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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 237-247
 Header Item Youth Services Funding
 Header Item Public Procurement Regulations
 Header Item Preschool Services
 Header Item International Bodies Membership
 Header Item Youth Services Funding
 Header Item Children in Care
 Header Item Child Support Services
 Header Item Child and Youth Services
 Header Item Child Poverty
 Header Item Child Abuse Issues

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 809 No. 4

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Written Answers Nos. 237-247

Youth Services Funding

 237. Deputy Michael Creed Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will outline the level of funding received by an organisation (details supplied) under the youth services grants scheme each year since 2008; if in view of the increasing membership to this organisation she will favourably consider their appliction for funding for 2014; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [32676/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Youth Affairs Unit of my Department supports the delivery of a range of youth work programmes and services for all young people, including those from disadvantaged communities, by the voluntary youth sector. These schemes include the Youth Service Grant Scheme, the Special Projects for Youth Scheme, the Young People’s Facilities and Services Fund Rounds 1 and 2, Local Drug Task Force Projects and certain other provisions including the Local Youth Club Grant Scheme, Youth Information Centres, the European Youth in Action Programme (administered by Léargas – the Exchange Bureau) and Gaisce – the President’s Award. Funding of €53.498m has been provided to my Department for the provision of youth services in 2013. This includes funding of €438,457 provided to Macra na Feirme under the Youth Service Grant Scheme for its services to young people in 2013.

As with all Government Departments and Agencies funding for programmes in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has been reduced in recent years due to the general budgetary situation in which we find ourselves. The savings required in the youth budget under the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure in respect of 2013 amounted to €5.393m which equated to an almost 10% reduction on 2012 funding available for the provision of youth services. The savings required in 2014 in the youth budget under the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure amount to €2.97m. Having regard to the savings requirements identified in the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure my Department has tried to be as equitable as possible in achieving these savings. 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, if this is at all possible, in order to maintain the front line youth services for young people. I have met, and continue to meet with, many youth organisations and groups to try and see how we can work together to minimise the impact of these necessary savings in order to ensure that the provision of quality youth services to young people is sustained in these challenging times.

Funding to Macra na Feirme under the Youth Service Grant Scheme 2008 - 2013

Grant Scheme 2008-2013Funding
2008€611,311
2009€572,680
2010€561,226
2011€521,043
2012€487,175
2013€438,457

Public Procurement Regulations

 238. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the number of projects that were approved funding by her Department conditional on a bond being produced from a builder; the amount of the default by builders where such bonds were in place; the amount recovered through the use of bonds in such cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32714/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald There were no capital project approvals by my Department which required a bond being produced from a builder.

Preschool Services

 239. Deputy Pat Breen Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the position regarding an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32786/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The ECCE programme provides a free preschool year to all eligible children. Approximately 68,000 children are availing of the ECCE programme in the current school year. Children are eligible to avail of the free preschool year where they are aged more than 3 years 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months at 1 September in the relevant year. Children born between 2 February 2009 and 30 June 2010 will qualify for the free preschool year in September 2013 and children born between 2 February 2010 and 30 June 2011 will qualify for the programme in September 2014. Therefore, children born in July 2010 are below the age range for eligibility for the programme in the school year 2013/14, but will qualify in the school year 2014/15. As it is not in the best interests of children to enter the programme early, there is no provision under the programme to enrol children who are below the qualifying age.

The objective of the ECCE programme is to make early learning in a formal setting available to eligible children in the year before they commence primary school. To achieve this, services participating in the preschool year are expected to provide age-appropriate activities and programmes to children within a particular age cohort. For this reason, it is appropriate to set minimum and maximum limits to the age range within which children will qualify.

International Bodies Membership

 240. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will outline each international organisation, international agency or international body that Ireland is a member of that her Department or a State body or agency under the aegis of her Department is responsible for or co-responsible for; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [32805/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) operates in a global context and framework, provided primarily through its membership of the United Nations, the European Union and the Council of Europe. International human rights norms ratified by Ireland, in particular the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and The Hague Convention on Adoption, provide a framework for domestic policy and practice relating to children’s rights. For example, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child spells out the basic human rights to which children everywhere are entitled, including the right to survival, the right to the development of their full physical and mental potential, the right to protection from influences that are harmful to their development, and the right to participation in family, cultural and social life. In order to meet our external obligations a priority activity between 2012 and 2014 is to ensure that arrangements are in place to support the DCYA to meet its external obligations in relation to children and youth.

My Department had a leadership role in progressing the work of the EU in the youth field during Ireland's Presidency of the EU from January to June 2013. My Department chaired the Youth Working Party comprising officials of member states which prepares the work for the meetings of the Council of Ministers. I chaired the meeting of Youth ministers on 16th May, 2013 as part of the Council of Ministers for Education, Youth, Culture and Sport. My Department also hosted two important flagship events, the EU youth Conference which took place in March in Dublin and an EU Round Table Expert meeting which explored the contribution of youth work to youth employment, this took place in Castletown House on 20th and 21st June, 2013. Other primary international bodies with which the Department of Children and Youth Affairs is linked are: the European Commission, the Council of Europe, Child One Europe and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Youth Services Funding

 241. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the extent to which she is satisfied regarding the availability of adequate funding for youth support services throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32828/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Youth Affairs Unit of my Department provides a range of funding schemes, programmes and supports to the youth sector. Funding of some €53.498m 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.

The savings required under the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure in respect of 2013 amounted to €5.393m which equated to almost a 10% reduction on 2012 funding available for the provision of youth services. Having regard to the savings requirements identified in the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure my Department has tried to ensure that, in the determination process for the allocations, the front line youth services, particularly those for the most vulnerable young people are protected as far as is possible from the impact of any necessary reductions in funding.

My Department has tried to be as equitable as possible in achieving these savings. 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, if this is at all possible, in order to maintain the front line youth services for young people. I have met, and continue to meet with, many youth organisations and groups to try and see how we can work together to minimise the impact of these necessary savings in order to ensure that the provision of quality youth services to young people is sustained in these challenging times. A comprehensive Value for Money and Policy Review of youth funding has been commenced in my Department and it is anticipated that the findings of this report will inform the future development of youth programmes and services.

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.

Children in Care

 242. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she is satisfied regarding the availability of safe and reliable places of custodial care for children or adolescents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32829/13]

 246. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the extent to which her Department has studied the issues emerging in the Children’s Courts with a view to a determination as to the means whereby any emerging issues can be addressed in the short and medium term; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [32834/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 242 and 246 together.

I assume that the Deputy is referring to custodial accommodation for persons under the age of 18 years, which corresponds to the definition of a child under the Children Act, 2001. At this time, custodial accommodation for under 18 year olds is provided on the Oberstown campus, Lusk, Co Dublin and in St Patrick’s Institution, Dublin 7. The Oberstown campus accommodates boys aged up to 17 years old and girls up to 18 years of age. Accommodation is currently provided for 17 year old boys in St Patrick's Institution, Dublin 7 which comes under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality. In light of the independent inspections by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and the continuing work of the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS) and the Oberstown Board of Management, I am confident that the children detention schools do provide safe and reliable accommodation for the detention of young people.

The legal detention capacity of the Oberstown campus comprises 24 male bed spaces in Trinity House School, 8 female bed spaces in Oberstown Girls School, and 20 male bed spaces in Oberstown Boys School. However, only 16 of the certified 24 male bed spaces in Trinity House School are currently available for use due to staffing shortages. The Irish Youth Justice Service, which is based in my Department, is currently in discussions with management and staff on the Oberstown campus on an initiative to reorganise the detention capacity for males and female bed places, in order to meet the increased demand for male bed places from the courts. This is being progressed so as to achieve its earliest possible commencement.

With regard to future accommodation needs, on 2 April 2012 I announced a capital investment package for the National Children Detention Facility project in Oberstown. This project is required in order to give effect to the Programme for Government commitment to end the practice of detaining children in adult prison facilities. I have outlined my commitment to this project on many different occasions and it remains at the top of my agenda. My officials have, in conjunction with the Office of Public Works, completed the design process and secured planning permission for the capital development. The tender process is ongoing at present and this is being overseen by a steering group of officials from my Department and the Office of Public Works. A further announcement on the outcome of the tendering process will be made shortly. The new facilities will increase the capacity on the campus available to the courts from the current maximum capacity of 52 places to 90 places. I am advised that based on recent trends, this should be sufficient to meet the requirements of the courts for children detention places.

Child Support Services

 243. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she is satisfied regarding the availability of adequate resources to meet all aspects of children’s support services deemed to be the responsibility of her Department, the degree to which she has identified any areas most sensitively in need of enhanced service at this time; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [32830/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The responsibilities of my Department encompass a wide range of policy and service activity, both direct and indirect, for children and young people in Ireland. It has a complex mandate, comprised of a number of separate, but interrelated strands including:

- the direct provision of a range of universal and targeted services;

- ensuring high-quality arrangements are in place for focused interventions dealing with child welfare and protection, family support, adoption, school attendance and reducing youth crime;

- the harmonisation of policy and provision across Government and with a wide range of stakeholders to improve outcomes for children, young people and families.

As outlined in my Department's Statement of Strategy, in order to achieve its goals, my Department works in close partnership with other Government departments, statutory agencies and non-governmental organisations on a range of cross-cutting issues in relation to both policy and provision as they relate to children and young people.

In the context of the upcoming budget, funding requirements and how resources should be prioritised and allocated across each area of Government spending are generally considered as part of the annual estimates cycle and budgetary process. It would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time on any future decisions that may be taken by Government on the expenditure allocations for programmes and services falling within the Vote of my Department. However, my objective will be to realise funding allocations that reflect expenditure policy priorities and that sufficient resources are directed towards those areas of greatest impact on children and young people.

The commitment to establish a new Child and Family Support Agency is at the heart of the Government's reform of child and family services. The new Agency will assume responsibility for Children and Family Services, currently provided by the HSE, and the Family Support Agency. It will have a workforce of approximately 4,000 staff, and a combined existing budget of over €590 million. The Agency will be headed by Gordon Jeyes, as the Chief Executive designate, who will be supported by a senior management team. In order to achieve genuine improvements for children and families, the Agency will have a broader focus than child protection. Prevention, early intervention, family support and therapeutic & care interventions are all key to the provision of integrated multidisciplinary services for children and families based on identified need.

It is my intention that the new Agency will address the persistent issues which have been raised regarding the standardisation of services, communication, coordination and sharing of risk assessment, management and treatment for many of the children and families with the most complex needs. At the same time, the Agency will have a role in supporting families - providing less complex, less intrusive and less expensive responses which have a preventive function. The new Child and Family Support Agency and the wider transformation of children's services represents one of the largest, and most ambitious, areas of public sector of reform embarked upon by this Government.

Child and Youth Services

 244. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the extent of any new initiatives she has in mind to address specific areas or deficiencies in respect of children and youth services, if she has identified any particular strategy in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [32831/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My Department has responsibility for a range of policy and service activities, both direct and indirect for children and young people in Ireland. This responsibility includes the provision of a number of services for children and young people and a comprehensive research programme that includes the Growing Up in Ireland Survey and the State of the Nations Children report which provide information to inform policy development to secure improved outcomes for children and young people. Some €439m has been allocated in 2013 to my Department for these services and programmes.

In keeping with these responsibilities for children and young people, my Department is developing a new Children and Young People's Policy Framework which will comprehend the needs and objectives for children and young people throughout their life-course from infancy through to early and middle childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. It 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 years old

National Youth Strategy - focusing on the age range 10/12 years up to 25 years.

Consultations have taken place with the public and with children and young people themselves and they are ongoing with the National Children's Advisory Committee (NCAC). Consultations with other Government Departments are expected to be completed in the coming months. The intention is to identify common priorities 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.

With regard to funding for youth services, my Department provides a range of funding schemes, programmes and supports to the youth sector. Funding of some €53.498m 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.

A comprehensive Value for Money and Policy Review of youth funding has been commenced in my Department and it is anticipated that the findings of this report will inform the future development of youth programmes and services. It will also inform the national youth strategy under the Children and Young People's Policy Framework which 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.

Child Poverty

 245. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if her attention has been drawn to particular instances of youth poverty, the extent to which she and/or her Department may be in a position to address such issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32833/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My Department has been given lead responsibility for implementing a new Area-Based Approach to Child Poverty programme during 2013-2016. This initiative was announced as part of Budget 2013 and has a funding allocation this year of €2.5 million. The programme is being co-funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies and is expected to have a total funding allocation of €29.7 million. The new programme reflects the Programme for Government commitment to adopt an area-based approach to child poverty in co-operation with philanthropic partners, drawing upon best international practice and existing services, to break the cycle of child poverty where it is most deeply entrenched and improve the outcomes for children and young people where these are currently significantly poorer than they are for children and young people living elsewhere in the State.

The new programme will build on and continue the work of the Prevention and Early Intervention Programme which has also been implemented by my Department with co-funding from The Atlantic Philanthropies. This earlier programme involved the implementation of a range of evidence based programmes and practices on a pilot basis in three areas of high social and economic disadvantage. The programmes aimed at improving outcomes for children and young people in relation to literacy, speech and language, health and pro-social behaviour as well as supporting improved parenting skills. The programmes are currently being evaluated by national and international experts. The three existing areas of programme interventions, together with at least three additional areas, are expected to participate in the new programme. In addition, it is my intention to broaden the impact of the programme by, where appropriate, beginning the process of mainstreaming as many as possible of the evidence based programmes which have had positive test outcomes and are cost-effective. The establishment of my Department's new Child and Family Agency later this year will be important to this process.

Applications to participate in the programme were invited from interested not for profit consortia earlier this year. The closing date for receipt of applications was 31st May and fifty applications were received. These are currently being reviewed by officials in my Department assisted by members of the cross-Departmental Project Team which is overseeing the process. When completed, I hope to be in a position to announce successful applicants later this year.

Question No. 246 answered with Question No. 242.

Child Abuse Issues

 247. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the extent to which incidents of child abuse of a physical, mental or sexual nature have been brought to the attention of her Department in each of the past two years to date, the degree to which particular issues have arisen which might require remedial action; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32835/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Statutory responsibility for the delivery of child welfare and protection services rests with the HSE, which is the appropriate body to receive all reports of concerns relating to all forms of child abuse. My Department occasionally receives calls from individuals concerned about the safety and well-being of a child. In all such cases my officials provide whatever assistance is required to allow such an individual make a proper referral to the statutory authorities. Such assistance can often include my officials contacting the HSE directly on behalf of a correspondent. It is not possible to quantify the volume of such calls. As regards the Deputy's query in relation to follow up of such referrals, my Department does not receive information in this regard. However, the HSE are always requested to highlight to my Department any cases which may have policy or legislative implications. This is the position for all cases referred to the HSE, not only those which come through my Department.


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