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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 360-364
 Header Item Departmental Properties
 Header Item Youth Services
 Header Item Foster Care Provision
 Header Item Early Childhood Education
 Header Item Adoption Records Protection

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 802 No. 1

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Written Answers Nos. 360-364

Departmental Properties

 360. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if her Department and agencies under its aegis, who own or rent property in commercial developments are in compliance with their responsibilities under the Multi Unit Development Act 2011; if she will outline those agencies who have representation on the boards of owners management companies; if she will provide a list of the agency, the relevant management company and its associated property but not the name of the individual representing the said agency; and her views on the implementation process of the Multi Unit Development act within her Department. [21240/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I can confirm to the Deputy that the provisions of the Multi-Unit Development Act 2011 do not apply to any properties under the control of my Department or its agencies.

Youth Services

 361. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald further to Parliamentary Question No. 199 of 25 April 2013, if she will investigate the Kerry Diocesan Youth Service funding. [21277/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The overall budget for the youth sector in 2013 is €53.498 million. Within this total funding, €1.75 million has been provided for a new capital funding programme. This funding supports the delivery of a range of youth work programmes and services for all young people, including those from disadvantaged communities, by the voluntary youth work sector. The Youth Service referred to by the Deputy administers a number of youth projects under the Special Projects for Youth Scheme and one Youth Information Service and the allocation provided by my Department for these projects is €511,465 in 2013. Having regard to the savings requirements identified in the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, which amount to €5.393 million in 2013, my Department has tried to ensure in the determination process for the allocations that front-line youth services, particularly those for the most vulnerable young people, are protected as far as possible from the impact of any necessary reductions in funding.

  There is no doubt that the current budgetary situation is challenging for many organisations. In considering how best to manage within the allocations available, organisations are being asked to consider the scope for reducing administration costs and other overheads and to work closely with their local VEC that administers the funding on behalf of my Department, in order to maintain the front-line services for young people particularly for those young people who may be disadvantaged. My Department is developing a new youth policy framework for publication later this year. The new youth policy framework will aim to enhance the provision of youth services and activities and will, inter alia, promote co-ordination between Government Departments and youth sector organisations with a view to maximising the effectiveness of the State funding available to support services for young people in future years.

Foster Care Provision

 362. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the progress made to date in relation to each of the actions set down in the Health Information and Quality Authority report, Inspection of the Health Service Executive Dublin North West Local Health Area Fostering Service in the HSE Dublin North East Region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21338/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald HIQA undertakes inspection of foster care services against the National Standards for Foster Care, under Section 69 of the Child Care Act 1991. The purpose of foster care inspections is to review compliance with regulations and standards for all children. HIQA's inspection methodology includes interviewing HSE managers and social workers, a sample of children, carers and birth parents and review a range of files, including complaints.

Foster care services in the HSE Dublin North West Area have been inspected by HIQA on three occasions since September 2009, most recently in October 2012. Progress was noted particularly in the area of foster care assessment, approval and training with all general foster carers approved and significant improvements in the area of relative foster carers. Some 96% of children in foster care had been visited by a social worker within the preceding six months. Notwithstanding such progress, I was concerned to note that inspectors found that some deficits identified previously had not been rectified. Allegations made against a small number of foster carers had not been fully resolved. Inspectors found that there were inadequacies in systems to assess risk and to investigate and take timely action in response to concerns. File keeping, data collection and analysis were also found to be lacking.

The inspection also found that sufficient foster carers have not been recruited within the area. This has provided difficulties in making placements and matching children with particular needs with the most suitable carers. Recruitment of foster carers is of concern more generally. It is intended to conduct a national recruitment campaign in the coming months. An Action Plan to address the weaknesses identified was prepared by HIQA. In order to ensure the Action Plan is fully implemented, I have asked the HSE to set up a high-level oversight process to be led by the Head of Quality Assurance to ensure implementation of all the HIQA recommendations. This group is now established and includes Dr. Valerie O'Brien of UCD who has researched extensively in the area foster care. The group will report to me on progress on a monthly basis. I expect to receive the first of these reports shortly. Recently, I met Mr. Gordon Jeyes, who is Chief Executive Designate of the Child and Family Support Agency, to review the actions under way to address the critical issues identified.

Early Childhood Education

 363. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if any exceptions may be made for a child (details supplied) in County Kildare whose parents wish to utilise the free pre-school year this year even though the child fall just outside the age limit; the options open to the child's parents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21430/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The ECCE programme provides a free preschool year to all eligible children. Approximately 68,000 children are availing of the ECCE programme in the current school year. Children are eligible to avail of the free preschool year if they are aged more than 3 years and 2 months and less than 4 years and 7 months at 1 September in the relevant year. Children born between 2 February 2009 and 30 June 2010 will qualify for the free preschool year in September 2013 and children born between 2 February 2010 and 30 June 2011 will qualify for the programme in September 2014. As the child referred to by the Deputy was born in July 2010, he is below the age range for eligibility for the programme in the 2013-14 school year. If a child qualifies for the free preschool year and is also eligible to enrol in primary school, it is a matter for the parents to choose which option they wish the child to avail of. The objective of the ECCE programme is to make early learning in a formal setting available to eligible children in the year before they commence primary school. To achieve this, services participating in the preschool year are expected to provide age-appropriate activities and programmes to children within a particular age cohort. For this reason, it is appropriate to set minimum and maximum limits to the age range within which children will qualify. There is no provision under the programme to enrol children who are below the qualifying age.

Adoption Records Protection

 364. Deputy Charles Flanagan Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald in relation to the inter-country adoption costs, if she will request a copy of the report commissioned by the Adoption Authority of Ireland, in relation to a review of the fee schedule and costs being quoted by an Adoption Agency (details supplied), and if the result of the review will be published. [21463/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Under the Adoption Act 2010, the accreditation of agencies providing adoption services is a matter for the Adoption Authority. The Authority is obliged to fully satisfy itself of the fitness of any persons or body of persons to provide and undertake adoption services. This is covered in some detail by the Adoption Act, 2010 (Accredited Bodies) Regulation 2010. The Authority is examining a number of issues in relation to accredited agencies in general, including the levels of fees being charged by Irish agencies in relation to international norms. The Authority has indicated that the level of fees being charged by one agency, ARC, is in line with international norms. However, the Authority has asked ARC to amend the fee payment schedule to produce a more balanced staged payments structure. The Authority will advise me of the outcome of this examination in due course. My Department is examining the role of accredited agencies under the Adoption Act 2010, including the issue of operating costs. I am anxious to ensure such agencies are underpinned by sustainable financial structures which operate within international norms for adoption. Most importantly, all fee structures should be set at an appropriate level and deliver transparency for all the parties involved.


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