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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 998-1012
 Header Item Child Care Services Funding
 Header Item National Lottery Funding Applications
 Header Item Child Care Services Funding
 Header Item Child Care Services Funding
 Header Item Preschool Services
 Header Item Child Care Qualifications
 Header Item Preschool Services
 Header Item Children in Care
 Header Item Health Services Staff
 Header Item Child Care Qualifications

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 842 No. 1

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Written Answers Nos. 998-1012

  Questions Nos. 998 and 999 answered with Question No. 993.

Child Care Services Funding

 1000. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will provide details of any funding his Department may have available for persons to apply for in order to set up a mother and toddler group for children. [22667/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Funding of €0.25 million is being provided in 2014 to support the Parent and Toddler Initiative which is administered by the City and County Childcare Committees. This Initiative provides grants to parent and toddler groups with a particular focus on disadvantaged areas. Requests for information about the Initiative can be made to the local Childcare Committee.

National Lottery Funding Applications

 1001. Deputy John Lyons Information on John Lyons Zoom on John Lyons asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if a date has been set for the next round of national lottery funding at his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [22681/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Details of the National Lottery Grant Scheme 2014 have been available on my Department's website since Friday, 2 May, 2014. An initial closing date for applications has been set for Friday, 6th June, 2014. The amount available under the scheme this year is €910,000. The four main priority areas under this year's scheme are as follows:

- Culture, play and recreation.

- Children and young people led initiatives.

- Healthy Lifestyles for Children and Young people including innovative new projects aimed at emerging issues for children such as smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption, cyber bullying etc.

- To provide marginalised groups with access to extra-curricular activity based projects.

  Further applications my be sought later in the year depending on the initial number of suitable applications received. Any further updates in this regard will be announced on my Department's website at the appropriate time.

Child Care Services Funding

 1002. Deputy John Lyons Information on John Lyons Zoom on John Lyons asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if funding is available from his Department to install essential wheelchair lifts and accessibility improvements at child care groups (details supplied) in Dublin 11.  [22682/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Capital funding grants to child care services for major developments were discontinued following a review by Government of all capital expenditure in 2009. In 2012 and 2013 capital funding totalling €9 million was secured by my predecessor under two capital programmes to support ongoing improvement of established child care services participating in one or more of the child care support programmes implemented by my Department. Funding totalling €73,872 was approved for the child care service referred to by the Deputy under the 2012 capital programme to provide for the purchase of equipment. The Child care service in question did not submit an application for funding under the 2013 capital programme.

Capital funding of €2.5 million is being provided in 2014 under the Early Years Childcare Capital 2014 programme for maintenance and upgrade of community/not-for-profit child care services. The objective of this funding is to ensure that previously-funded community facilities remain fit-for-purpose, maintain and improve quality, and to make community services more efficient and sustainable through improving the energy rating of these facilities. I understand that an application in respect of heating and insulation projects by this group has been received by Pobal who are administering the programme on behalf of my Department. The funding available to my Department does not allow for further capital grants in the current year.

Child Care Services Funding

 1003. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the position regarding an application for capital funding in respect of an organisation (details supplied). [22706/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Capital funding of €2.5 million is being provided in 2014 under the Early Years Childcare Capital 2014 programme for the maintenance and upgrade of community/not-for-profit child care services. The objective of this funding is to ensure that previously-funded community facilities remain fit-for-purpose, maintain and improve quality, and to make community services more efficient and sustainable through improving the energy rating of these facilities. I understand that an application in respect of this facility has been received by Pobal, who are administering this programme on behalf of my Department. Pobal has now commenced the process of appraising all of the applications. All applicants will be advised of the outcome as soon as possible.

Preschool Services

 1004. Deputy Noel Harrington Information on Noel Harrington Zoom on Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if the free preschool year in respect of a child (details supplied) in County Cork can be deferred until September 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [22761/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme provides one free preschool year to all eligible children before the commence primary school. The programme includes a number of additional provisions to take account of children with special needs. These include an exemption from the upper age limit for qualification under the programme where a child is developmentally delayed and would benefit from starting primary school at a later age. In addition, children with special needs can apply to have the preschool year split over two years on a pro-rata basis, for example availing of the programme for 2 days a week in the first year and for 3 days a week in the second year. Applications for exemptions are considered by officials in the Early Years Policies and Programmes unit in my Department. I have asked officials to examine the documentation submitted by the Deputy and to write directly to the parents in this matter.

Child Care Qualifications

 1005. Deputy John O'Mahony Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive a decision on their child care training grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [22772/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As part of the child care quality agenda aimed at improving the quality of child care services, new qualification requirements for child care staff working directly with children were announced last year. A minimum qualification of Level 5 (or equivalent) on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) will be required for all staff working with children in preschool services. The minimum qualification for all preschool leaders delivering the free preschool year under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme will be increased from Level 5 to Level 6 (or equivalent) on the NFQ. The new qualification requirements will apply to all new services from September 2014, and to all existing services by September 2015.

To support staff who are seeking to meet the new qualifications requirement, funding of €3 million is being made available over the two years 2014/2015 under the new Learner Fund which was launched in March this year. The Fund is being administered by Pobal, with the assistance of local City and County Childcare Committees (CCCs). The CCCs are currently reviewing the applications for support and it is expected that all applicants will be informed of the outcome following completion of the process in June.

Preschool Services

 1006. Deputy Billy Timmins Information on Billy Timmins Zoom on Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the position regarding Tallaght Hospital crèche (details supplied).  [22879/14]

 1009. Deputy Lucinda Creighton Information on Lucinda Creighton Zoom on Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the total number of submissions his Department or the newly established Child and Family Agency have received from operating crèches, proprietors of crèches or other parties who fund the operation of crèches, or parents of children attending crèches expressing concern that new regulations from the child and family support agency Tusla for 2015 will prove too costly for crèches to meet and could pose risks to either the continued operation of crèches or increased costs for parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [22997/14]

 1010. Deputy Lucinda Creighton Information on Lucinda Creighton Zoom on Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he, his Department or the newly established Child and Family Agency have received any written or oral representations from Tallaght Hospital contending that proposed regulations from Tusla for 2015 will mean the forced closure of its Small World crèche, which has been operating for the past 11 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [22998/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I propose to take Questions Nos. 1006, 1009 and 1010 together.

Almost all the preschool services in this country are provided by commercial or community providers. A small number are provided in workplace locations. All of these services are developed in response to local or employment needs and the ongoing viability of such enterprises is a matter for the service providers. My Department has no responsibility in relation to the sustainability of individual services. I am not aware of any representations from Tallaght Hospital to my Department in relation to the child care facility referred to by the Deputy. However a number of written representations by and on behalf of parents who use the facility have been received.

The recent enactment through the Child and Family Agency Act 2013 of amendments to the Child Care Act 1991 underpins a number of key reforms being introduced as part of the Preschool Quality Agenda. The amended legislation strengthens the current inspection regime, provides a statutory basis for the registration of early years services, and also provides for the setting of minimum qualification standards for staff working with children in early years services. To provide for the implementation of the changes to the Act it will be necessary to amend or make additions to the current Regulations in a number of areas, and these are currently being finalised. New National Quality Standards will also be published. It is not intended to impose any additional costs on services as a result of the new regulations, other than an increase in the annual fee payable by services to the Early Years Inspectorate. In the case of the service in question, the increase in the fee payable is expected to be in the region of €80 per annum.

My Department has introduced measures to support training for child care staff to enable them to upskill to meet the increased qualification requirements and €3 million is being made available over the next two years for this initiative. A key element of the Preschool Quality Agenda is to strengthen the preschool inspection system nationally. My Department is working with the Early Years Inspectorate to develop new protocols on regulatory compliance so that there is greater clarity and consistency of approach. I am confident that these reforms will provide for a more consistent and robust preschool inspection regime. I have asked the Child and Family Agency to examine if any representations from the hospital have been received by them in respect of the child care facility, and to reply directly to the Deputy in this matter.

Children in Care

 1007. Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will consider liaising with management at the Child and Family Agency with a view to directing all social care and educational establishments that children in care should not be allowed or encouraged to break the law by being allowed to smoke and drink while under age and in State care; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [22885/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am advised by the Child and Family Agency that it adopts a common sense approach to its corporate parenting responsibilities. Children are not allowed to smoke and/or consume alcohol in any Child and Family Agency establishment. Where a child has been smoking and or consuming alcohol, engagement in smoking cessation and alcohol awareness programmes are encouraged.

  Question No. 1008 answered with Question No. 993.

  Questions Nos. 1009 and 1010 answered with Question No. 1006.

Health Services Staff

 1011. Deputy Ciara Conway Information on Ciara Conway Zoom on Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan further to Parliamentary Question No. 701 of 30 April 2014, if there is any further update on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23059/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am informed by the Child and Family Agency that this matter continues to be part of a Labour Relations Commission conciliation process which is ongoing. It would therefore be inappropriate for me to comment at this point in time.

Child Care Qualifications

 1012. Deputy Michael McCarthy Information on Michael McCarthy Zoom on Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the minimum qualification necessary for and training required by persons taking up positions in child care; the advice available to a person (details supplied) in County Cork who was recently informed that their qualifications are no longer recognised; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [23331/14]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As part of the child care quality agenda aimed at improving the quality of child care services, new qualification requirements for child care staff working directly with children were announced last year. A minimum qualification of Level 5 (or equivalent) on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) will be required for all staff working with children in preschool services. The minimum qualification for all preschool leaders delivering the free preschool year under the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme will be increased from Level 5 to Level 6 (or equivalent) on the NFQ. The new qualification requirements will apply to all new services from September 2014, and to all existing services from September 2015. It is not possible to determine, from the information supplied, if the qualifications of the person referred to by Deputy satisfy the new criteria. The documentation certifying the qualifications should be submitted to the Early Years Policies and Programme unit in my Department for evaluation.


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