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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 585-608
 Header Item Farm Inspections
 Header Item Agriculture Scheme Payments
 Header Item Flood Prevention Measures
 Header Item Agriculture Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Agriculture Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Departmental Funding
 Header Item Direct Provision System
 Header Item Appointments to State Boards
 Header Item Appointments to State Boards
 Header Item Youth Cafés Provision
 Header Item School Attendance
 Header Item Children in Care
 Header Item Children in Care
 Header Item HSE Expenditure
 Header Item Child Care Costs
 Header Item Information and Communications Technology
 Header Item Child and Family Agency Staff
 Header Item Departmental Funding

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 829 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 81 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 585-608

Farm Inspections

 585. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney further to Question No. 292 of 19 December 2013, if he will provide the corresponding figures for good agricultural and environmental condition inspections, cattle inspections and sheep inspections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5670/14]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department is required to carry out an annual round of inspections to ensure compliance with the EU regulatory requirements of Cross Compliance. The rate of inspections for cross-compliance is 1% of applicants to whom the Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) and Good Agricultural Environmental Condition (GAEC) apply. However, 3% of farmers must be inspected under the bovine identification and registration requirements, while 3% of sheep/goat farmers must be inspected covering 5% of the flock. The information requested by the Deputy is detailed below:

County2012 Bovine IDR Inspections2012 Bovine IDR Inspections2012 Ovine IDR Inspections2012 Ovine IDR Inspections2012 GAEC

Inspections
2012 GAEC

Inspections
 No. of Holdings Selected RandomlyNo. of Holdings with Financial PenaltyNo. of Holdings Selected RandomlyNo. of Holdings with Financial PenaltyNo. of Holdings Selected RandomlyNo. of Holdings with Financial Penalty
Carlow25528662
Cavan39427690
Clare571214140
Cork1379738333
Donegal8937110192
Dublin707010
Galway1271412623417
Kerry765753201
Kildare26232350
Kilkenny395313102
Laois39517172
Leitrim375256111
Limerick749220191
Longford2208070
Louth21319161
Mayo10988113272
Meath48820240
Monaghan50417391
Offaly35519253
Roscommon59124211140
Sligo534371170
Tipperary6510267141
Waterford2739041
Westmeath421124981
Wexford27226271
Wicklow14321400
Total1,34414090412831732

Agriculture Scheme Payments

 586. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the measures that will be put in place to ensure the viability of and livelihood protection for mountain farmers in the new rural funding programme 2014-20; if he will ensure enhanced single farm payment for these farmers in that period; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [5690/14]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Mountain farmers generally hold low value entitlements under the current Single Payment Scheme and will benefit significantly from the process of convergence that will take place under the Basic Payment Scheme that will take effect in 2015. The ‘Partial Convergence’ model, while initially retaining the link with current payments under the Single Payment Scheme, gradually moves all farmers towards a national average value over the five years of the new scheme. The purpose of this model is to achieve a phased redistribution of payments between those who currently hold high value entitlements and those who hold low value entitlements.

All farmers are guaranteed that by 2019 the value of their entitlements will at a minimum reach 60% of the national average entitlement value. In addition, while the present Grassland Sheep Scheme will come to an end, I have decided to incorporate the value of those payments into the calculation of entitlement value in 2015 for those farmers who received that payment. As with convergence, this provision will be to the advantage of mountain farmers many of whom specialise in sheep farming. They will in effect continue to benefit from the value of those payments.

Under the proposed new rural development programme for the period 2014 – 20120 [RDP] there are a range of support measures being considered. As part of this process my Department has published a consultation document outlining proposed measures for inclusion in the new RDP.

Under the new RDP the main areas proposed for support are:

- a substantial new agri-environment/climate scheme (GLAS), which will build on the progress made under REPS and AEOS. This will provide for a maximum payment of €5,000 for up to 50,000 farmers, and a further payment of up to €2,000 for a limited number of farmers who take on particularly challenging actions,

- continued strong support for disadvantaged areas (now Areas of Natural Constraint), to the tune of about €195 million per year,

- incentives for on-farm capital investment,

- knowledge transfer and innovation measures, aimed at underpinning farm viability, sustainability and growth through the adoption of best practice and innovative solutions,

- a new beef data and genomics measure worth up to €52 million per year aimed at improving the genetic quality of the beef herd,

- a separate strand of the support for on-farm capital investment will be ring-fenced for young farmers at a higher rate of aid intensity of 60% and

- other supports aimed at collaborative farming, artisan producers, organic farming etc.

The proposed measure outlines are available on my Department’s website and will form the basis for a public consultation. Written submissions are being sought by the deadline of the 19 February 2014. This consultation process will be a key step in designing a draft RDP for submission to the EU Commission for their approval.

Flood Prevention Measures

 587. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will carry out an investigation in conjunction with Teagasc and the farm organisations to examine and evaluate the continuation of flooding and waterlogged farmland in recent weeks; if he will provide assistance to these affected farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5691/14]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The assessment and management of flood risks is in the first instance the responsibility of the Office of Public Works. The OPW does have a programme focussed on flood risk assessment and management of high risk areas and farmers affected by flooding in their area should contact the Office of Public Works locally for advice on the best course of action available. Where the issue relates to individual parcels of land, the farmer should contact their local Teagasc advisor or private Agricultural Consultant. In 2013, Teagasc published a very useful farmer’s practical guide to draining grassland in Ireland.

Agriculture Scheme Eligibility

 588. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the position regarding a person's entitlements (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5698/14]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney It is important to note that all entitlements held under the Single Payment Scheme will expire on 31 December 2014. New entitlements will be allocated in 2015 using the ‘2014 value’ as the point of reference for the calculation. As the Company named received the direct payment under the 2013 scheme year, the Company holds the ‘allocation right’ whereby it will be allocated entitlements under the new Basic Payment Scheme in 2015. The Company also holds the ‘land reference’ in that it declared land in 2013 and will presumably also declare the land in 2015.

  The issue relates to whether the persons named or the Company named controls the ‘2014 value’ of the leased entitlements. The status of leased entitlements and the issue of whether the lessor or the lessee controls the value of such entitlements remains the subject of negotiation at EU level. If it transpires that the company controls the value, then no further action will be required and the entitlements will be established in the name of the Company. If however the persons named control the value of the leased entitlements, then they will need to transfer that value to the company. It may be necessary for the leased entitlements to be transferred to the Company by way of a permanent transfer under the 2014 scheme year. However, depending on the outcome of the ongoing negotiations, there may an option for the persons named to continue the existing lease by way of a private contract clause. Whatever the mechanism used, it is important that the value of the leased entitlements be available to the Company, either owned or leased, for the calculation of new entitlements in 2015.

  The persons concerned may wish to contact the newly established 2015 Direct Payments Information Centre at 0761 064438 or CAPdirectpayments@agriculture.gov.ie to discuss their circumstances in more detail.

Agriculture Scheme Eligibility

 589. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the position regarding a person's entitlements (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5699/14]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney As the Company named received the direct payment under the 2013 scheme year, the Company holds the ‘allocation right’ whereby it will be allocated entitlements under the new Basic Payment Scheme in 2015. The Company also holds the ‘land reference’ in that it declared land in 2013 and will presumably also declare the land in 2015.

  The issue therefore relates to whether the person named or the Company named controls the ‘value’ of the leased entitlements. The status of leased entitlements and the issue of whether the lessor or the lessee controls the value of such entitlements remains the subject of negotiation at EU level. If it transpires that the ‘lessee’ controls the value, then no further action will be required and the entitlements will be established in the name of the Company. If however the person named controls the value, then he will need to transfer that value to the company. This will be accomplished either by a permanent transfer under the 2014 scheme or, depending on the outcome of the negotiations, by a private contract clause in 2015. Whatever the mechanism used, it is important that the value of the leased entitlements be available to the Company for the calculation of new entitlements in 2015.

  The person concerned may wish to contact the newly established 2015 Direct Payments Information Centre at 0761 064438 or CAPdirectpayments@agriculture.gov.ie to discuss his circumstances in more detail.

Departmental Funding

 590. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will furnish a copy of the 2013 national survey into Health Service Executive-funded agencies providing child and family services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4871/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Child and Family Agency has advised that the National Survey of funding to the non-statutory funded services is not yet complete. I am not therefore in a position to furnish the Deputy with a copy of the survey at this present time. I will arrange for a copy of the survey to be forwarded to the Deputy at the earliest date.

Direct Provision System

 591. Deputy Ciara Conway Information on Ciara Conway Zoom on Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the role the Child and Family Agency has in ensuring the well-being of children living in direct provision centres; the work her Department has engaged in to date in relation to ensuring child welfare concerns for children in direct provision centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4896/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Direct provision centres and the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) are under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Justice & Equality, and his Department has responsibility for child protection in those centres. I understand that in the Direct Provision system, children are protected in a number of ways - primarily through RIA's child protection policy; its house rules; its requirements that all centre staff are Garda vetted.

There is a specific unit within RIA - the Child and Family Services Unit- whose role is to manage, deliver, co-ordinate, monitor and plan matters relating to child and family services for all asylum seekers residing in the direct provision system. This Unit also links, where necessary, directly with an Garda Síochána. I am advised that Direct Provision Centres are monitored three times a year, twice by the Department of Justice staff and once by an external company.

My Department is taking a lead role in the cross-sectoral implementation of Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children [2011]. A Children First Implementation Inter-Departmental Group has been established involving all of the key Government Departments, including the Department of Justice and Equality, the Child and Family Agency, the HSE and An Garda Síochána. The purpose of the Group is to promote the importance of Children First compliance across Government and to ensure a consistent approach is adopted. The Group is also a forum where members can raise child protection issues of general concern, or with a cross departmental or cross sectoral dimension.

In July 2013 the Government approved the publication of Departmental Children First Sectoral Implementation Plans on the DCYA website. These Implementation Plans are high level documents setting out implementation requirements for each parent Department and for agencies under its aegis which have contact with children and young people. The Plans set out the mechanisms in place, or to be put in place, to support the continued implementation of Children First Guidance at sectoral level. They are for a period of one year, at which time they will be reviewed.

The next phase of the Interdepartmental Group’s work will focus on quality assurance mechanisms in relation to implementation and compliance, and the necessary preparations required for the forthcoming legislation putting elements of Children First on a statutory basis.

As regards the legislation, in July 2013, the Government approved the revised Heads and General Scheme of the Children First Bill, which will put elements of the Children First National Guidance on a statutory footing. Officials from my Department are continuing to liaise with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel in relation to the drafting of the Bill, which is now at an advanced stage. It is anticipated that the draft Bill will be published in this Dáil session.

There has been correspondence between my Department and the CEO of the Child and Family Agency on direct provision, and this issue will be kept under review in the context of my overarching responsibility for child protection generally.

Appointments to State Boards

 592. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will itemise in tabular form the occasions on which her Department has engaged the services of external professional advice such as a company (details supplied) on the appointment of persons to State boards; if she will list the fees paid in respect of such services; the persons who were ultimately appointed on foot of advice received; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [4982/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My Department has not engaged the services of external professional advice the company in question on the appointment of persons to State Boards.

Appointments to State Boards

 593. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will identify any instance where a person appointed to a State board after recruitment advice was received from professional external consultants was subsequently deemed to be unqualified for the duties and responsibilities attached to the role; the costs incurred in obtaining advice in respect of each such instance; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [4998/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My Department has not engaged the services of external professional consultants to advise on the appointment of persons to State Boards.

Youth Cafés Provision

 594. Deputy Dominic Hannigan Information on Dominic Hannigan Zoom on Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her plans to establish a youth café in a town (details supplied) in County Meath in 2014; if she received applications from groups in that town for youth cafe funding; if her attention has been drawn to the lack of youth services in that local area; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [5047/14]

 595. Deputy Dominic Hannigan Information on Dominic Hannigan Zoom on Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if funding for the 2014 youth café capital funding programme will be maintained at 2013 funding levels; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [5048/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 594 and 595 together.

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 programmes 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 programmes 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. In 2014, an amount of €50.530m, including €750,000 in capital funding, has been made available for these programmes.

In 2013, an amount of €1.75m was provided for capital projects in the provision of services for young people. This involved an allocation of €1.5m for new youth cafés and €250,000 for the provision of play and recreation facilities.

Some 95 applications were received for the 2013 Youth Café Programme. Three applications were received from groups in Co Meath as follows:

- The Garden House, Gernonstown, Slane, Co Meath

- The Aisling Group, Navan, Co Meath

- Involve, Meath traveller’s Workshop, Navan, Co Meath

No application was received in respect of a new youth café facility in Athboy, Co Meath.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the application from the Garden House, Slane was successful and that the project has been provisionally allocated an amount of €50,000 towards the cost of a new youth café facility. Pobal is now working with this project to develop its proposal further and to bring it successfully to pre-contract stage.

The new capital funding programme for 2014 involves €750,000 for the provision of youth services to young people throughout the country. It comprises €250,000 for play and recreation initiatives and €500,000 for staff-led youth projects under the various schemes funded by Youth Affairs Unit of my Department. Details of the youth projects capital scheme, including the application process, are being finalised at present. Pobal will assist my Department with the application and appraisal process. Detailed information and guidelines for applying for the funding will be available in the second quarter of 2014.

With regard to youth service provision in Co. Meath, an amount of €89,625 was provided to the Meath Youth Together Project in 2013 under the Special Projects for Youth Scheme. Some €46,200 was provided to the Co. Meath area under my Department’s 2013 Local Youth Club Grants Scheme. Details of the 2014 allocations under these schemes are being finalised at present and youth services will be advised of their 2014 allocations in the coming weeks.

School Attendance

 596. 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 the number of children under 17 years of age, with a breakdown based on the children’s ages and the counties in which they reside, who are currently not in full-time education; and the number of children who are currently in receipt of home tuition, with a breakdown based on the children’s ages and the counties in which they reside. [5107/14]

 597. 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 the number of children under 17 years of age, with a breakdown based on the children’s ages and the counties in which they reside, who were not in full-time education in the years 2012 and 2013; and if she will provide the number of children in receipt of home tuition for the years 2012 and 2013 with a breakdown based on the children’s ages and the counties in which they reside. [5119/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 596 and 597 together.

  The functions of the former National Educational Welfare Board, including the monitoring of school attendance, are now part of the new Child and Family Agency, which was established on 1 January 2014. Under the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 all recognised schools are obliged to submit an Annual Attendance Report on the levels of school attendance each year. The latest available national data was published in a report entitled "Analysis of School Attendance Data in Primary and Post-primary Schools, 2010/2011". This report is available on the website of the Child and Family Agency at www.tusla.ie and will provide the Deputy with information on the numbers of children in full-time education in the recognised school sector.

  The Agency has a statutory remit to maintain a register of children in receipt of education in places other than recognised schools. In 2012, a total of 810 children were registered as home-educated, in addition to the 8,290 children registered as attending schools which are not recognised under the Education Act, 1998.

  A report on “Retention Rates for Pupils in Second Level Schools - 2007 Entry Cohort” was published last week by my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills. This report provides a detailed analysis of the records held by the Department of Education and Skills for the cohort of entrants to the first year of the Junior Cycle in 2007. The report showed that of the 2007 entry cohort, 96.93% sat the Junior Certificate Exams in 2010 or 2011 and 90.13% sat the Leaving Certificate Exams in 2012 or 2013. This report is available in full on the website of the Department of Education and Skills www.education.ie.

  The Minister for Education and Skills has responsibility for the Home Tuition Scheme. Officials within his Department have advised that the information on home tuition is not readily available in the format sought but will be compiled and forwarded directly to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Children in Care

 598. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 568 of 12 March 2013, if the report referred to in the reply is now to hand. [5126/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I would like to apologise for the delay in answering this question. The numbers provided below relate to a specific timeframe in March and October for the purposes of providing data.

-March 2013October 2013
No of children in private residential care 165130
Range per placement€3,585 to €8,000not exceeding €5,000


  A child is placed in a private residential centre when no suitable Child and Family Agency (CFA) placement is available and the placement has been assessed as meeting the needs of the child. I am advised by the CFA that a decision to place a child in private residential care is taken having undergone a rigorous protocol. This protocol is chaired by the regional specialist for children and family services and a panel assists that consists of colleagues from an area other than the one requesting the placement. Recommendations are made that are submitted for approval by the Regional Director for Children and Family Services.

  While the average cost in March 2013 was €5,000, this varied from €3,585 to €8,000 per week. The CFA has liaised with the various private providers and put measures in place to ensure that the cost of a private residential placement does not exceed €5,000 per week. However, this upper limit may be exceeded in a small number of cases in order to provide the intensive supports and therapeutic interventions needed for some children with highly complex needs. The duration of placement varies depending on the needs of the individual child. All placements are supervised and reviewed regularly by the placing social worker and local area management.

  All the private residential centres are registered and inspected by the Registration and Inspection Service of the CFA. In addition the CFA monitoring officers monitor the placements on an ongoing basis by visiting the centres, reviewing records, talking to the children, staff and social workers and through observation.

Children in Care

 599. 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 further to Question No. 1000 of 5 November 2013, if the report referred to in the reply is now to hand. [5127/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Child and Family Agency (CFA) compiles monthly performance reports which include statistics in relation to children in care. These reports are published on the CFA website. The information requested is set out as follows

 20112012
Number of Children in the Care of the State6,1556,304
Under Voluntary Care Order3,3582,658
Under an Emergency Care OrderNot collated146
Under an Interim OrderNot collated528
Under a Special Care OrderNot collatedNot collated
Under Current Care Order (not specified)2,7972,972
TOTAL6,1556,304


  I apologise for the delay in providing this information. I have requested similar figures for 2013 and I have been informed that this information will be available in May 2014. I will forward this information to the Deputy when I receive it.

HSE Expenditure

 600. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 160 of 13 November 2013, if the report referred to in the reply is now to hand. [5128/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I apologise for the delay in providing this information. The HSE Annual Financial Statement for 2011 shows payments of €4,406,561 to Guardian ad Litems, their solicitors and counsel. However, I am advised by the HSE that this amount does not represent a full year cost for all HSE areas in 2011, due to the manner in which payments were recorded in this year.

I am advised by the Child and Family Agency, that amounts totalling €13,801,701 and €11,225,536.82 were paid in respect of costs associated with Guardian ad Litems in 2012 and 2013 respectively. In 2013, payments issued to 99 individuals/companies. I am advised that the costs for 2013 are not finalised and are subject to audit.

Child Care Costs

 601. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if as part of her intention to review all the childcare support programmes and other proposals she will consider a proposal to have child care costs taken from gross rather than net pay of a parent or parents in an effort to provide the maximum benefit to parents while maintaining availability of high-quality child care supports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5396/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald It appears that the Deputy is proposing the introduction of tax relief for parents to help them meet the cost of childcare.

Tax incentives for working parents who incur childcare costs were previously proposed, and the issue of tax allowances or credits was considered prior to the introduction of the targeted childcare supports which are now in place. A number of issues emerged at that time which did not favour the introduction of childcare tax relief. For example, this approach would not support parents working in the home and could therefore, as opposed to the targeted approach, be seen by some as discriminatory. Also these reliefs would favour the better paid and those on the minimum wage or in part time work or student parents would not be in a position to benefit to the same extent as higher income families. Many parents use childminders or relatives to meet their childcare needs and might not be in a position to obtain receipts making it impossible for them to establish their entitlement to such benefit.

I am very much aware of the relatively high cost of childcare in this country and of the difficulties that this presents, particularly where both parents are in employment outside of the home. To help address the issue, funding of €260 million is provided annually by my Department to support a number of targeted childcare support programmes that assist parents in accessing quality and affordable childcare.

For example, the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme provides funding to community-based childcare services to enable them to provide childcare at reduced rates to parents in receipt of social welfare payments or parents in employment who are on low or relatively modest incomes. My Department also implements the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme which provides one free pre-school year to all eligible children before they commence primary school.

I am happy to advise the Deputy that a review of the childcare support programmes will be undertaken by my Department in the coming year with a view to identifying areas where they could be enhanced and improved to ensure the best use of the investment which is currently being made in this area. All proposals relating to childcare supports will be considered as part of this review.

Information and Communications Technology

 602. Deputy John Deasy Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the apps her Department or attached agencies have been involved in developing for smart phones and other multimedia devices in the past three years; the cost and the software developer employed in each case.  [5454/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My Department co-funded the development of the "Child Development 0-6 Years" App. together with the Executive of Northern Ireland's Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, at a cost of £4,500 sterling to my Department. The App. is a free resource for social workers which was developed by Childlink Ltd., an innovative online database focusing on legislation, policies and practices, regarding children, young people and families who live in the UK and Ireland. The App was developed as part of the agreed work programme under the child protection agenda of the North South Ministerial Council. The App. is available to download free from Itunes (Apple) and Google Play (android) for both tablet and mobile devices.

Child and Family Agency Staff

 603. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the date on which all social worker vacancies will be filled. [5631/14]

 604. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the number of social workers on long-term sick leave broken down by county; and the number of same who have been replaced by a temporary worker.  [5632/14]

 605. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the number of social workers employed by the new Child and Family Agency broken down by county; and the number of vacant social worker posts broken down by county.  [5686/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 603 to 605, inclusive, together.

The staffing complement for the Child and Family Agency (CFA), which was established on 1 January, 2014 includes 1,385 social workers who transferred from the HSE. The complement was determined following a detailed census and re-classification process undertaken in 2013, through which social workers were formally assigned to particular care groups, including children and families. This work was necessary in order to prepare for the establishment of the new Agency and to allow for the transfer of designated staff.

Staffing vacancies arise for various reasons including retirements, resignations, career breaks and unpaid leave. In addition, gaps in service cover arise where staff are on paid leave. Social work staffing levels across the whole country are at 93% according to the CFA. This reduces to 84.3% when maternity leave is included. Vacancies are covered by temporary staff as required to ensure staffing levels do not fall to an unsafe level. This is risk assessed by Area Managers.

Over the past 18 months a total of 138 social work posts have been filled. In addition to this, there are a further 196 posts in the process of being recruited.

- 23 of these have been offered and accepted positions and starting dates are being agreed;

- 6 offers have been made and are awaiting a response; and

- the remaining 167 posts have been approved to be filled. A recruitment campaign is already underway for 32 of these posts and a further campaign for the remaining 135 is expected to start shortly.

Budget 2014 included the provision of €6.7m (€12m in a full year) to support the continuing implementation of the reform programme across children and family services. This additional funding will assist the CFA in meeting identified service pressures. This will include the filling of social work vacancies taking account of identified need, with a particular focus this year on the filling of vacancies arising from maternity leave. The Agency is also finalising proposals, arising from the provision of this additional funding, for the introduction of a guaranteed and protected one year induction programme for newly qualified social workers. The scheme will include protected workload and weekly tutorial/mentoring provision.

The initiatives described above will assist the CFA in responding to particular service pressures arising over the course of the year and allow for a targeted response to such pressures taking account of identified need and service priorities. The additional information requested by the Deputy on a county by county basis in respect of social workers (numbers employed, number of vacant posts, those on long term sick leave and those replaced by a temporary worker) has been requested from the Child and Family Agency and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Departmental Funding

 606. Deputy Seamus Healy Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald in view of the establishment of the Child and Family Agency, the position regarding funding for the Rape Crisis Network Ireland to allow the network to continue its vital work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5693/14]

 607. Deputy Seamus Healy Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald in view of the establishment of the Child and Family Agency, the position regarding funding for domestic violence residential and support services nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5694/14]

 608. Deputy Seamus Healy Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald in view of the establishment of the Child and Family Agency the position regarding funding for rape crisis centres nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5695/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 606 to 608, inclusive, together.

  Responsibility for the funding of the Rape Crisis Centres and Refuges previously funded by the HSE became the responsibility of the new Child and Family Agency upon its establishment on 1 January, 2014. Overall policy responsibility for domestic, sexual and gender based violence rests with my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality. Due to the complex nature of the issues involved in this area, and the need for a co-ordinated and effective response to the issues involved, Cosc (the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence) was established as an executive office of the Department of Justice and Equality in 2007. Cosc formulated a comprehensive cross-Government strategy, which combines the efforts of a very broad range of organisations and individuals, to combat all forms of domestic, sexual and gender based violence. This strategy runs to 2014. Cosc are currently in the process of preparing a new cross-sectoral Strategy.

  An analysis of expenditure indicates that in 2013 the HSE spent approximately €17.360m on the provision of domestic and sexual violence services. This included the funding of 60 services throughout the country:

  - 20 Crisis Refuges – almost €10m

  - 16 Rape Crisis Centres – over €4m

  - 24 Support Services – almost €3.5m

  Funding is ring fenced for the provision of frontline services in this area.

  The Rape Crisis Network of Ireland (RCNI) had a two year contract with the HSE which was due to finish on 31st December, 2013. This contract was extended to 31st March, 2014 to allow for the establishment of the Child and Family Agency, the appointment of a Programme Manager for Domestic, Sexual and Gender based Violence and to enable the Agency to tender for future support services. The Programme Manager is due to take up the position this week and will work with the Head of procurement in the Agency to develop the tender process. It will be open to all qualified providers, including the RCNI, to tender to the Child and Family Agency for this new contract.


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