis that the CAO system allocates places to applicants including those from different years. To ensure impartiality, the automatic CAO points systems have been created in a way that does not allow for different treatment to be applied to different sub-groups.

In order to help mitigate the impact of the changes to the grading system I announced the creation of an additional 2,225 places on high-demand courses in Higher Education Institutions. These places were provided in order ensure that as many students as possible could be accommodated on a course of their choice, given the unprecedented circumstances they are facing.

Nonetheless, there were fluctuations in CAO points this year, as there are every year. The changes in points depend not only on the grades received by applicants but also on the number of applicants, and the number of places available. As we are in the midst of a global pandemic and economic flux, there is more volatility than usual this year due to factors such as reduced opportunities in the economy, students seeking to defer or re-apply in subsequent years and uncertainty around students travelling internationally both to and from Ireland.

I know how difficult a time it has been for students and parents, and I appreciate how disappointing it can be for a student not to receive an offer for their course of choice, but I would like to stress the range of options available both in further education and training and apprenticeships, but also in pathways in higher education. For those whose route into higher education may not be what they originally planned, once they have a place there may be a pathway back to their preferred option.

Student Grant Scheme

 350. Deputy Cathal Crowe Information on Cathal Crowe Zoom on Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if the terms of SUSI grants will be revised to reflect the 2020 income year, rather than the previous year, in view of the unprecedented financial circumstances facing parents and students in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29669/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The principal support provided by my Department in financial terms is the Student Grant Scheme. Under the terms of the Grant Scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students attending an approved course in an approved institution who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means.

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter, in the first instance, for the centralised student grant awarding authority SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland) to determine.

For the 2020/21 academic year, student grant applications will be assessed based on gross income from all sources for the period 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2019.

However, if a student or party to their application experiences a change in circumstances that is not a temporary change and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, they can apply to have their application assessed under the change in circumstances provision of the relevant Student Grant Scheme. Under the change of circumstances provision, the income of all parties to the application will be assessed or reassessed on the current year (2020).

In addition to the supports available under the SUSI grant scheme, students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This fund assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Information on the fund is available through the Access Office in the higher education institution attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

State Examinations

 351. Deputy Cormac Devlin Information on Cormac Devlin Zoom on Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if he will provide an update on the way the leaving certificate process in 2020 impacted Disability Access Route to Education and Higher Education Access Route students; the supports that will be put in place for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29784/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The HEAR and DARE schemes are operated by the Irish Universities Association (IUA) who set the policy criteria for the schemes. Admissions under the schemes are regulated by the higher education institutions themselves. Each institution determines its own admissions policy in relation to the schemes, the number of places they reserve and the allocation of those places.

Applications to both schemes are submitted to the Central Applications Office (CAO) who coordinate the scheme for participating institutions. As such, my Department has no role in the policy criteria of the schemes.

However, my officials have made some enquiries to the IUA and have been advised that offers to those who were affected by the errors in the Leaving Certificate 2020 Calculated Grades process will be made through CAO in Round 4. Some of these students were deemed eligible through the DARE and HEAR schemes. These students will also be included in this round of CAO offers.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 352. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if the ballet teaching school sector are within Schools, Early Learning and Childcare services and Higher and Adult Education of the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19, in view of the fact that the sector follows internationally recognised exam syllabi up to vocational level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29798/20]

 355. Deputy Emer Higgins Information on Emer Higgins Zoom on Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if a sector (details supplied) is included in the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 for Schools, Early Learning and Childcare services, and Higher and Adult Education. [29897/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Niall Collins): Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins I propose to take Questions Nos. 352 and 355 together.

Irish ballet schools are private enterprises and are not funded or regulated by my Department. Irish ballet schools are not included under Schools, Early Learning and Childcare Services, and Higher and Adult Education under the Resilience & Recovery 2020-2021 Plan for Living with COVID-19. They are included under the Exercise and Sporting Events category. Private ballet schools should engage with public health advice on this basis.

  Question No. 353 answered with Question No. 349.

Springboard Programme

 354. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if he will address the case of person (details supplied) that applied for a springboard course; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29860/20]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The intention of Springboard+ is to enable the upskilling and re-skilling of the labour force in order to meet the identified skills needs.   

  Eligibility for Springboard+ courses for those in receipt of DEASP benefits is based on their eligibility for those benefits, and is a matter for DEASP.

  For returners to the workforce or those in employment, in order to be eligible applicants need to be resident in an EU/EEA/Swiss state for at least 3 out of the previous 5 years prior to their entry to the programme.

  In the case of applicants who are a non-EU/non-EEA/non-Swiss citizen and who have Stamp 4 or Stamp 4 EU FAM, the period of residency is calculated from the date of receipt of the Stamp 4. Any period of residency in the state before this date will not be taken into consideration.

  The Springboard+ initiative is an administrative scheme which is not underpinned by legislation and the residency rule that applies may differ from what is in place in other Government Departments.

  The Department does not envisage amending the current terms and conditions that apply to Springboard+. You will appreciate that the terms and conditions that apply to Springboard+ are applicable to all students and that exceptions cannot be made in any particular case.


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