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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 644 - 654
 Header Item Education Welfare Service Staff
 Header Item UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
 Header Item Commencement of Legislation
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education
 Header Item Domestic Violence
 Header Item Child Care Services
 Header Item School Completion Programme
 Header Item School Completion Programme
 Header Item Family Resource Centres
 Header Item Family Resource Centres

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 963 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 122 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 644 - 654

Education Welfare Service Staff

 644. 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 her attention has been drawn to the fact that each educational welfare officer is assigned to an average of 50 schools; her plans to tackle this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51918/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone My Department has requested a reply from the Educational Welfare Service of Tusla to your question, we will forward the answer directly to you as soon as it becomes available.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

 645. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her plans to ratify the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53549/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone My Department is working with the Department of Justice and Equality to ensure that all necessary arrangements are in place to fully comply with the provisions of the Second Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography so that Ireland can ratify the Optional Protocol as soon as possible.

The recent enactment of the Sexual Offence Act (2017) constituted a key step on the pathway to ratification as the Act contains a wide range of provisions that will enhance the protection of children and vulnerable persons from sexual abuse and exploitation.

Considerable provisions exist in Irish law to combat the sexual abuse or exploitation of children, including ensuring the necessary flow of information to the relevant authorities about child abuse. The substantive criminal law elements of the Optional Protocol have largely been implemented by the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 and the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008.

The Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012, makes it an offence to withhold information relating to the commission of certain arrestable offences (including certain sexual offences) against children. Other relevant legislation in the area of reporting is the Protections for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998 and the Children First Act 2015.

Commencement of Legislation

 646. Deputy Brendan Howlin Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the Acts, or parts of Acts, awaiting commencement within her area of statutory responsibility; the reason for the delay in the commencement of each; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53562/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone My Department has responsibility for the following Acts, or parts of Acts, which have yet to be fully commenced, Youth Work Act 2001, the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011, the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015, the Children (Amendment) Act 2015 and the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017.

Youth Work Act 2001

  The sections of the Youth Work Act 2001 yet to be commenced are sections 8 to 16, 19 to 23 and 25 to 37.

  Since the enactment of the Youth Work Act in 2001 there have been significant policy and legislative developments that are relevant to the provision of youth services. These include the publication of the Value for Money and Policy Review of Youth Funding Schemes and the National Youth Strategy 2015-2020. Given the considerable changes which have occurred since its enactment, my Department will be revisiting the Youth Work Act 2001 on the conclusion of the reforms in this area.

Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011

  Commencement orders for the relevant provisions in the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011, to provide for a legal framework for Special Care are being finalised in conjunction with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. Associated Regulations (governing registration of special care units and the care and welfare to be provided in such units) and standards have been agreed with HIQA and Tusla. Following some delays related to legal issues, which required clarification, it is anticipated that these provisions will be commenced in January.

  A number of related technical provisions in the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015 will also be commenced at this time.

  Section 13 of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011 is not commenced. Section 13 of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011 relates to amendments proposed to section 26 of the 1991 Act (Guardians ad litem) and these amendments which have not commenced will not now be required as they are being replaced more extensively by provisions in the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2017.

  It is not intended to make a commencement order as this Section will be repealed under the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2017.

  Section 14(b) of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011 is not commenced. This section proposes to amend section 27 to clarify that a reference in that section to a ‘party’ includes a reference to a GAL (section 14(b) of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011.   

  The General Scheme of the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2017 clarifies that a Guardian ad litem will not have party status. The amendment proposed by section 14(b) of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011 is not, therefore, consistent with the proposed policy direction. It is not intended to make a commencement order as this Section will be repealed under the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2017.

Children (Amendment) Act 2015

  Sections 6 (as it relates to section 88B), 8, 9, 10, 16, 18, 19, 26 of the Children (Amendment) Act 2015 remain to be commenced. These relate to the introduction of a new system of remission in the children detention schools and a technical issue relating to the operation of the Children Court on the issuing of detention orders under the Children Act 2001. An interim arrangement is in place to provide for the remission of children detention orders. It is intended that the relevant sections of the Children (Amendment) Act 2015 dealing with remission and the issuing of detention orders will be commenced in 2018.

Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017

  The following provisions of the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017 have not yet been commenced as follows:

  Section 3(a) insofar as that section relates to the insertion of the following in section 3(1) of the Principal Act: (i) the definition of “donor-conceived child”; (ii) the definition of “father”; (iii) paragraph (b) of the definition of “relevant non-guardian”.

  Section 3(b) insofar as that section relates to the insertion of paragraph (b) in the definition of “parent” in section 3(1) of the Principal Act. These provide for definitions related to Part 2 and Part 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, which have not yet been commenced.

  Section 24(1)(a) will come in to operation on the 1st February 2018.

Early Childhood Care and Education

 647. 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 her long-term plans with regard to the ECCE scheme; if a decision on the over age exemption from the early childhood care and education scheme will be reversed and not just paused; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53625/17]

 661. 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 opening date of the consultation on the over age exemption in the ECCE programme; the closing date; and the date by which her Department will make a decision on the future of the over age exemption. [54075/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 647 and 661 together.

  I have committed to consulting further with parents of children with disabilities before a decision is made on the future of the over-age exemption for the ECCE scheme.

  My officials are working closely with the Department of Education and Skills in designing the consultation and also taking advice from the Cross Sectoral Implementation Group (CSIG) of the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM). CSIG includes senior officials from the Department of Education and Skills, National Council for Special Education, National Disability Authority, City/Community Childcare Committees, Pobal and representatives of parents of children with disabilities and Early Years providers.

  I will publish details of the consultation when available and am committed to having it completed by mid 2018.

  The decision on a pause in the change to the scheme as against a reversal will be made in the context of the outcome of the consultation exercise. In this regard however I feel it is worthwhile to set out the original rationale for the decision. Overage exemptions were introduced at the onset of the ECCE programme. At that time only operated for a 38 week period, or one programme year. For some children with special/additional needs, attending preschool five days a week was not feasible and so therefore an allowance was made. Their ECCE place was split over 2 years, e.g. a child may have availed of 3 days ECCE provision in year one and 2 days in year 2. In order to facilitate this, in the cases where the child would have been overage for ECCE in the latter year, an overage exemption was approved. This provision of an overage exemption by the DCYA for the ECCE programme was never intended as a mechanism to delay a child’s entry to primary education. Given the extension of the ECCE programme in 2016/2017, the further extension of the Programme to two full years from September 2018, and the introduction of AIM in June 2016, it became clear that standard ECCE entitlement had surpassed the initial premise for provision of an overage exemption from the upper age limit.

  AIM is a model of supports designed to ensure that children with disabilities can access the early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. The AIM Early Years Specialists will work with the parents (and guardians), providers, Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) and others (as appropriate) to support the child’s transition to primary school. Any concerns with regard to a child's transition to primary school should be referred to the Better Start Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) application process. Parents, guardians and providers are advised to engage with the AIM process where a concern in relations to a child's transition to primary school is identified. More detailed information on AIM can be found at www.preschoolaccess.ie.  The Department of Education and Skill (DES) also provides for the education of children with special educational needs through a number of support mechanisms, depending on the child's assessed disability.

  As regards long term plans for the ECCE scheme, the further enhancements announced as part of Budget 2018 meet the commitment in the Programme for Government to provide a full two year programme to all children. Any further alterations to the scheme will be considered in the context of future Estimates processes and, critically, an assessment of what is in the best interests of children. The consultation to take place around overage exemptions will, of course, form part of the ongoing assessment.

Domestic Violence

 648. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her plans to improve services and provide additional facilities in counties Cavan and Monaghan for victims of domestic abuse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53897/17]

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 provision of care and protection to victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. I have requested information from Tusla in relation to this matter. I will revert to the Deputy once I have been furnished with a response by Tusla.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Child Care Services

 649. Deputy Willie Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the status of discussions between her Department and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government regarding the disparity of treatment in respect of the application of commercial rates to private early services that provide full day services or after-school services and have to pay full commercial rates; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [54013/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Firstly, I would note that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has no function in determining which properties are rateable. This is the responsibility of the Commissioner of Valuation. The Valuation Office falls under the aegis of the Department of Justice and Equality.

The Valuation Act, 2001 as amended by the Valuation (Amendment) Act 2015 provides that all buildings used or developed for any purpose, including constructions affixed thereto, are rateable unless expressly exempted under Schedule 4 of the Act. Under Schedule 4, paragraph 22, community childcare facilities are exempt from commercial rates, by virtue of the fact that they operate on a not-for-profit basis. The Valuations Office have also advised that, under Schedule 4 paragraph 10, facilities who provide the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme (ECCE) only are exempt from commercial rates.

Officials from the Department met with officials from the Department of Justice and Equality to discuss the issue of commercial rates for childcare providers. At this meeting it was reiterated that properties of occupiers that operate with the intention of making a profit are rateable, and that this applies to private childcare facilities.

It is my understanding that there are a number of avenues of redress for an occupier of rateable property who is dissatisfied with a determination of valuation made under the provisions of the Valuation Acts, 2001-2015. However, as noted earlier any issues concerning commercial rates do not fall under the remit of this Department. I would advise those with concerns to contact the Valuations Office who would be better placed to advise in this regard.

School Completion Programme

 650. 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 provided to the school completion programme in 2017; and the amount budgeted for 2018. [54064/17]

 655. 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 provided to the school completion programme in 2017; and the amount budgeted for 2018. [54069/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 650 and 655 together.

  The Educational Welfare Service of Tusla has advised that the School Completion Programme received €24.7m in funding in 2017. It has also advised that confirmation of the allocation for 2018 will be confirmed following the completion of the 2018 business planning process in Tusla.

School Completion Programme

 651. 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 schools that have availed of the school completion programme each year since 2011. [54065/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone A total of 470 primary and 224 post-primary schools have been included in the School Completion Programme per year from 2011 to the current year. The number of schools has been the same each year.

  The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table.

Year Total No. Primary Schools in SCP Total No. Post-primary Schools in SCP
2011 224 470
2012 224 470
2013 224 470
2014 224 470
2015 224 470
2016 224 470
2017 224 470

Family Resource Centres

 652. 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 provided to the family resource centre network in 2017; and the amount budgeted for 2018. [54066/17]

 653. 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 provided to the family resource centres in 2017; and the total amount budgeted for 2018. [54067/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 652 and 653 together.

  Tusla, the Child and Family Agency is responsible for the administration of the Family Resource Centre Programme. In 2017, Tusla allocated €13.51m to the programme. In addition, supplementary once off funding of €2.120m has been allocated recently to centres for minor works, including the purchase of equipment. In 2018, I am pleased to advise the Deputy that an additional €3.0m is being allocated to the programme, increasing the base budget to approximately €16.5m.

  I understand that the Deputy is seeking additional information relating to the individual allocation provided to each Family Resource Centre in 2017, as well as the projected budget for each centre in 2018.

  I have asked Tusla to supply such information to the Deputy, as soon as it is available.

Family Resource Centres

 654. 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 expansion plans for the family resource centre network; and the counties in which she plans to establish new family resource centres. [54068/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am placing a strong emphasis on family support services next year, and the development of capacity within the Family Resource Centre Programme.

  Tusla, the Child and Family Agency currently allocates funding to 109 Family Resource Centres. This funding provides a contribution towards the running costs of centres.

  In 2018, I am providing Tusla with additional funding of almost €3.0m for the Family Resource Centre Programme. This will allow for at least 11 new centres to be included in the Programme and also provides for increases in funding to existing centres next year.

  I am doing this in recognition of the importance of early intervention and prevention in assisting vulnerable children and families in our local communities.

  Tusla has put an application process in place for organisations seeking to join the Family Resource Centre programme. The closing date for applications is 20 December 2017. The application form is available on the Tusla website www.tusla.ie .

  Decisions by Tusla in relation to the funding of individual centres will have regard to the location, size and catchment area of each centre. The process will be equitable and transparent. All decisions will be made to ensure that available resources are applied to improving outcomes for children and families nationally in the most efficient, effective, equitable, proportionate and sustainable way. Tusla will also consider Area Commissioning Plans, Children and Young People's Service Committee plans, and other available evidence, to ensure that the allocated funding targets those children and families that are most in need.

  Tusla intends to announce the results of the process by the end of Quarter 1, 2018.

  In conclusion, I would like to acknowledge the valuable work of Family Resource Centres. I am pleased that I have secured additional resources to support them in their work with vulnerable children and families in our local communities.


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