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 Header Item Departmental Budgets (Continued)
 Header Item School Completion Programme

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald] For example, some adjustments had to be made in respect of expenditure for child and adolescent mental health, which was mistakenly included under the Child and Family Support Agency budget. Some of the changes, therefore, reflect differences in categorisation.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Will the Minister provide information on the matter?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Yes, I will be pleased to provide the Deputy with the relevant information. As he will be aware, when I first assumed responsibility for this budget last year it was €72 million overdrawn, which is an extraordinary figure. Significant progress has been made in this regard. For example, the Government allocated an additional €40 million last year and major efforts to achieve savings this year resulted in a reduction in expenditure of €20 million. I expect the low overspend towards the end of this year will be carried forward to the agency. However, given that the overspend was €72 million at one stage, substantial progress has been made.

Extra demands are being placed on the service. For example, decisions must be taken in respect of children who require special care and these will give rise to considerable expense. I am in favour of recruiting more foster families who would be in a position to provide high quality care to such children at a different cost. The option of residential care is extraordinarily expensive and the outcomes are not very good in some cases.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Have the lessons learned from the tragic incidents of recent years, to which the Minister alluded, given rise to an arrangement or agreement within the Department? Do any of the Departments with responsibility for this matter have an early warning system or other mechanism in place to alert other Departments to the possibility that children are at risk, whether at school or in the youth services? Such an approach would result in greater co-ordination and a rapid response.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald One of the most useful initiatives we took last year was to republish the Children First guidelines with a manual to ensure people understand the issues when children are at risk and know when to refer children appropriately to child and family support services and child protection services. Significant work has been done by the various agencies involved in this area. Teachers, for example, have done much work to ensure child welfare concerns are referred to the appropriate services. Sporting organisations have also been active and I recently attended a morning organised by the GAA for people from all over the country.

The usual procedure for Departments is that individual cases would be referred to the Health Service Executive and child and family services. This is how children in such circumstances are identified in the first instance. In terms of policy issues, which I understand are what the Deputy has in mind, a great deal of cross-departmental work is being done. Bullying is one area where Departments are taking joint initiatives to ensure a cross-departmental approach is taken. Such an approach will succeed in helping children.

School Completion Programme

 67. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her plans regarding the school completion programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56703/12]

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The school completion programme aims to retain young people in the formal education system to completion of senior cycle and to improve children’s participation and attendance in school. In 2013, €26.456 million in funding has been allocated to this programme. The programme comprises 124 projects throughout the country. It is managed and directed by the National Educational Welfare Board, NEWB, and funding is administered by my Department. It is intended to undertake a review of the programme in 2013. The review will address the potential to promote outcomes within available resources through greater consistency and efficiency in the administration and delivery of the programme. The review will be undertaken in conjunction with the NEWB and in consultation with the Department of Education and Skills.

The findings of the review will also inform the NEWB’s ongoing work to implement an integrated national approach to educational support services to enhance children’s attendance, participation and retention in schools. This approach incorporates the co-ordination of the board’s responsibilities in the three areas of the school completion programme, home school community liaison service and education welfare service.

Next year will also see the establishment of the Child and Family Support Agency and incorporation of the education welfare services operated by the NEWB within a broader and more comprehensive range of supports to children and families.

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