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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 35-50
 Header Item Affordable Childcare Scheme Implementation
 Header Item Child and Family Agency Staff
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Children and Family Services Provision
 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
 Header Item Mental Health Services Provision
 Header Item Child Care Services Funding
 Header Item Child Protection Guidelines
 Header Item Child Protection
 Header Item Child Protection
 Header Item Departmental Contracts
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education Programmes
 Header Item Youth Services

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 968 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 102 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 35-50

Affordable Childcare Scheme Implementation

 35. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the status of the implementation of the affordable childcare scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18897/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am pleased to present a positive update on progress with the scheme. There is much work to be done, but we have made good progress.

Officials from my Department, along with colleagues in Pobal, have been working hard to develop the legal, technical and administrative infrastructure for the new Affordable Childcare Scheme. This scheme will provide financial support for parents, establish a sustainable platform for investment in the childcare sector for decades to come and, crucially, allow us to continue to invest in giving our children the best start in life.

Before Christmas the Childcare Support Bill 2017, the legal framework for the scheme, was published. It passed all stages in the Dáil in the first quarter of this year. I was very pleased with the positive, cross party support it received and I want to thank Deputies again for their valuable input which strengthened the legislation. The Bill has now completed Second Stage in the Seanad and will commence Committee Stage this Thursday.

Alongside the Childcare Support Bill, intensive work is ongoing on the drafting of supporting regulations for the scheme and on regulations to provide, for the first time, for the registration of school-age childcare providers. The latter regulations will ensure that all school-age childcare services are registered with Tusla prior to the introduction of the Affordable Childcare Scheme and can participate in the scheme from the outset.

With regard to the scheme's supporting IT infrastructure, good progress is also being made. In January I published a Request for Tenders for the development of a new IT system and received these at the end of March. They are now being evaluated in line with strict procurement rules, and I anticipate finalisation of the process very shortly. The introduction of the scheme is dependent on this new IT system. As soon as a contract is awarded to a successful bidder and a timeframe agreed for the completion of the system, I hope to be in a position to confirm and communicate an official launch date for the Scheme.

I have often emphasised that we need to take the time to put a rigorous, carefully planned IT system in place. We are continuing this process and making good progress. It is vital to an effective, user-friendly scheme for parents and providers, and I want to get it right.

The ACS is an ambitious project, which my Department is working on intensively. I will be happy to keep the Deputy, and this House, informed of developments as we move ahead.

  Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 34.

Child and Family Agency Staff

 37. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Seán Sherlock Zoom on Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her plans to recruit more social workers.  [18786/18]

 38. 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 the number of social work vacancies in Tusla by title; the number of children classified as high priority awaiting allocation of a social worker; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18546/18]

 45. 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 the work she is undertaking alongside Tusla to address staff recruitment and retention issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18545/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 37, 38 and 45 together.

  I acknowledge that the recruitment and retention of social workers is one of the biggest challenges for Tusla with only 200-250 graduating per year in a very competitive labour market.

  Working in child protection is one of the most difficult areas, and I fully appreciate the dedication of all professionals in Tusla who undertake this extremely important task.

  I am fully supportive of Tusla’s proactive approach to recruiting, supporting and retaining staff across all grades. In support of this I have provided for a significant increase in Tusla’s funding allocation with an increase of €40.6m in 2018 and a total increase of €144m since its establishment in 2014.

  Given this level of funding, Tusla expects to increase its total workforce by approximately 422 resulting in a total workforce of 4118 whole time equivalents (WTE) by the end of 2018.

  Also, given the current limited availability of social work graduates, Tusla expects at least 45 of these staff to be additional social workers. There will also be proactive recruitment of grades such as social care and clerical administration staff to support social workers to ensure that they can focus on their core tasks.

  To support Tusla's ambitious recruitment targets it launched its 2018 graduate recruitment campaign last September. This campaign is currently open for applications with interviews expected to commence in May/June 2018.

The campaign included Northern Ireland and Scotland. Continuing Tusla Recruit’s proactive approach of previous years all campuses were visited and over 200 students registered their interest. Tusla Recruit maintains on-going communications with the registered students and partners them through the application and CORU registration process with a view to making Tusla an employer of choice.

  Tusla also has an on-going rolling campaign to attract existing social workers who have a particular interest in working in child protection. This campaign is also designed to appeal to social workers who may currently be living abroad and wish to move to Ireland.

I have also asked Tusla to develop a Multi-annual Strategic Workforce Plan to identify the future composition of Tusla’s workforce so as to deliver on Tusla’s priorities. I expect the Plan to encompass a range of activities aimed at addressing Tusla’s short, medium and long term needs and to manage the current challenges Tusla faces recruiting social workers.

  The Plan will also form the basis of engaging with key stakeholders such as the education sector to ensure a sustainable supply of social workers in the future.

  With regard to current vacancies, Tusla advises that 207 social work posts are at various stages of the recruitment process.

  Of the 207 posts:

  - 26 are Senior Social Work Practitioner;

  - 15 are Principal Social Worker;

  - 17 are Social Worker - Team Leader; and

  - 149 are Social Worker.

  Tusla publish their Performance and Activity data on a monthly basis and I can inform you that as of the end of February 2018 there were 4,756 cases awaiting allocation to a social worker, out of 24,366 open cases.

  Of the total number of unallocated cases, 898 were categorised as High Priority. An unallocated case relates to a case about a child that is deemed to need a social work assessment, but has not yet been allocated to a social worker.

  It is important to note that all urgent and emergency cases receive immediate attention by the local duty social work team. The majority of unallocated cases are new referrals. However, they may also include children living with their families who had an allocated social worker, or to a child in care, where there may be a social work vacancy.

  Tusla is working hard to maintain and improve its retention rate. In March 2018 it had a total staff turnover rate of 5.6%. The current social worker turnover rate is 8.1% compared to 9.4% in March 2017. A low turnover rate is clearly in the interest of vulnerable children and families and it is also more efficient for the organisation as a whole.

Tusla values its staff and in acknowledgement of this it has established a Retention Steering Group to plan and implement an integrated approach to retention throughout the organisation. Tusla's Health, Wellbeing and Employee Assistance Programme has a range of services available to staff. The Programme has completed a staff survey on retention and its findings will inform part of a new Strategy on Retention for Tusla.

  Tusla is also placing an increased focus on well-being by actively encouraging employees to adopt behaviours that will improve their life and improve workforce morale.

Furthermore as part of its retention strategy, Tusla has also implemented an extensive Continuous Professional Development Strategy in recent years. The strategy commits all social workers to having a minimum of 21 hours for personal development plans and 10 hours for engaging in continuous profession development.

Tusla has also introduced a National Transfer Policy to facilitate staff wishing to relocate to another part of the country within Tusla's services while ensuring that the Agency retains their valuable expertise.

  Other supports for Tusla staff include rehabilitation services to support staff that are out of work due to injury or illness and a Critical Incident Stress Management Team to support teams and individuals in the event of any traumatic event.

Child Care Services Provision

 39. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if the childcare needs in the zero to two years group will be addressed in Dublin 1 in view of the concerns of public health nurses.  [18607/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I understand the Deputy is referring to issues around childcare supports in Dublin 1, particularly for lone parents and parents wishing to return to education.

  I am aware of issues relating to the availability of early years places in that area and officials from my Department are in fact scheduled to meet with stakeholders this week to discuss them.

  Dublin City Childcare Committee, which is funded by my Department, is also available to parents and childcare providers who may require assistance regarding capacity issues and access to various programmes offered by my Department.

  My Department operates a number of childcare programmes which may be of assistance to families of very young children in the area.

  Targeted programmes include:

The Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) which provides support for parents on low income to avail of reduced childcare costs at participating community childcare services. Eligible children can only be registered during a snapshot period and can avail of up to €145 per week;

The Community Childcare Subvention Plus (CCSP) does likewise but is available from privately owned childcare services also, and eligible children can be registered at any time during the year; and

The Training and Employment Childcare (TEC) Programmes support parents on eligible training courses, as well as categories of parents returning to work.    

  In September 2017, I introduced a new universal subsidy, which is available for all children aged between 6 months and 3 years of age in registered childcare. This amounts to €1040 per annum.

  The provision of childcare services for children under 2 poses extra demands for providers in that, for example, they require higher staff ratios. I continue to seek to support providers in this regard and build additional capacity nationally via a number of initiatives. These include higher subsidy levels under the forthcoming Affordable Childcare Scheme, and capital grants in 2018 to build extra capacity for this age group.

Children and Family Services Provision

 40. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if the terms of reference have been drawn up for a working group (details supplied); if so, if she will provide a copy of same; the members of the working group; the number of times the group has met; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [18899/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am committed to supporting and promoting the development, welfare and protection of children, and to help families be the best that they can be.

  I want to see every child maintaining positive contact with both of their parents, whatever their circumstances. For some children, it is in their interest that this contact happens in a supervised, neutral, child friendly venue.    

  The evaluation report on Family Child Contact Centres, to which the Deputy refers, recommended an integrated response by my Department and the Department of Justice and Equality. It is my belief that this is the best approach to progress the recommendations.

  I am pleased to advise that officials from my Department have come together with colleagues in the Department of Justice and Equality to jointly look at the implementation of the recommendations of the report.      

  It was agreed that my Department will draft the Terms of Reference for the Working Group, in consultation with the Department of Justice and Equality. We expect to advance this matter shortly.

  In preparation for the work of the Group, officials in my Department have carried out a scoping exercise to establish both the demand for these services, and also the current provision of family contact services.

  To date this has included:

  - a review of evaluations and recommendations relating to family contact services;

  - a comparison of the family contact services available internationally;

  - a review of the services currently offered at Family Resource Centres;

  - the collation of information from other service providers; and

  - consultation with individuals who are/have been working directly in family contact services.

  I am confident that the inter-departmental group is the best approach to look at how a family contact centre service will work for families in this country.

  As I said at my recent meeting with Time4Us, a Galway organisation providing family contact services, the group has the potential to develop a robust model which could be used by many other services.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

 41. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the expenditure by her Department on the Tuam mother and baby homes inquiry, in particular, for advertising, the appointment of consultants, collaborative forum and-or other ancillary matters excluding the commission set up in accordance with the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [18898/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The costs incurred to date by my Department in relation to the specific categories of expenditure identified by the Deputy are collated in the following table.

  The expenditure on consultancy relates to the costs incurred by the expert technical group in providing advices on the options for the future of the Tuam site.

  The Collaborative Forum is in the process of being established so the costs incurred to date relate to the initial work of the selection panel.

  These figures do not include expenditure incurred directly by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation in the course of its independent investigations.

Categories Costs
Advertising €0
Consultants €170,500
Collaborative Forum    €600
Ancillary matters €0

Mental Health Services Provision

 42. 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 the position regarding the working group tasked with streamlining children's mental health services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18544/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am pleased to say that the Working Group referred to by the Deputy held its inaugural meeting on 19th January 2018. The group is co-chaired by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Health.

The group is made up of senior officials from both Departments with representatives from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency and the Health Service Executive.

The key objective of the working group is to examine psychological and mental health services for children and young people with the aim of agreeing a clear continuum of provision and strengthening alignment between providers.

These services must be centered on the needs of children and young people. The working group has agreed the Terms of Reference and are focusing on assessing work and policies in place with a view to identifying key actions to be progressed and improvements to be made.

Work is also being advanced to secure a solid overview of levels of provision and availability of services, but we would all accept that there is a good deal more work to do to achieve a well coordinated, integrated service that meets the needs of children and young people.

I am pleased that this collaborative working group has now commenced its work to address these and related matters. Our aim is that the group would finalise an agreed approach by the middle of this year and commence implementation from Quarter 3 onwards.

Child Care Services Funding

 43. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her plans to assist parents burdened with high childcare costs in view of the fact that the subsidy for childcare introduced in September 2017 was unsuccessful in the sense that many crèches raised prices in conjunction with the scheme; and if the new version of the affordable childcare plan will be in place by September 2018.  [18605/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Pobal annual survey on childcare conducted on behalf of my Department provides extensive and very useful data on childcare fees. This survey showed that the average cost of childcare in Ireland rose by 4% or €7 per week last year, which is well below the €20 per week on offer through the newly introduced universal subsidy and significantly lower than the €145 per week, per child, subventions to families most in need.  Fees for part-time childcare actually showed a slight reduction.

On becoming Minister for Children and Youth Affairs I committed to improving the accessibility, affordability and quality of childcare in Ireland and although there is much yet to be achieved, I am happy with significant progress made on these fronts over the past year.

The universal subsidy, worth up to €1,040 per year for children under three in registered childcare is now being availed of by 35,588 children. Targeted supports for lower income families are being availed of by 38,680 children.  My Department has exceeded our target of a total of 70,000 children by 4,268 and these numbers will continue to rise until the end of the program year.

Notwithstanding this, I understand that any rise in childcare fees is a very significant matter for families and that childcare fees continue to represent far too high a proportion of family income. The new subsidies introduced last September will remain in place until we complete the development of the new Affordable Childcare Scheme which, as I have briefed Deputies on previously, should be introduced in 2019. This scheme will mark a major milestone in making childcare more affordable. 

I remain strongly committed to continuing to make childcare more affordable for families whilst at the same time supporting the early years workforce to provide a high quality service.

Child Protection Guidelines

 44. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Seán Sherlock Zoom on Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the discussions she has had with an organisation (details supplied); if she has received a copy of the Elliott report; and her plans to ensure good governance and probity within the organisation. [18783/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I met Scouting Ireland on Thursday 19 April to provide the organisation with an opportunity to clarify the revelations highlighted in the media coverage which have raises reputational questions for the organisation.

I was informed at that meeting of the organisation’s plans to reform the governance of the organisation and to put new structures in place.  Scouting Ireland also confirmed their commitment to implement the recommendations in relation to safeguarding and to carry out a full review of historic cases.  The Garda vetting of the individual referred to in recent media reports is in progress.   The leadership of Scouting Ireland informed me that the organisation was involved in a governance process and reforms in the way they do their work in particular at board level. These reforms will be discussed at a special meeting of the membership in June and October.

Scouting Ireland commissioned Mr. Ian Elliott to carry out a review into the organisation’s handling of an allegation of a serious sexual assault on an adult volunteer by another adult volunteer.  While this alleged assault took place in 2009 it was only reported within the organisation in 2016.  Mr. Elliott's report into this case resulted in Scouting Ireland engaging a barrister to conduct a full investigation into this allegation, particularly with regard to the handling of the matter by certain senior volunteers.  I will be receiving both reports be submitted to me once this investigation is completed.

There are a number of steps to be taken before I can be assured that Scouting Ireland has the proper governance arrangements in place which will allow me to restore funding.

I have asked Jillian van Turnhout, as an independent expert, to examine the situation over the coming weeks. In accordance with her Terms of Reference she is being asked to provide me with a clear assessment of Scouting Ireland's governance arrangements and to advise me on whether I can be assured about Scouting Ireland's governance and related matters.  This will be an important factor for me in determining whether I can resume funding of the organisation..

  Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 37.

Child Protection

 46. 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 if her attention has been drawn to a recent article and documentary detailing the alleged mishandling of disclosures of serious abuse at a service (details supplied); the measures being taken by her Department in relation to staff and board members for allegedly misleading investigators and victims; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18894/18]

 57. 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 if her Department has had engagement with a service (details supplied) in view of alleged mishandling of disclosures of abuse detailed in a recent article and documentary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18895/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 57 together.

Officials from my Department have been in contact with this organisation in relation to the allegations made. They were informed that the organisation carried out its own internal investigation into handling of the allegation of serious abuse and determined that the complainant had not reported the alleged abuse to any member of staff at the time the alleged incident occurred.

Officials were also informed that Tusla has reviewed the Child Protection and Safeguarding policies and practices in place within the organisation and deemed that young people's safety is protected. The organisation has informed my Department that the Ombudsman for Children has also completed an examination of the complaint and was satisfied that the organisation acted reasonably towards the complainant.

The organisation is obliged to adhere to the requirements of the recently enacted provisions of the Children First Act 2015 and has provided written confirmation to my Department that the requisite Child Safeguarding Statement and risk assessment is completed.

I have asked my officials to seek a written report on this matter from the organisation concerned.

Child Protection

 47. 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 is satisfied that each voluntary organisation in receipt of funding from her Department is meeting child protection requirements; her views on whether sufficient steps are being taken to ensure that this is the case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18800/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Children First Act 2015 places a number of statutory obligations on organisations providing relevant services to children. These obligations include: a requirement to keep children safe from harm while they are availing of the service; a requirement to carry out a risk assessment, and, a requirement to prepare a child safeguarding statement which sets out the policies and procedures which are in place to mitigate these risks. 

  The obligations of all Government Departments, including my own, regarding the oversight of bodies which provide a relevant service and which are funded by Departments are set out in section 27 of the Children First Act. 

  Section 27 requires each Government Department to prepare and publish a Sectorial Implementation Plan that outlines the programme of measures to be taken to ensure that the Department, and any body that provides a relevant service and receives funding from that Department, complies with the provisions of the Act.

  The Sectorial Implementation Plan for my Department, which was published in March 2018, is available on www.dcya.gov.ie.

  Funding provided by my Department to any organisation is contingent on that organisation meeting with a range of governance requirements.  This includes its commitment to, and compliance with, all legal requirements in the area of child protection as set out in the Children First Act 2015. In cases where I am not satisfied that governance requirements are being met, including those in relation to child protection, funding may be withdrawn.

Departmental Contracts

 48. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone further to Parliamentary Question No. 12 of 22 February 2018, her plans to examine her Department's relationship with Pobal with a view to forming a closer statutory relationship; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [18842/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Pobal is a not-for-profit company, which works on behalf of the Irish Government in managing programmes that contribute to social inclusion, equality and reconciliation.

Pobal operates under the aegis of Department of Rural and Community Development (DCRD). Consequently, any decisions regarding its structure or statutory relationships require the consideration of my cabinet colleague, Minister Ring, the officials of his department, and the Pobal Board.

The services Pobal provides to my Department are managed under a multi-level governance framework, specifically service level agreements, programmes of work, and individual programme agreements, all of which are monitored closely via regular high level management meetings. My Department has no immediate plans to revise the basis for our relationship with Pobal.

As I previously stated in this chamber on the 22nd  February 2018, my Department plans to conduct a review of the systems and structures which exist nationally and locally to support childcare provision in this country. This will include the role of City and County Childcare Committees, Pobal, and various National Voluntary Childcare Organisations.  This review is the subject of another PQ submitted by the Deputy, PQ 18841, and that response addresses this matter also.

My Department is currently developing a 10-year, cross-Government Early Years Strategy which will include significant content relating to early years care and education and school age childcare. I plan to publish this strategy in the Autumn. It is important that the review of systems and structures takes account of the policy direction set in the strategy and hence the review will commence in tandem with publication of the Early Years Strategy.

Early Childhood Care and Education Programmes

 49. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Information on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Zoom on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if consideration is being given to the reintroduction of three enrolment points to the early childhood care and education scheme in order to facilitate greater flexibility and accessibility by families; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [18751/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone From September 2018, all children meeting the minimum age requirement of 2 years and 8 months will be eligible for a full two programme years on the Early Childhood Care and Education programme (ECCE). The upper age ECCE requirement is that the child must not reach 5 years and 6 months before the end of the programme year.

Some children will not be able to commence their ECCE in September 2018 as they will not have reached the age of 2 years and 8 months on or before 31st August 2018. However, they will be able to commence ECCE in September 2019, and continue for a further year from September 2020, commencing school in September 2021. Parents of children born around this time of the year may prefer for their children to start school at 4 rather than 5. These parents may therefore choose to avail of 1 year of ECCE only. However, it is important to note that this is a parental choice and that the overall policy change has ensured that two programme years are available to all children, an improvement on the system as it has operated to date.  

This extension to ECCE from September 2018 refines the development introduced last year, whereby three intake dates were adopted, and will increase the duration of each registered child on ECCE from a current average of 61 weeks, to an entitlement to 76 weeks (two programme years). This enhancement delivers fully on a commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government that is good for children, families and Early Years providers.

This new measure will also address the situation where there was a wide range in the number of preschool weeks a child could avail of – between 61 and 88 weeks – and will ensure a programme that is equitable for all children.

The number of entry points will revert to one at the beginning of the new programme year (September, 2018). One enrolment period at the start of the pre-school year will help streamline the administration process and will make it easier for childcare providers to operate and budget for the programme year. This will also make it easier for parents to secure places on the ECCE programme for their children.

At a broader level, I announced on the 6th December 2017 that I have put a pause on the decision to remove the ECCE over age exemption so that further consultation with parents of children with disabilities can occur. Until the consultation is complete, and both the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Education and Skills have time to consider its findings, the overage exemption will continue to be available.

Youth Services

 50. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Seán Sherlock Zoom on Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on whether the State should have a representative on the board of an organisation (details supplied) to protect the interests of taxpayers. [18785/18]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I have no plans at the present time to have a representative on the board of Scouting Ireland. Scouting Ireland is one of a number of youth organisations funded by my Department and each funded organisation must comply with strict governance standards including compliance with all legislative obligations.

My Department has a duty of care with regard to public funding and to protect the interest of taxpayers.  All youth organisations in receipt of public funding are required to adhere to the public financial management principles associated with grant funding provided from the public purse.  Youth organisations are notified of their obligations in this regard on receipt of their annual letters of allocation.  In addition youth organisations in receipt of funding under the Youth Service Grant Scheme are subject to random verification visits from Pobal, who administer funding on behalf of my Department.

I met with Scouting Ireland on Thursday 19th April to discuss my concerns in relation to the governance of the organisation.  During the course of that meeting I was informed of the organisation’s plans to reform the governance of the organisation and put new structures in place. I sincerely hope that the organisation will continue to engage effectively to address the outstanding issues relating to the standards of governance within the organisation.


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