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Bills\Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2015\Second Stage

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Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2015

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Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2015
Bills
Snippet Contents:

Giving Tusla a statutory remit is not the same as putting in place a fully resourced system of aftercare and supports for all young people leaving care. It cannot be denied that since its inception Tusla has been grossly underfunded as a service organisation. We welcome the additional funding in budget 2016, and I applaud the Minister for that. Despite the somewhat difficult and straitened economic circumstances he managed to get an increase, but is relatively small and it is required for services just to stand still rather than improve. Last year, Tusla was at least €18 million short of meeting day-to-day expenditure for the provision of social worker services alone. Other community programmes that receive their budget from Tusla, including family resource centres, school completion programmes, domestic violence community groups and rape crisis groups, including Safe Ireland and the Rape Crisis Centre, received savage cuts last again this year.
It also remains to be seen whether the relatively small increase to which I referred for a very underfunded organisation will be enough to rectify service gaps in social and child welfare services provided directly by Tusla as well as providing funding for community programmes that are on their knees because of an annual 5% reduction in their budgets since 2012. HSE and Tusla funding for domestic violence services has been cut by 70% since 2012, although it remained the same last year. Funding for the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crimes domestic court accompaniment service has been reduced by 26% since 2012. Support agency funding for counselling services has also been reduced by 47% since the Government took office.
Funding required to support these services is tiny compared with the protection and solace they offer to women and children in difficult situations. The same happened under previous Governments. For some strange reason, when it comes to budget time, a sum of money is taken out of the system which, if it were allowed to stay, would help a large number of organisations and individuals. When one tots up the figures, a measly few million euro is involved. I am sure the Minister, in fighting the good fight for an increased budget, has probably used those arguments. It would be interesting to hear his comments.
It is unclear which organisation has responsibility for the 1,600 children currently living in emergency homeless accommodation. It is shocking that Tusla does not have a statutory remit to co-ordinate care and in-reach plans for these children. There are currently ten homeless families with children for every 100,000 people in Ireland. By comparison, there are only three homeless families for every 100,000 people in England. It is shocking that Tusla does not bear any special statutory responsibility for putting in place in-reach plans to promote normal development and reduce the risk to the welfare of children in emergency homeless accommodation.
The response of the Minister effectively denied that his Department has any responsibility to children who are homeless, in that he stated, "Young people who are homeless, either singly or as part of a family unit, and not falling within this category, are the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and local authorities." Tusla should be taking a lead and front-line role in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. This Bill is an opportunity to oblige the agency to put in place in-reach plans for co-ordinating and integrating services for vulnerable homeless families, as well as managing and reducing the risks to ensure a period of homelessness does not have a long-term and damaging effect on a child's upbringing and development. Overall, we welcome the Bill as a first step in the right direction, but there are inherent flaws in it, in particular relating to the "as resources allow" portion of section 8.