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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 584-604
 Header Item Child and Family Agency Reports
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education
 Header Item Services for People with Disabilities
 Header Item Services for People with Disabilities
 Header Item Services for People with Disabilities
 Header Item Departmental Contracts Data
 Header Item Domestic Violence Services Funding
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education
 Header Item Combatting Cyberbullying
 Header Item Foster Care
 Header Item Affordable Childcare Scheme
 Header Item Foster Care
 Header Item Child Care Services Staff
 Header Item Domestic Violence
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education Data
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education
 Header Item Affordable Childcare Scheme

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 962 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 87 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 584-604

Child and Family Agency Reports

 584. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 371 of 24 October 2017, the status of Tusla’s draft policy regarding adult disclosures of abuse in view of the fact that she expected this to be finalised in November. [50363/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Tusla have informed me that the policy is due to be presented to the Tusla Senior Management Team for review by the end of this week. Once approved, it is expected that the document will be ready for publication in early December.

Tusla's primary focus is always on risk to children that may be identified when a disclosure of abuse is made. Tusla is sensitive to the difficulty a person making such an allegation may experience, and provides information and supports where possible. Tusla must also, under the principles laid out in the Barr Judgement, ensure that a person against whom an allegation of abuse has been made is dealt with fairly and with due process.

Early Childhood Care and Education

 585. 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 the status of the review her Department has commissioned into the cost of providing early childhood care and education; and the date by which this review will be published. [50364/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Independent Review of the Cost of Providing Quality Childcare is a critical input to the on-going reform of childcare in Ireland and is commitment in the Programme for Government.

  This Review seeks to:

  - Analyse the current costs of providing childcare in Ireland and factors that impact on those costs;

  - Develop a model of the unit cost/costs of providing childcare that allows analysis of policy changes and variation in cost-drivers, including the potential impact of increased professionalisation; and

  - Provide an objective, high level market analysis of the childcare sector in Ireland, including analysis of fee levels charged to parents.

  The contract to undertake this Review was awarded to Crowe Horwath in September 2017. A literature review is currently underway and preliminary stakeholder engagement has already commenced.

  These initial steps will inform subsequent steps of the Review, including a survey of childcare providers in early 2018 and the development of a cost model and cost calculator.

  This Review is expected to take approximately 10 months to complete with the final report expected in June 2018.

Services for People with Disabilities

 586. 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 the funding that has been allocated for the administration of and application process for level 5 of the access and inclusion model in 2016 and 2017. [50365/17]

 587. 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 the funding that has been allocated for the administration of and application process for level 7 of the access and inclusion model in 2016 and 2017. [50366/17]

 597. 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 the amount of funding that has been allocated for the administration of and application process for level four of the access and inclusion model in 2016 and 2017. [50473/17]

 598. 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 the amount of funding that has been allocated for the administration of and application process for level six of the access and inclusion model in 2016 and 2017. [50474/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 586, 587, 597 and 598 together.

  AIM supports children with disabilities to reap the full benefits of free pre-school education. Its goal is to empower pre-school providers to deliver an inclusive pre-school experience. AIM is a child-centred and evidence-based model, involving seven levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted, based on the needs of the child and the pre-school setting. AIM was launched in June 2016 and is administered by Pobal on behalf of my Department.

  The following amounts have been allocated to Pobal in 2016 and 2017 for operational costs associated with AIM Levels 4, 5 and 7. The AIM Level 4 allocation includes the costs of 65 Early Years Specialists, a team of 7 co-ordinators and 2 administrative officers.

Level Element of model - Allocation for Operational Costs (m)
    2016 2017
4. Expert Early Years Educational Advice and Support 3.395 5.890
5.

7.
Equipment, Appliances and Minor Alterations Grants and application process

and

Additional Assistance in the Pre-School Room and Application Process
0.575 1.736
The table excludes funding for AIM Level 6, which is funded separately by the Department of Health.

Services for People with Disabilities

 588. 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 the number of applications made for the access and inclusion model in 2016 and 2017, in tabular form. [50367/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone AIM supports children with disabilities to reap the full benefits of free pre-school education. Its goal is to empower pre-school providers to deliver an inclusive pre-school experience. AIM is a child-centred and evidence-based model, involving seven levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted, based on the needs of the child and the pre-school setting. AIM was launched in June 2016 and is administered by Pobal on behalf of my Department.

  The majority of applications for targeted supports under AIM are done by way of the submission of an Access and Inclusion Profile. This is completed by the parent and pre-school provider, in advance of the provision of an Early Years Specialist support under AIM Level 4. Targeted supports from other levels of AIM (i.e. Levels 5-7) may also be requested at this stage. The following table represents the number of Access and Inclusion Profiles submitted in 2016 and to date in 2017.

- 2016 2017
AIM Access & Inclusion Profiles Submitted 1,488 2,839

Services for People with Disabilities

 589. 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 the average number of hours of additional assistance provided to children at level 7 of the access and inclusion model. [50368/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone AIM supports children with disabilities to reap the full benefits of free pre-school education. Its goal is to empower pre-school providers to deliver an inclusive pre-school experience. AIM is a child-centred and evidence-based model, involving seven levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted, based on the needs of the child and the pre-school setting. AIM was launched in June 2016 and is administered by Pobal on behalf of my Department.

In line with emerging best practice to support the integration and independence of children with a disability, AIM does not fund Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). Rather, it provides financial support to the pre-school provider, which can be used either to reduce the adult to child ratio in the pre-school room or buy in additional assistance to the pre-school room. Accordingly, AIM Level 7 support is a shared resource for the pre-school setting

A pre-school provider, in partnership with a parent, can apply for AIM Level 7 support - additional capitation. Where the AIM Early Years Specialist (a support provided under AIM Level 4) considers that an AIM Level 7 support is critical to a child's participation in the ECCE programme, they will further consider the degree of Level 7 support required having regard to the needs of the child and the pre-school setting.

There are two rates of Level 7 capitation. The lower rate is €130 per week (which is calculated on the basis of 10 hours of support per week) and the higher rate is €195 per week (which is calculated on the basis of 15 hours of support per week).

Pobal has advised that since AIM was introduced, 357 children have been approved for Level 7 capitation at the lower rate and 2,106 children have been approved for Level 7 capitation at the higher rate.

Departmental Contracts Data

 590. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the public contracts between her Department and companies (details supplied) in each of the years 2011 to 2016; the value of each contract; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50395/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The information requested by the Deputy is presented in tabular format below:

Year Company Purpose Value
2011 Deloitte & Touche Audit Services on the EU Youth in Action Programme €7,617.00
2012 Deloitte & Touche Audit Services on the EU Youth in Action Programme €8,911.35
2013 Deloitte & Touche Audit Services on the EU Youth in Action Programme €7,487.66
2014 Deloitte & Touche Audit Services on the EU Youth in Action Programme €7,488.24
2015 Deloitte & Touche

Ernst & Young
Audit Services on the EU Youth in Action Programme

Internal Audit Management Services
€8,781.28

€81,750.74
2016 Deloitte & Touche

Ernst & Young
Audit Services on the EU Youth in Action Programme

Internal Audit Management Services
€8,781.30

€1,918.80


  The payments to Ernst & Young were made in 2015 via the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources as the lead Department in a shared contract for audit services.

Domestic Violence Services Funding

 591. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if capital investment will be made available to an organisation (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50428/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has statutory responsibility for the care and protection of victims of domestic, sexual and gender based violence whether in the context of the family or otherwise. At all times, Tusla’s key priority is to ensure that the needs of victims of domestic violence are being met in the best way possible.

In 2017, I provided Tusla with funding of over €22 million for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services. This was an increase of €1.5 million over 2016. Arising from Budget 2018, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a further increase in funding of €1.7 million is being provided to Tusla next year for these services.

Tusla's priority is to achieve the best outcomes for victims of domestic violence from the use of its available resources. The provision of capital funding for refuges is dealt with by the Housing Authorities and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

Tusla is aware that there have been discussions locally between the organisation in question and Wexford County Council about a potential development, and has indicated that it will work with all key stakeholders in enhancing responses to victims of domestic violence in County Wexford.

Early Childhood Care and Education

 592. 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 the steps she is taking to address the considerable shortages in ECCE places that exist in certain parts of the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50454/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone My Department has conducted an analysis of ECCE capacity and is satisfied that there will be no shortfall in ECCE places for the 2017/2018 programme year.

It should be noted that the peak number of children attending ECCE in 2016/2017 was just over 120,000. The 2017/2018 numbers are expected (and on track) to be in line with 2016/2017 uptake. Further, from September 2018, the ECCE Programme will revert to one single entry point in a given ECCE Programme Year (i.e. September) with eligible children entitled to two full years of ECCE provision. From September 2018, the number of ECCE enrolments in any given year will be around 114,000. The fact that 120,000 children were provided with ECCE places in April 2017 suggests that there is sufficient capacity to deal with the lower, be it all year round, number of 114,000.

As with the previous expansion of the ECCE programme, my Department is working closing with all of the City and County Childcare Committees to monitor a range of scheme related issues, including capacity. In the event that capacity issues emerge, we will seek to address these accordingly.

Recent media statements on this issue cited the total number of children aged 3-5 in the population and concluded that there was a capacity issue for ECCE. This did not account for the many 4 and 5 year olds already in primary school, nor those who opt for only one year of the ECCE Programme. The conclusion that a capacity issue exists is therefore inaccurate.

One of the measures I took in 2016, and again in 2017, was to support capital development. My Department provided €8.4million for its 2017 Early Years Capital funding programme and €4m for the 2016 Early Years Capital Funding Programme. The 2017 funding was made available to providers under three strands, the largest of which (€4.2m) went towards enabling services to provide additional childcare places. I will be announcing details of the 2018 Capital scheme in the very near future.

Combatting Cyberbullying

 593. 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 role in protecting children from online bullying, abuse and grooming; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50455/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I refer the Deputy to the reply that I provided to the same question that she asked as a Priority Question today.

Foster Care

 594. 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 the steps she will take to address the evaluations by HIQA that have found that numerous foster care services have consistent and serious failings; and the steps she is taking to ensure that these are addressed. [50456/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I welcome HIQA's important work in relation to foster care services, and also the report prepared by the Joint Oireachtas Committee. I will respond to the Committee by year end.

We are in the enviable situation here in Ireland that 92% of children living in care are in foster care placements. This compares very favourably to foster care services overseas. The most recent figures for England show that 74% of children in care were in a foster placement and the figure for Northern Ireland is 80%, for children who were in care for at least 12 months. The vast majority of foster placements are stable, loving, long-term arrangements, where children are nurtured and supported.

By the end of last year, HIQA had inspected all foster care services. The findings showed that, in general, children in foster care were safe, happy, in good health and attending school. For 2017, HIQA focussed on specific standards in more detail. These relate to the checks and balances that Foster Care Committees, and senior managers, should have in place to support a safe and effective service. The child’s experience of the service was not assessed during 2017.

This year's inspections show delays in completing formal assessments of relative carers, and the lack of regular reviews of all foster carers. The need for Garda vetting for children over 16 and young adults in the household was also highlighted. There were weaknesses in how some Foster Care Committees are informed about complaints and allegations against foster carers. I am pleased to note that HIQA accepted Tusla’s action plans in relation to the inspection reports, and I am monitoring improvements being made.

The clear themes coming through are of the need for better oversight, recruitment of staff, the replenishment and broadening of foster care panels, improved supports and supervision of foster carers.

I am asking Tusla to provide me with a national strategy for the recruitment of foster carers as part of its 2018 business plan, and to build on and improve the assessment and support for foster carers. I have secured additional funding of over €40 million for Tusla to ensure that the business plan can be achieved.

Affordable Childcare Scheme

 595. 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 the position regarding the legislative and ICT infrastructure that will be needed to deliver the single affordable childcare scheme; the date by which this will be delivered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50457/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Budget 2017 announced a radical redesign of how we deliver support to make quality childcare accessible and affordable for families in Ireland. The new Affordable Childcare Scheme (ACS) will provide financial support for parents towards the cost of childcare. This new Scheme will replace the existing targeted childcare programmes with a single, streamlined and more user-friendly scheme and will include “wraparound‟ care for pre-school and school-age children. The ambition of this project is immense; its scope matched only in size by its complexity. This scheme aims to reduce poverty, facilitate labour activation, improve outcomes for children and tangibly reduce the cost of childcare for tens of thousands of families.

My Department is currently putting in place the legal and technical infrastructures to underpin the Affordable Childcare Scheme. I am delighted to report that draft legislation to give our new approach a legal backbone is well advanced and publication of a draft Bill is expected before the end of the year.

The building of a state of the art IT system to make subsidised childcare more accessible is also being advanced. The IT development is subject to scrutiny by a peer review group (PRG) at the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO). The project has passed the first stage of the peer review process (reviewing the Business Case) and is close to completing the second stage (Request for Tender Stage).

Whilst delivering the scheme as soon as possible remains a priority, I believe that it is prudent to ensure we get the new systems right, so that they operate smoothly for everyone. Accordingly, in progressing our work, we strive to meet the highest standards available and avoid mistakes made on previous government IT projects. In doing so, we have committed ourselves to extensive consultation and peer review processes.

While intensive work is underway, the project is heavily dependent on timelines beyond its immediate control, such as the advancement of legislation through the Oireachtas. In particular, the timeframe is dependent upon ICT development. Once we have completed the Request for Tender element of the project and have the successful developer in place, we will be able to confirm and communicate a timeline for the full introduction of the scheme. Until then, I am not in a position to make a commitment on the exact launch date of ACS.

We are well on our way to introducing the Affordable Childcare Scheme. In the meantime, the families of 64,000 children or 91% of the children eligible for the measures introduced by my Department are already benefiting from financial support for their childcare, on a par with what will be delivered under the new scheme. This number is increasing daily.

Foster Care

 596. 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 the complaints and appeals mechanisms that are in place for foster care parents who feel that they or their foster child have been treated unfairly or inappropriately by Tusla; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50458/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone In serving the best interest of the child, it is vital that the voices of foster carers and children in care are heard.

Foster carers can raise any issue or provide feedback directly with their link worker in the first instance, and subsequently with team leader or principal social worker, and they may also make representations to their Foster Care Committee. In addition, foster carers can make use of the Tusla, the Child and Family Agency feedback and complaints mechanism, "Tell Us". All foster carers may also submit a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman if these mechanisms prove unsatisfactory.

A complaints system for children in care is part of the National Standards for Foster Care. Children coming into care are informed of how to make a complaint, verbally or in writing, and of their right to do so. This can be done directly with their social worker, or with the team leader or principal social worker. Alternatively, children in care can also use Tusla's "Tell us" process or make their complaint known to the Ombudsman for Children. The child's social worker, foster carers or advocacy groups often act on the child's behalf and provide support in making their views known. For example, Empowering People in Care (EPIC) is an independent organisation which works with and advocates on behalf of children and young people in care.

In addition, the Irish Foster Care Association (IFCA) independently advocates on behalf of foster carers, providing support and mediation services as needed in the event of differences that may arise. This includes a support helpline, funded by Tusla, which is available to all foster carers.

Questions Nos. 597 and 598 answered with Question No. 586.

Child Care Services Staff

 599. 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 the number of child care providers who have been trained as link workers on the new AIMS model launched in June 2016, by county, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50475/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Leadership for Inclusion (LINC) higher education programme for early years practitioners was established in 2016 as part of the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), with provision for 900 students annually for four years. It is a Level 6 Special Purpose Award designed to support the inclusion of children with a disability in free pre-school provided under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme.

  Pre-school settings employing an Inclusion Coordinator (who has graduated from LINC and has agreed to take on the relevant role and responsibilities) will receive an increase of €2 per child per week in the rate of ECCE capitation payable to that setting.

847 early years practitioners graduated from the LINC programme in October 2017 and the breakdown by county is given in the table provided:

County No. Of LINC Graduates
Carlow 11
Cavan 5
Clare 37
Cork 106
Donegal 53
Dublin 127
Galway 38
Kerry 53
Kildare 48
Kilkenny 19
Laois 20
Leitrim 8
Limerick 75
Longford 5
Louth 17
Mayo 27
Meath 29
Monaghan 13
Offaly 10
Roscommon 19
Sligo 19
Tipperary 27
Waterford 21
Westmeath 17
Wexford 28
Wicklow 15
Total 847
874 early years practitioners enrolled and commenced the second intake of the LINC programme in September 2017.

Domestic Violence

 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 Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if her attention has been drawn to grants that are available to domestic abuse victims who are being housed in temporary supported housing which help towards the cost of furnishings and other goods needed for the accommodation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50497/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has statutory responsibility for the care and protection of victims of domestic, sexual and gender based violence whether in the context of the family or otherwise. At all times, Tusla’s key priority is to ensure that the needs of victims of domestic violence are being met in the best way possible.

In 2017, I provided Tusla with funding of over €22 million for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services. This represented an increase of €1.5 million over 2016. Arising from Budget 2018, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a further increase in funding of €1.7 million is being provided to Tusla next year for these services.

Tusla does not provide dedicated grant funding to individuals affected by domestic violence who are residing in temporary accommodation. Tusla funded organisations supporting victims of domestic violence would be aware of the different grants available and would advise clients on making applications. Application for such grants or payments are a matter for the individuals concerned.

I am advised that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) scheme, may make a single Exceptional Needs Payment (ENP) to help meet essential expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. The ENP scheme is demand led and provides assistance to those with exceptional needs, taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case in order to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance. Any persons who consider that they have an entitlement to an ENP under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme should contact their local Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection INTREO centre.

Early Childhood Care and Education Data

 601. 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 if she has examined the data protection issues which could potentially arise from requiring ECCE providers to administer aspects of the various State schemes, such as the financial data of parents; if she has satisfied herself that no issues arise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50540/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Work is currently underway to introduce a new Affordable Childcare Scheme (ACS) which will provide financial support for parents towards the cost of childcare. The new scheme will provide a system from which both universal and targeted subsidies can be provided towards the cost of childcare. ACS will replace the existing targeted childcare programmes with a single, streamlined and more user-friendly scheme and is intended to provide “wraparound‟ care for pre-school and school-age children.

Where parents wish to avail of supports they will apply directly to the scheme administrator. In order to make the application process as easy as possible for parents, it is intended that the means-testing will, in most cases, be carried out through an automatic link with income data held by the Revenue Commissioners and by the Department of Social Protection. This means that childcare providers will not be required collect PPS numbers or financial data from parents when registering children on to the Affordable Childcare System.

The use of the PPS number and data sharing across relevant public bodies and agencies will be enabled and supported through legislation and formal data sharing agreements.

The primary legislation will take account of all necessary amendments to existing legislation, including any changes which may be required to the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2015. Consultations will take place with all relevant parties, as deemed necessary throughout the legislative development process.

Early Childhood Care and Education

 602. 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 if her attention has been drawn to the introduction of a 7% increase in ECCE capitation with effect from September 2017, which represents an increase of €4.50 per week for an ECCE-age child on standard capitation rates (details supplied). [50541/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone As the Deputy will be aware, among a number of measures announced by my Department in Budget 2018, was that from September 2018 capitation paid to Early Years providers for the delivery of the ECCE programme will increase by 7% on both the standard and higher rates. This increase will result in the following:

- Standard capitation rate will increase from €64.50 to €69 per child per week

- Higher capitation rate will increase from €75 to €80.25 per child per week

This increase in capitation acknowledges the need to improve conditions for the early years workforce, thereby supporting the recruitment and retention of high quality staff, and facilitating the continued delivery of high quality services to children. I acknowledge the fact that employers need this additional investment to enable them to improve the wages of their employees. This measure should assist providers in this endeavour and it is something that I am committed to building in the future budgets

It should be noted that the ECCE programme is a standalone pre-school programme and the capitation increase is payable to those providers who are delivering this programme.

The ‘September Measures’ relate to the introduction of the Community Childcare Subvention Universal (CCSU) payment and an increase in band rates across the different strands of the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) Scheme and the Training and Employment Childcare (TEC) Scheme. These measures include a Universal payment of €80 per month for 0 – 3 yr olds registered with childcare providers, together with an average 50% increase to the band rates of the CCS/CCSP targeted schemes. It is anticipated that these measures will result in significant improvements to the operating circumstances of childcare providers.

Early Childhood Care and Education

 603. 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 strategy to increase investment to all services and especially to children under three years of age, in view of the fact that this can be the most labour intensive and resource heavy area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50542/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone As the Deputy will be aware the measures that I introduced as part of Budget 2018 demonstrate my continued commitment to increasing investment in services for children including those children under 3 years of age. From September 2018 all children will be entitled to a full two years of the ECCE scheme or free preschool, as it has become known. This further enhancement delivers fully on a commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government that is good for children, families and Early Years providers. I also announced investment to continue the childcare affordability measures introduced last September that are already benefitting 45,000 children, with 24,000 of these registered so far for the universal under-3 scheme, and 21,000 registered for the targeted schemes. The additional funding will ensure that the door remains open for further children and families to register and benefit from these subsidies throughout 2018. I have also recently commissioned an Independent Review of the Cost of delivering Quality Childcare which will assist me in seeking more investment for childcare over the coming years.

  The introduction in September 2017 of the universal payment for under 3s (and for children who are aged 3 but do not yet qualify for entry into the ECCE Programme) addresses the issue where children under 3 years of age were the only age group of pre-school children for which no other universal State support for care and education was previously available, given that children aged 3 and older can participate in the ECCE Programme or school. The universal payment is a contribution towards the cost of childcare for under 3 years of age, given that many parents require full-time childcare for this age group. The Affordable Childcare Scheme, which will replace the existing childcare schemes, will provide for a continuation of this universal payment for childcare. In addition, it will for the first time provide higher payments for targeted subsidies for children under 3 years of age than for older age groups ( and the highest subsidies for children under 1 year old), to reflect the higher cost of provision for this age group, given the regulatory requirements on adult-child ratios. Let me also add that the issues facing childcare providers in the provision of services to under 3 years of age is one also being considered by a subgroup of the Early Years Forum.

  As part of Budget 2018, I have also secured a 5.7% increase in funding for Tusla in 2018 which amounts €40.6m. The extra funding will be used to progress a number of key priorities including the introduction of mandatory reporting under Children First , addressing gaps in out of hours services and further investing in Family Resource Centres that deliver services to families in disadvantaged areas across the country. The additional investment will allow Tusla to recruit over 300 staff to respond to areas of identified risk and to meet increased demand for services. This includes resources for responding to expected increases in referrals following the introduction of mandatory reporting; management of unallocated cases and developing aftercare services. It will also allow for improvements in Tusla’s ICT systems and overall organisational structures, including governance.

Affordable Childcare Scheme

 604. 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 the reason the administration and management of the affordable childcare scheme is being devolved into ECCE providers that are already overburdened with administration paperwork resulting in the requirement to report to at least three Departments or agencies (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50543/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am aware that some providers have expressed concerns around the administration of these new measures, I announced in recent months payments totalling €3.5 million towards programme supports payments for all childcare providers who register for the enhanced childcare measures (these payments will be made in December 2017). This, in addition to €14.5m that has been already paid to childcare services so far in 2017 in recognition of the administration associated with the childcare schemes, provides for €18m in programme supports payments this year.

  The purpose of the programme supports payment is to contribute towards the costs of the wide range of non-face-to-face work with children carried out by providers, particularly the additional administration involved in changes to the childcare schemes in 2016/2017 including:

  - Time of provider required to familiarise themselves with new Grant Agreements;

  - The expansion of the ECCE scheme to include three intake points;

  - More Affordable Childcare measures introduced in September 2017;

  - Participation in information events, consulting with City/County Childcare Committees (CCCs), and advisors associated with the childcare provider’s business (e.g. accountants, legal);

  - Attending training sessions with the CCCs / Pobal on the schemes and PIP;

  - Speaking to parents about the schemes and answering their questions;

  - Administrative time to, for example, sign contracts and engage with Pobal’s IT system (PIP), register children on PIP, meet statutory obligations re data holding, make changes to published fee schedules as required by Pobal;

  - Following up with parents who have not provided necessary documentation;

  - Verifying children’s attendance and meeting compliance obligations for all universal and targeted scheme beneficiaries.

  The value of the payment is equivalent to an additional seven days funding for services.

  I would also like to highlight that when my Department prepares for each programme cycle, we try to appropriately balance the need to account for public monies with the administrative burden this places on childcare providers. We will continue to work towards the most efficient system in this regard balanced against those key requirements as it is important that appropriate governance and compliance standards are met.


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