Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 478-495
 Header Item Bus Services
 Header Item Aviation Industry Regulations
 Header Item School Discipline
 Header Item Child and Family Agency Services
 Header Item Child Care Costs
 Header Item Community Childcare Subvention Programme
 Header Item Child Care Costs
 Header Item Departmental Staff Recruitment
 Header Item Child Care Services
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item Town and Village Renewal Scheme
 Header Item National Way Marked Ways
 Header Item CLÁR Programme

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 959 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 85 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 478-495

Bus Services

 478. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross the position regarding the planned bus rapid transit, BRT, scheme for Dublin’s north side; when it is expected works will commence on providing the service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40643/17]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross The National Transport Authority (NTA) launched the BusConnects initiative in May which proposes a radical transformation of the bus system in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA). 

The proposed measures includes  the development of a network of ‘next generation’ bus corridors, three bus rapid transit (BRT) routes, and a complete redesign of the network to be accompanied by a network of bus-based park and ride sites at strategic locations.  I have sought additional funding for public transport investment in the ongoing mid-term review of the Capital Plan to support this initiative.

Given the NTA’s responsibility in this area, I have referred the Deputy’s question to the NTA for a more detailed reply regarding the planned BRT for Dublin's north side.  Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Aviation Industry Regulations

 479. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross the agreed outcomes of the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation’s, ICAO, committee on aviation environmental protection steering group meeting, which took place the week of 11 September 2017 in Montreal, Canada; if Ireland has adopted a position in regard to the possible re-introduction of civil supersonic aircraft; and if Ireland will insist on strict noise and CO2 standards before permitting a reintroduction of such aircraft. [40664/17]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I understand that the outcomes, if any, of the Steering Group meeting of ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) of 11 September 2017 have yet to be formally communicated. I understand that the timeframes for the finalisation of recommendations by CAEP in relation to supersonic aircraft is 2022. Any proposals arising at that time will need to be submitted to all 191 ICAO member states for their views. Ireland will formulate its position upon consideration of these detailed proposals for noise and any other environmental protection standards once they have been received. The Department is committed to consulting publicly on any such proposals.

I am happy to say that Ireland is fully committed to the development of a sustainable, resource-efficient aviation sector and is engaged in ongoing efforts at both national and international level to address the environmental impact of aviation. For example, Ireland continues to participate in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS), which requires that all airlines operating in Europe must monitor, report and verify their emissions, and surrender allowances against those emissions. In addition, Ireland has volunteered to participate in the pilot phase of ICAO’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), which aims to maintain the global net CO2 emissions from international aviation at 2020 levels. Finally, officials within my Department have also developed an effective working relationship with their colleagues in the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. Through open and constructive discussions both Departments are working together to formulate an overall Irish approach to environmental sustainability in aviation.

School Discipline

 480. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the number of second level student suspensions nationally during the academic year 2016-17. [40697/17]

 481. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the number of second level student expulsions nationally during the academic year 2016-17. [40698/17]

 482. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the number of second level student suspensions in County Louth during the academic year 2016-17. [40700/17]

 483. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the number of second level student expulsions in County Louth during the academic year 2016-17. [40701/17]

 484. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the number of second level student suspensions in a school (details supplied) during the academic year 2016-17. [40703/17]

 485. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the number of second level student expulsions in a school (details supplied) during the academic year 2016-17. [40704/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 480 to 485, inclusive, together.

  I have been advised by TUSLA Education Welfare Service that there were 11,500 second level student suspensions nationally during the academic year 2016/2017.

  There were 140 second level student expulsions nationally during the academic year 2016/2017.

  I have also been advised that there were 322 second level student suspensions in County Louth during the academic year 2016/2017.

  There were 10 second level student expulsions in County Louth during the academic year 2016/2017.

  Further to the above request for suspension and expulsion data for a particular school (roll number provided) TUSLA are unable to provide these figures. Providing these figures for an individual school could lead to the potential identification of individual students due to the small number of suspensions and expulsions in individual schools; this would therefore constitute the disclosure of personal information.

Child and Family Agency Services

 486. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if approval will be given to an independent mechanism by which members of Dáil and Seanad Éireann can register the complaints or concerns received from persons relative to Tusla; if such a mechanism or process will be empowered to issue an acknowledgement of correspondence received in this regard; if her attention has been drawn to the mounting criticism and complaints from foster care families and others relative to processing of concerns and complaints; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40179/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I want to firstly acknowledge that concerns have been raised with my Department in relation to the processing of complaints by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

  Section 64 of the Child and Family Agency Act 2013 requires Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to establish procedures for dealing with complaints against the Agency or a service provider.

  Tusla introduced its complaints policy, "Tell Us: You Say, We Listen" in September 2016. All complaints received by Tusla, from this date, are managed under the "Tell Us" policy. Any individual who wishes to make a complaint about Tusla services can do so through the "Tell Us" complaints process. Contact details and further information are on Tusla's website www.tusla.ie. "Tell Us" explains how complaints can be managed or feedback can be provided with a focus on local and speedy resolution. Where informal local resolution is not possible, a Complaints Officer will be appointed to examine the matter. This process takes up to 30 days. If it takes longer, the process provides for regular updates every 20 days. If, after that, a person remains dissatisfied with the recommendations of the investigation, they can either seek a review of their complaint by a Tusla review officer or contact the Ombudsman or Ombudsman for Children's Office. All complainants are advised of this

  Concerns communicated to Tusla by a member of the Oireachtas, through a representation that constitutes a complaint, are referred to the appropriate service within Tusla. A response issues from Tusla confirming that this has been done. An acknowledgement of receipt of the complaint is also issued to the complainant, where identified, within 10 working days. Tusla has established a specific email address (tuslapad@tusla.ie) in order that Oireachtas members may convey any concerns directly to Tusla. Public representatives may also make a complaint on behalf of a constituent directly to tellus@tusla.ie.

  In order to ensure independence with regard to complaints investigations, "Tell Us " provides that a complaints officer should not be involved in managing a complaint about a matter in which they have had either a direct or indirect involvement. In such circumstance the complaint must be passed to another complaints officer not linked to the complaint.

  The Irish Foster Care Association, through its contact with the Department, has voiced concern with regard to the Tusla management of allegations made in relation to foster carers, while also emphasising the good work that is being carried out. In response to feedback from the Association, and from social work teams and foster carers, Tusla has committed to the development of a National Guidance for Responding to Child Protection and Welfare Concerns in Foster Care. This guidance will be finalised later this year. The voices of foster care families and children in care are valued, and it is important that any concerns raised are responded to promptly and comprehensively.

  It should also be emphasised that Tusla follows the Children First National Guidance on the Protection and Welfare of Children, 2011, in responding to all allegations of child protection and welfare concerns. In addition, since its approval in September 2014, a national policy, ‘Policy & Procedures for Responding to Allegations of Child Abuse & Neglect’, was implemented to ensure a standardised approach in responding to, and assessing, all child protection and welfare concerns relating to children, regardless of their care status.

  Tusla has also issued a guidance document to its staff on the Management of Serious Concerns and Allegations, detailing guiding principles, including statutory requirements and a Tusla protocol for the management of serious concerns and allegations against foster carers. This relates to serious concerns or allegations that are raised by children in foster care, birth parents, foster carers, or third parties. Any serious allegation reported to Tusla is taken seriously, and managed appropriately and sensitively.

  It is evident from the foregoing that Tusla has developed, and strengthened, its complaints policy framework. This should provide the necessary basis for a more prompt and efficient service for Oireachtas members and for the general public. This is an important matter, acknowledged as such by Tusla, which will be kept under close review by my Department in discharging its oversight function in respect of Tusla.

Child Care Costs

 487. Deputy Catherine Martin Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if she will implement a system whereby all child care providers in receipt of the new more affordable child care system will be required to place a cap on fees that they charge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40219/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone As the Deputy will be aware, the factors impacting on the costs across delivery of services in any sector are complex and multifaceted. The cost to childcare providers is affected by many factors such as rates, rent, labour costs, and insurance amongst other things.

  The cost to parents to access that childcare is decided by childcare providers taking account of these overheads.

  Notwithstanding this, I am committed to ensuring that childcare is affordable, accessible and of a high quality.

  The increase in supports I have provided from this month for the next programme year represents a major step towards accessible affordable quality childcare after decades of neglect and under-investment by successive Governments.

  There are two supports being rolled out under the Community Childcare Scheme. These include universal non means tested supports of up to €1,040 per year and enhanced supports of up to €7,500 per year to assist families to return to work, and/or training and education.

  I am delighted with the strong response from the sector. The number of providers signing up to deliver the services increases daily.

  My Department is monitoring the cost of childcare closely and will continue to do so. Initial research from a sampling of services shows that fee increases for full-term services delivering the Community Childcare Scheme (including CCS Plus) rose by €5.26 on average between this programme year (2017/18) and the previous programme year. By way of comparison the fees across all services delivering full-time childcare rose by €7.26 between 2015/16 and 2016/17 following a number of years of price stagnation.

If over the coming weeks or months those percentage increases in fees by service providers were to rise then I will consider whether actions such as regulation or price capping is required for government schemes.

Towards meeting some of the administrative overhead, I announced in recent months payments totalling €3.5m towards 'non contact time' for all childcare providers who register for the enhanced childcare measures under the Community Childcare Scheme. This, in addition to €14.5m that has been already paid to childcare services so far in 2017 in recognition of administration associated with ECCE and other schemes, provides for €18m in 'non-contact time' payments this year.

Community Childcare Subvention Programme

 488. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if her attention has been drawn to the fact that some parents are choosing to keep their children in the community child care subvention scheme even though they qualify for ECCE in view of the fact that it is more advantageous from a parent's perspective; her plans to address the loss of grant support under ECCE that results to the childcare service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40309/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am aware of the situation which the Deputy highlights. Officials in my Department are looking into this issue and will be taking steps to rectify this situation. The precise mechanism for effecting the payment with regard to the grant discrepancy for that small number of service providers who may lose out is under consideration. The steps to be taken will be communicated to all providers in the near future.

I am committed to ensuring that childcare is affordable, accessible and of a high quality. The Higher Capitation rates for providers is a key element of this approach and I will ensure that providers are appropriately recompensed.

Child Care Costs

 489. Deputy Seán Haughey Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if her attention has been drawn to the fact that child care providers are increasing their fees following the introduction of the new child care support scheme; the steps she is taking to prevent this; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40351/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone As the Deputy will be aware, the factors impacting on the costs across delivery of services in any sector are complex and multifaceted. The cost to childcare providers is affected by many factors such as rates, rent, labour costs, and insurance amongst other things.

The cost to parents to access that childcare is decided by childcare providers taking account of these overheads.

Notwithstanding this, I am committed to ensuring that childcare is affordable, accessible and of a high quality.

The increase in supports I have provided from this month for the next programme year represents a major step towards accessible affordable quality childcare after decades of neglect and under-investment by successive Governments.

There are two supports being rolled out under the Community Childcare Scheme. These include universal non means tested supports of up to €1,040 per year and enhanced supports of up to €7,500 per year to assist families to return to work, and/or training and education.

I am delighted with the strong response from the sector. The number of providers signing up to deliver the services increases daily.

My Department is monitoring the cost of childcare closely and will continue to do so. Initial research from a sampling of services shows that fee increases for full-term services delivering the Community Childcare Scheme (including CCS Plus) rose by €5.26 on average between this programme year (2017/18) and the previous programme year. By way of comparison the fees across all services delivering full-time childcare rose by €7.26 between 2015/16 and 2016/17 following a number of years of price stagnation.

If over the coming weeks or months those percentage increases in fees by service providers were to rise then I will consider whether actions such as regulation or price capping is required for government schemes.

Towards meeting some of the administrative overhead, I announced in recent months payments totalling €3.5m towards 'non contact time' for all childcare providers who register for the enhanced childcare measures under the Community Childcare Scheme. This, in addition to €14.5m that has been already paid to childcare services so far in 2017 in recognition of administration associated with ECCE and other schemes, provides for €18m in 'non-contact time' payments this year..

Departmental Staff Recruitment

 490. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone when the posts of second secretary and deputy secretary will be filled within her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40632/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone My Department does not have any posts at the grade of Second Secretary or Deputy Secretary and consequently none arise to be filled.

Child Care Services

 491. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the supports available in terms of child care in circumstances in which a child is three years of age but not yet able to enter the ECCE scheme; the action she plans to take to ensure adequate supports are provided to families in this position until their child can enter the ECCE scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40663/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The childcare supports available to parents from my Department vary depending on individual circumstance and need. There are a number of programmes available to families with children outside of the ECCE age eligibility range.

These include the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) and CCS Plus programmes which provide childcare funding support targeting low income families in community and private childcare services. The CCS Plus programme also includes a universal subsidy (CCSU) available to all families with children not yet eligible for the ECCE scheme and not eligible for the subventions targeted at lower income families. I introduced the universal subsidy for that specific cohort of families which are pre-ECCE as part of a series of measures towards more affordable childcare.

Also of note are the Training and Employment Childcare (TEC) programmes which provide childcare funding support for parents participating in eligible ETB/Solas vocational training courses, Community Employment (CE) programmes or returning to employment.

Further information, concerning childcare supports which are currently available, can be found on www.affordablechildcare.ie. This website also contains details of the local City/County Childcare Committees to deal with the queries of individual parents and help them identify their eligibility for the available childcare subsidises.

Proposed Legislation

 492. Deputy Catherine Martin Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring his plans to bring forward legislation on improving the ability of walkers to access private land for recreational walking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40217/17]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The Occupiers Liability Act 1995 provides significant protection to landowners with regards to recreational users on their land, thereby facilitating access for recreational purposes.

In addition, an insurance policy held by the National Trails Office provides indemnity on way marked ways and walks registered with my Department's Walks Scheme, where inspection and approval has been carried out by that Office. 

Nonetheless, my Department is working closely with the State Claims Agency in relation to the development and implementation of a National Indemnity Scheme for landowners to further support the recreational use of Ireland's uplands. Discussions are ongoing and I anticipate that a scheme will be agreed in a number of pilot areas in the coming months.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

 493. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring when village schemes will be announced. [40348/17]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The 2017 Town and Village Renewal Scheme was launched on 13th April last, with a focus on improving the economic development of our rural towns and villages.

The closing date for applications was 30 June 2017 and there was a high level of interest in the programme. 

  The assessment process in respect of the scheme is nearing completion and I hope to be in a position to announce the successful projects shortly.  The scheme will support up to 300 towns and villages over the next 12 to 15 months.  

National Way Marked Ways

 494. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring if he will provide an increase to 80 in the number of walks in the walks scheme and an increase in the allocation to €4 million which is required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40432/17]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring A key feature of the Walks Scheme is that it involves land-holders as key participants in the provision of high quality walking trails by contracting them to undertake maintenance work on sections of National Way Marked Ways and other priority walks that traverse their lands. The land-holders receive modest payments for maintenance work undertaken in line with agreed work plans.

A total of 39 trails are currently covered by the scheme and the number of participants on the scheme stands at 1,904. Payments made by my Department in 2017 in respect of the scheme will be in the region of €1.8 million and will be disbursed through the Local Development Company network.

The Programme for a Partnership Government includes a commitment to double the number of walks covered by the Walks Scheme. My officials are working towards this objective. However, as significant consultation will be required, both with land-holders and other stakeholders, it is unlikely that any increase in the number of walks covered by the scheme will be implemented until 2018. The provision of additional funding to support the scheme will be a matter for consideration as part of the annual Estimates process.

CLÁR Programme

 495. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring if CLÁR funding will be granted to a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40145/17]

Minister for Rural and Community Development (Deputy Michael Ring): Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale infrastructural projects in disadvantaged rural areas that have experienced significant levels of de-population. The 2017 CLÁR programme was launched on 31 March 2017, with a closing date of 5 May 2017.

  Over 500 applications were received under the programme and successful projects were announced in May and June, with a total of just under €7 million allocated to approximately 230 projects. Details of the approved projects are available on my Department's website at: http://drcd.gov.ie/subheader1/clar.

  As I pointed out in reply to Question No. 256 of 12 July 2017 from the Deputy, an application for funding under the CLÁR programme does not appear to have been received from the group referred to by the Deputy.


Last Updated: 19/02/2020 09:14:03 First Page Previous Page Page of 85 Next Page Last Page