Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Children in Care (Continued)
 Header Item Value for Money Reviews
 Header Item Foster Care Provision

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 858 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 73 Next Page Last Page

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan] I will certainly forward the information to him. We have talked about other programmes which were very much in favour of early childhood care and school completion, but even before that we must provide these women and their babies with a good start. I will send on the information, because that is the reality.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I used the word "astonished". Equally, I would be horrified if that were the case.

Value for Money Reviews

 9. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly when the value for money and policy review of youth schemes, including the young people's facilities and services fund, will be published; if this will be followed by consultations with stakeholders; and if he will provide a date for a meeting of the national assessment committee.  [43932/14]

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan A value for money and policy review was carried out on the young people's facilities and services fund. Those involved with young people are wondering when it will be published and if there will be consultation with stakeholders. Allied with that is the national assessment committee, which has not met in quite some time. Again, those involved with young people are anxious to have that monitoring committee meet again.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly The value for money and policy review of the youth programmes that target young people at risk of disadvantage, including the young people's facilities and services fund, has been finalised. The review recommends changes to youth funding programmes to ensure evidence-based, effective, value-for-money services that secure the best outcomes for young people, particularly vulnerable young people. I intend that all stakeholders providing services for young people will have the opportunity to discuss the review's findings and recommendations. My Department has developed a detailed consultation plan, which will be launched before Christmas. I have met with leaders in the area to assure them that they will have a meaningful consultation on the implementation of the findings of the report.

Consultation with stakeholders will take place in the context of the national youth strategy being developed by my Department. The strategy will have a particular focus on young people who are vulnerable and need additional supports. The intention is to work collaboratively with youth service interests, including national youth organisations and education and training board youth officers, to see how the review's recommendations will be implemented over the next two years in the context of the national youth strategy. The National Youth Council of Ireland, the City of Dublin Youth Service Board and the community and voluntary representatives who have served on the national assessment committee will have an important role in this process.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan I have a particular interest in the young people's facilities and services fund. When it was originally established in the late 1990s, I chaired the development group for the north inner city, and I was very aware of the extent of the consultation that went on at that stage. The fund has done great work and targets areas in which young people are most at risk from drugs. While every community, town and village is at risk from drugs, there are some areas that are particularly vulnerable. I represent some of them. The fund addressed these issues, but it has gone off the boil recently. It is important to bring an impetus back to this. Just this week, two young people died in the inner city from a new drug called ice. That is the reality of what is happening on the ground. It is important to keep an eye on whom the fund targets. While it is good that the review will come before Christmas and that the consultation process will begin quickly, I ask that the Minister listen to the front-line workers who are working with young people in those areas.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly The Department is absolutely committed to the consultation process. The Deputy mentioned the monitoring group, and we will certainly look to see when that will meet again. I inform the House that arrangements are being made by my Department to publish the value-for-money review in the coming weeks and to convene a meeting of the national assessment committee promptly thereafter.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan I hope the key word is "promptly". I asked a question of the Deputy's predecessor about when the national assessment committee would be meeting. It was almost as if it was not considered necessary because the funding had been set up. However, the committee keeps an eye on what the report is doing, which is ensuring that the funding, services and facilities go to those who are most at risk. It is also ensuring that there is value for money and an evidence-based approach. It is very important that the national assessment committee, to which the Minister is committed, meets more regularly. It is quite some time since it has met. In the meantime, services and facilities have continued to be provided, and the committee wants to meet to ensure they are going to the most at-risk areas.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I thank the Deputy for her comments. I agree that the national assessment committee should meet on a regular basis. I have made the point in reply to earlier questions that we are very concerned across Government, as I am in my own Department, that our policies are evidence-based and that the money we spend delivers the outcomes we desire - that is, better outcomes for children. There have been various reports across different agencies which suggest that things could be done differently and more effectively, and we must address those issues. Some of them may be real and some imagined, but unless we have hard, objective evidence we cannot make those calls. In fairness to everyone working in the sector, they all want to improve outcomes for young people. As I said in reply to the first question, I express my gratitude and that of the Government and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs for the fantastic volunteerism in the sector.

Foster Care Provision

 10. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly how he proposes to address the crisis in the number of persons offering themselves for foster parenting; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [43974/14]

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy How does the Minister propose to address the crisis in the number of people offering themselves for foster parenting, particularly in the north Dublin city area?

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Fostering is one of the main components of care for children in care, and it is a very successful one. When we compare ourselves internationally, we can see that we have one of the highest rates of family-based care and that other countries are striving towards what we have already achieved. The idea of many children being in institutions is now really a thing of the past, and rightly so. Overall, the foster care role is well funded and the take-up of the fostering service provided through the Child and Family Agency is high. Of children in care, 93% are being cared for in a foster care setting by around 4,250 foster carers.

While I do not consider that there is a crisis, in light of the success we are having in delivering foster care, I note that it can sometimes be a challenge to place children within their local communities, which we want to do. The Deputy has mentioned a particular area. That said, there is an ongoing need to recruit, as foster carers may come off the register for various reasons, including age, health or simply the demands of their own family lives. A fostering recruitment campaign for Dublin north city was launched by the Minister of State with responsibility for equality, new communities and culture only last week. I understand it went very well and that the public response has been positive.

On foot of the robust process of training and assessment that potential foster carers must complete, we only bring onto the foster care panel those who are suitable and dedicated carers. Children and adolescents in care do not form a uniform group. Some can have moderate or severe disabilities and, perhaps, anger and trust issues. They may have different language, cultural and dietary needs. They may be in the company of siblings. As the Deputy can imagine, we require a complex mix of skills, capabilities and experience on the foster carer panel in order to deliver the best service possible. The agency and organisations such as the Irish Foster Care Association keep fostering in the public eye with general and targeted campaigns. I had the pleasure of opening the association's conference at the weekend.

While I do not agree that there is a crisis, we can never take for granted that there are enough foster carers available to support children and their families at a very vulnerable time in their lives. We need to continue to recruit suitable and loving foster carers and to publicise the fact that fostering delivers great benefits for children, their families and their communities. Such is the bond that grows between foster parents and their children that a huge number of children continue to be supported emotionally and financially by their foster parents after the age of 18.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I acknowledge that the care provided through fostering is at a high level, which is only right and proper. However, one third of the children put forward for fostering in the north Dublin city area to date in 2014 have had to be housed outside their area. That means they were removed from their own communities, taken out of the schools they were attending and taken away from friends. That is not right or proper. While the Minister might not have the details about the specific area now, I would welcome it if he would come back to me with information on how we can attract extra foster parents in the north Dublin city area.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I am happy to do that.

  Written Answers follow Adjournment.


Last Updated: 26/09/2016 10:30:00 First Page Previous Page Page of 73 Next Page Last Page