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 Header Item Written Answers
 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1-125
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item EU Youth Conference
 Header Item Children's Strategy
 Header Item UN Convention on Children's Rights
 Header Item Child Care Reports
 Header Item Children in Care
 Header Item Child Care Costs
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Youth Services Provision

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 799 No. 1

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Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised]. 

Written Answers Nos. 1-125

  Questions Nos. 1 to 28, inclusive, answered orally.

  Questions Nos. 29 to 108, inclusive, resubmitted.

  Questions Nos. 109 to 116, inclusive, answered orally.

Child Care Services Provision

 117. Deputy Michael Colreavy Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the number of children who left care on reaching their 18th birthdays in each of the years 2010, 2011 and 2012 and who were provided with aftercare supports; the number from each of those years' exodus who remain in receipt of aftercare support; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [17285/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald As of 31st December 2012, there were a total of 1,457 young people in receipt of aftercare services. The HSE Children and Family Services has developed a National Policy and Procedures Document which sets out eligibility, assessment and service available to young people on reaching 18 years. A key focus is the care planning review process which identifies children as they approach 16 years and a process of assessment by the child's social worker commences at that point, in conjunction with the wishes and views of the young person and their foster carer or residential key worker. Each child's strengths and need for support is assessed across a number of areas, including whether they will continue to live with their foster carers for a number of years after reaching age 18. The assessment also looks at life skills and capacity to live independently in the short and longer term; relationships with family, carers and significant others; emotional and behavioural development; health and overall well-being; identity and, very importantly, educational/training requirements.

As I have previously informed the House, data on the number of young people who left care on reaching their 18th birthday had not previously been collected. I considered this unacceptable and at my request the HSE began to collect this data in 2012. Similar data is therefore not available for previous years.

The HSE has indicated that in the reporting year 2012, 412 children in care turned 18. Attention to the needs of all of these young people was paid and 300 young people were assessed as needing one or a combination of these specific aftercare services: remaining with foster carers, remaining in supported lodgings, moving to supported residential accommodation, assistance in finding private accommodation, financial help with education and training opportunities and the allocation of an aftercare key worker. Only six young people of the 300 who were offered an aftercare service or services said they did not wish to avail of aftercare.

The HSE advise that of the remaining 112, some young people returned to their birth families and wished to break off contact with the HSE while some young people remain living with their foster carers and they and their foster carers may decide they no longer wish to be provided with financial or other supports.

However I have asked the HSE to provide me with greater information on this group of 112 young people.

As I have previously informed the House, I am currently examining options, in association with the Attorney General, to strengthen the legislative provisions for young people leaving care to ensure that it meets the differing needs of individual young people in care on reaching their 18th birthday. I recently met with experts and representatives of organisations working with young people in care or aftercare to discuss proposals in this regard.

EU Youth Conference

 118. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will report on the recent EU Youth Conference; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17293/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I am delighted to report to the Deputy on the EU Youth Conference which was the flagship event in the Irish EU Presidency Youth Programme 2013.

  The European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Ms Androulla Vassiliou, joined me at the opening of the Conference to hear what young people have to say about matters that affect them.

  The Conference is the highlight of Ireland's Youth Presidency and almost 180 young people and policy makers jointly discussed social inclusion challenges that impact on young people’s lives such as employment and social supports as well as the role of quality youth work.

  The Conference marks the culmination of consultations with 11,000 young people across 27 EU Member States on the theme of social inclusion. In Ireland over 200 young people participated in consultations in Cork, Dublin and Sligo as part of the process.

  The Conference was organised by my Department in partnership with the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI). It was a major opportunity to showcase the talent and innovation of Ireland’s young people and the youth sector. Almost 100 young people were involved in supporting the Conference. They acted as volunteers and took on roles as guest MCs and speakers, and provided inputs through Arts and Drama presentations. Over the three days some 25 information stands showcased the work under way in youth programmes in communities throughout the country.

  The feedback about the young people's contribution has been very positive and the success of the Conference is attributable to their enthusiasm and engagement with the event. I wish to pay tribute to them and thank them for their involvement.

  The Irish EU Youth Conference was the first conference within the Trio Presidencies of Ireland, Lithuania and Greece, highlighting the theme of the social inclusion of young people. Seven thematic areas drawn from the results of national consultations provided by 27 Member States and 10 International Non-Governmental Organisations were explored at the Conference via joint workshop sessions. The seven thematic areas identified were:

- Employment – employment leads to inclusion

- Education – inclusive education for all young people

- Participation – equal rights and equal opportunities to participate in civic life

- Welfare – access to welfare

- Support – social and youth services for young people

- Youth organisations – youth organisations and social inclusion

- Quality – assuring quality in youth work to ensure social inclusion

  Young people and Ministry officials from the 27 Member States have jointly defined the 21 conclusions arising from the Conference. The conclusions from this Conference will be brought forward in the current trio cycle and will inform the Structured Dialogue components of the Lithuanian and Greek Presidencies, which will ultimately inform the development of a Council Resolution on Structured Dialogue at the end of this current Presidency Trio. This is a clear and compelling example of young people’s voices and vision directly informing youth policy.

  Further important activities under Ireland's EU Youth Presidency Programme includes the Council of the EU Youth Ministers which I will chair in Brussels on 16th May and the Round Table Meeting on the contribution of youth work to young people's development and preparedness for employment which I will convene in Ireland on the 20th and 21st June.

Children's Strategy

 119. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald when the children and young people's policy framework will be completed and published; the constituents of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [17300/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My Department is developing a new strategy for children and young people. It will build on Our Children - Their Lives, Ireland’s first children’s strategy which was published in 2000 and it will cover the 5-year period from 2013 to 2018.

  In keeping with my Department’s responsibilities for children and young people, the new Children and Young People’s Policy Framework is being developed in a holistic way which will comprehend the continuum of the life-course from infancy through to early and middle childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. It will be the overarching Framework under which policy and services for children and young people will be developed and implemented in the State.

  The Framework will use a model in which the lives of children and young people will be supported by three age-cohort strategies:

National Early Year’s Strategy – focusing on the under sixes

National Children’s Strategy – focusing on all up to 18 year olds

National Youth Strategy – focuses on the age range 10/12 years up to 25 years

  Each of the three strategies under the Framework will share a common set of principles, common set of themes and a common implementation structure.

  My Department undertook a public consultation in 2012 and received 1,000 submissions. An interim analysis of these submissions has been completed and a final report is expected by the end of this month. A Children and Young People's consultation has also been carried out and attracted 67,000 replies. The output from this consultation with children and young people was published last year. There have been ongoing consultations with organisations represented on the National Children's Advisory Committee (NCAC).

  Consultations with other Government Departments are ongoing and they are expected to be completed in the coming month. Discussions with other Departments have sought to identify concrete responses to priorities identified by children and young people and the general public in areas such as:

- health and well being

- education

- economic security and poverty

- parenting and family support

- environment

- safety

- sports and recreation and

- media, arts and culture

    All of these consultations are feeding into the development of the Framework by my Department and will allow the Framework to be completed in the coming months.

  I anticipate that the final draft of the Framework will be presented to Government for approval later this year.

UN Convention on Children's Rights

 120. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the position regarding her already stated intent to sign, on behalf of Ireland, the third optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17273/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The third Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was opened for signature by member states in February 2012.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 November 1989 and entered into force on 2 September 1990. The UNCRC is the most widely ratified human rights treaty, enjoying almost universal ratification by nearly all Member States of the United Nations. Ireland ratified the UNCRC in 1992.

I have previously stated that it was my intention to sign the Third Optional Protocol on behalf of Ireland as soon as possible. My Department is currently finalising the State's combined 3rd and 4th Reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. When the report is finalised and submitted to the UN Committee, I will consult with other Government Departments and seek the approval of the Government to the signing of the third Optional Protocol on behalf of Ireland. Ratification would generally take place some time after that, once the State is satisfied that the necessary legislative and administrative procedures are in place to enable full compliance. This matter will be assessed by my Department in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General and other Government Departments.

Child Care Reports

 121. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her response to the contents of UNICEF’s report card 11 - Child well-being in rich countries insofar as it relates to Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [17355/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I very much welcome the publication of the UNICEF's Report Card 11 titled "Child well-being in rich countries". Indeed I was delighted to accept the invitation from UNICEF to launch this report last Wednesday. This was an important event and it was appropriate that it took place in Dublin during Ireland's EU Presidency. The league table represents the latest available overview of child well-being in 29 of the world's most advanced countries.

In providing international comparisons this report further contributes to the wealth of data now emerging on children's lives and experiences.

Five dimensions of children's lives have been considered: material well-being; health and safety; education; behaviours and risks; and housing and environment. The league table of child well-being is designed to measure and compare progress for children across the developed world. Its purpose is to record the standards achieved by most advanced nations and to contribute to debate in all countries about how such standards can be achieved.

I am happy to report that according to the ‘Report Card’ Ireland is now recognised as one of the top 10 best places in the world to be a child.

I note, in particular, the findings relating to Ireland having the highest rate of children exercising daily in the industrialised world, significant decline in children smoking and more modest declines in drinking and teenage pregnancies. These international findings on smoking, drink and teenage pregnancies reinforce the trends highlighted in recent Irish findings published in the ‘State of the Nation’s Children’ Report which was I launched last month.

However, in launching the ‘Report Card’ I did express concern over that Ireland had one of the highest proportions of 15-19 year olds not in education, employment or training – the so-called NEET’s cohort. These findings justify the approach I am taking as current President of the EU Council of Youth Ministers in prioritising the contribution of youth work to achieving the goals of Europe 2020 and supporting youth employment initiatives aimed at the NEET’s cohort.

I also welcome the report’s focus on the importance of early intervention to child well-being. This is a key objective of my Department and features in our work in developing Ireland first ever Early Year Strategy, our investment in area-based approaches to early intervention and child poverty, and the ongoing development of the new Child and Family Support Agency.

I look forward to continuing to achieve further improvement in outcomes for children in Ireland and I would like to commend UNICEF on the publication of this report card.

Children in Care

 122. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will outline the progress made during the first three months of 2013 in making increased provision for children in special care and high support units under the Health Service Executive's National High Support and Special Care Implementation Plan 2011-14, particularly if the number of children placed at Coovagh House will increase in view of the recent recommendations of the Health Information and Quality Authority in its inspection report on that unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [16102/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald National high support units offer a residential service to children and young people who are in need of specialised targeted intervention. Special care units provide secure residential services to children and young people who are in need of specialised targeted intervention. I am advised that there were currently 10 children placed in national high support units and 15 in special care units.

The HSE have advised me that ongoing monitoring of National High Support and Special Care Services indicates that capacity broadly met demand in the first 3 months of this year.

In terms of progress made during the first three months of 2013 to increase provision in High Support and Special Care, the HSE has advised of the following:

- the service continues to work with a range of agencies and professionals to deliver on Service Improvements identified in the plan by the same name for 2011-2014. In the first three months of 2013, a key development was a major consultation with relevant organisations and professions (Mental Health, Public Health, Education and the Gardaí) which is informing the development of Standard Operating Procedures, including policies and procedures for working with partner agencies.

- a national inter-agency project is continuing to consider the scope for reorganising existing provision to ensure services meet the need of children and young people in the most effective way possible.

- A significant capital development project is under way which will provide additional capacity.

The HSE has advised me that the number of children placed in Coovagh House is capped at 3 to allow for appropriate testing of recent enhanced building security works. Following completion of an ongoing review into capacity and demand for national services, the HSE advise that occupancy levels may increase to 4.

Child Care Costs

 123. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the action she is taking to ensure that child care costs are taken into account by the new personal insolvency service; the constituents of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [17301/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I have no official responsibility to the Dáil in relation to this matter as the question relates to Guidelines on Reasonable Standard of Living/Reasonable Living Expenses to be prepared and issued by the Insolvency Service of Ireland under Section 23 of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012. The Insolvency Service of Ireland is independent in the exercise of its functions under Section 8(3)(a) of the Personal Insolvency Act 2012.

Child Care Services Provision

 124. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the discussions she has had on increasing the proportion of Exchequer expenditure on children that is dedicated to child care services; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [17303/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Programme for Government commits to developing early childhood care and education as resources allow, and the Government has made a very significant commitment to maintaining the childcare support programmes implemented by my Department. In 2013 the total expenditure by my Department on these support programmes is expected to be in the region of €260 million. These programmes have been maintained and expanded despite the ongoing need to reduce Government expenditure. I believe this is an investment in our country’s future prosperity. It is recognised that intensive and targeted early childhood services have the potential to significantly enhance the life chances of many children. Investment in early childhood care and education benefits not only the individual child but also the wider economy. I believe there is significant international evidence of the benefits for children's outcomes of the provision of quality education and childcare in the earliest years. Childcare services also make an important economic contribution through direct employment of staff in service delivery and through support for labour participation on the part of working parents.

The Early Years Strategy, which is currently being developed by my Department, will be Ireland's first ever national strategy for early years. It is expected that it will cover a range of issues affecting children in their first years of life such as health, including physical and mental development, vaccination programmes and population health issues such as nutrition and exercise, as well as parenting and family support, learning and development, play and recreation and early childhood care and education, including literacy and numeracy.

The Strategy will bring together and consider a significant amount of international and domestic research on the importance of early years for child development, including findings from the 'Growing up in Ireland' study. It will also be informed by the evaluations from the Prevention and Early Interventions Projects which have been funded jointly by my Department and philanthropic organisations. The Government has committed an additional €4.5 million to a new Area Based Response to Child Poverty which will build upon and extend the learning from the Prevention and Early Intervention initiative.

As part of Budget 2013, I announced with my colleague the Minister for Social Protection, a joint school age childcare initiative which will provide further additional support to both the community and private childcare sector. This initiative, which represents a full year investment of €14 million, will provide important support to parents in low income families wishing to take up employment, along with ensuring that quality after-school care is in place to support children's development.

As shown by these developments the government is prioritising childcare and other early years services through the continuation and further increase in the resources devoted to such evidence based responses.

Youth Services Provision

 125. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if her attention has been drawn to the full impact of her recent funding cuts to youth projects via the City of Dublin Youth Services Board; if she accepts that she needs to reverse the cuts and increase funding to these struggling youth services in Dublin and throughout the country (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [17280/13]

 160. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if her attention has been drawn to the impact of funding cuts to youth services under the aegis of the City of Dublin Youth Services Board; her plans to restore these supports, especially to the most disadvantaged communities across the city; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [17272/13]

 166. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will list the funding allocations for each of the past five years for each funded youth project in the city of Dublin and throughout the State; her plans to secure additional funding for these projects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17281/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 125, 160 and 166 together.

  The Youth Affairs Unit of my Department provides a range of funding schemes, programmes and supports to the youth sector. Funding of some €53.173m is available in 2013 to support the provision of youth services and programmes to young people throughout the country including those from disadvantaged communities. Targeted supports for disadvantaged, marginalised and at risk young people are provided through the Special Projects for Youth Scheme, the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund Rounds 1 and 2 and Local Drugs Task Force Projects. These funding schemes support national and local youth work provision to some 400,000 young people and involve approximately 1,400 paid staff and 40,000 volunteers working in youth work services and communities throughout the country. Notwithstanding the tremendous contribution of youth services, like all publicly funded services at this time, there is a challenge to find ways of maintaining and promoting outcomes at a time of reduced availability of exchequer funding.

  The savings required under the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure in respect of 2013 amounted to €5.393m. Having regard to these savings requirements my Department has tried to be as equitable as possible in the determination process for the allocations, and to have particular regard to the protection of front line youth services, particularly those for the most vulnerable young people.

  In considering how best to manage within the reduced budgets available, organisations are being asked to consider the scope for reducing administration costs and overheads in order to maintain services for young people. I have met with many youth organisations and groups to try and see how we can work together to minimise the impact of these necessary savings.

  A comprehensive Value for Money and Policy Review of youth funding has been commenced in my Department and this report is expected later this year. It is anticipated that this report will inform the provision of funding for youth programmes and services into the future. In addition my Department is developing a new youth policy framework for publication later this year. The new youth policy framework will aim to enhance the provision of youth services and activities and it will, inter alia, promote co-ordination between government departments and youth sector organisations with a view to maximising the effectiveness of the State funding available to support services for young people in future years.

  I have requested the Youth Affairs Unit of my Department to forward details of the funding allocations for each of the past five years for each funded youth project in Dublin City and throughout the country as requested by the Deputy.

 


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