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 Header Item Child Abuse (Continued)
 Header Item Child Care Services Staff

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 4

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Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin: Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin I again acknowledge the increase in funding for Tusla and welcome, in particular, the out-of-hours support for foster families and children who are absolutely in need. I know that Tusla operates in an uncertain environment and that its personnel can be uncertain about what has happened previously to children and the impact of further trauma on them. It is sometimes difficult to get a child to speak to a social worker. I acknowledge the great work being done by social workers around the country. The One in Four report referred to particular cases in 2016 where clients chose not to meet social workers. It is very difficult, however, to carry out a full investigation without statements. This support for young people must be absolutely and readily available. I have spoken to a number of abuse survivors who often tell about how difficult it is to make a complaint and continue through the process. Many of them regretted it, which is very much borne out by the figures given to us by One in Four. It is very important, therefore, that extra support be given to the social workers in place. Will the Minister confirm that Tusla will thoroughly investigate all 47,399 referrals received in 2016?

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I will address the One in Four report to which a couple of Deputies have referred. There is a key aspect that was most controversial. It is that the report makes it clear that Tusla could not proceed with 79 of 91 cases brought because the victim declined to meet a Tusla social worker. That is implicit in some of the Deputy's comments. Legally and in keeping with fair procedures, Tusla social workers are obliged to meet directly with a victim to validate a statement and they must then provide the alleged abuser with the allegation and the identity of the victim and invite the alleged abuser to meet them. One in Four reported that 12 of its clients had made a statement to a Tusla social worker. As the Deputy states, I acknowledge that this is not easy to do. In three of the cases Tusla was assessing whether the alleged abuser posed a current risk to children. One case was founded, while five were unfounded. The remaining three were closed without an assessment of risk. This can occur where a person cannot be located or has died. This provides a view of the very complicated process that is followed when a referral takes place and the focus of Tusla in the assessment of the current risk to children.

Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin: Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin I accept that the process can be very difficult for everybody involved. The Minister mentioned the report. Eight of the 12 allegations made were not investigated or were deemed to be unfounded. There were 91 cases originally. Only one case came back having been found to be founded. That means that in only one case is the sex offender being monitored from the time of referral. That is a concern because Tusla has a legal responsibility to assess the likelihood of a current or potential risk to children. We all need to be sure the resources are in place to ensure safety will be absolutely paramount. I appreciate that things may be better, but will there be a unit in place to examine historical cases? It is very important that there be capacity to allow a bond to be built between a child and a social worker. This is very important in all of the work done by Tusla. It would allow for better co-operation when proceeding with a full investigation.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I acknowledge the Deputy's comments, but, with earlier questions in mind, I want to make it absolutely and perfectly clear with regard to the report that Tusla followed proper procedures. In following the law it must be fair to all parties. That is why we saw such a result. It followed proper procedures according to law.

Much of the Deputy's questioning concerns how Tusla responds to allegations of abuse. In the first quarter of 2017 it received 13,629 referrals. The duty social worker carries out preliminary inquiries on all referrals. This involves checking to see if a child already receives a service or is known to child protection services. It also involves clarifying the nature of the concern, contacting key professionals such as public health nurses or teachers for an input and opening a case record. Over half of the cases that are subject to a preliminary inquiry do not proceed to a child protection initial assessment as the threshold is not met. A really thorough initial piece of work is done. Although there are concerns and there are many ways to seek prevention and intervention, Tusla believes the work is carried out in that context.

Child Care Services Staff

 37. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on whether an increase in capitation payments for early childhood care and education, ECCE, providers of 7% will be sufficient in view of the chronic issues regarding pay and the viability of the sector.  [43771/17]

 511. Deputy Anne Rabbitte Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on whether an increase in capitation payments for early childhood care and education, ECCE providers of 7% will be sufficient in view of the chronic issues regarding pay and the viability of the sector.  [43782/17]

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte I am asking the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs for her views on whether a 7% increase in capitation payments for the early childhood care and education, ECCE, scheme providers will be sufficient in view of the chronic matters regarding pay and the viability of the sector. I ask against the backdrop of childcare providers being expected to complete an ever-increasing amount of paperwork in a continually changing sector. The 7% increase in the budget is welcome, but I ask if it will be sufficient.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to answer Questions Nos. 37 and 511 together.

I am fully aware of the matters regarding pay for early years workers and have been an advocate for improved conditions for many years. That is why I increased the capitation rate for the first time since the ECCE programme was introduced in 2010. I have provided for a 7% increase from September next.

The independent review of costs I have commissioned will provide critical information to guide decision-making on further investment in future budgets. I am pleased to report that my officials met personnel from Crowe Horwath again last week to advance this important work.

The new early years care and education measures announced in budget 2018 form part of continued growth in early years education investment by my Department. In budget 2017 I secured a 35% increase in child care funding, which followed from a similar increase in budget 2016. These increases reflect the emphasis we are placing on developing a quality service with appropriately supported staff. Having said this, I will repeat that it will take significant investment over many budgets to enable Ireland to catch up with its OECD counterparts and enable us to value our early years workforce fully.

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department is not the employer of child care workers. I have suggested to the sector that they could apply to the Labour Court for a sectoral employment order, asking the court to make a recommendation on pay for the whole early years sector.

I should also remind Deputies that in addition to the 7% increase achieved in capitation payments, I have also provided €3.5 million towards "non-contact time" for all child care providers who register for the enhanced child care measures introduced last month. This, in addition to the €14.5 million paid to child care services so far in 2017, recognises the administration associated with the ECCE programme and other schemes.

I am pleased to confirm that a full €18 million will be paid in programme support payments in 2018.

I am committed to doing everything I can to help to address the pay and sustainability issues in the early years sector.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte I thank the Minister. The 7% increase which is well intentioned is very welcome and should be passed on to workers. It is a step in the right direction. I am concerned as there are many managers of crèches who, in some cases, may not have taken salaries for a number of weeks. They need to look after themselves. Is this one of the other ways to address the fact that community employment scheme workers were a crutch in the community sector? Is this a way to appease community sector crèches as it might afford them the opportunity to take on the additional staff members required? There has been a major burden on the community sector since last December, close to Christmas, when the changes came about. Is the 7% increase a step towards further announcements in the budgets ahead?


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