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 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries (Continued)
 Header Item Child Care Services Administration

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 944 No. 2

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Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire I thank the Minister for her answer. This matter was the subject of the Private Members' motion we discussed last week, the fate of which is as yet unclear. It will be voted on on Thursday but may well be defeated. If it is defeated, will the Minister consider some of the valuable proposals in the motion? One proposal sought to put in place an injunction or possibly other means to ensure that these sites of possible interest are protected in order that they can be investigated. Notwithstanding the points the Minister made that the uses of some of the sites have changed and many of them have been closed for several decades, not all of them have been. Some of them were still open until the late 1980s and early 1990s and some remain as they were. While I accept that the commission has a specific role in the matter, it cannot put in place any injunction or take any executive action, for want of a better term, to ensure that the sites are not interfered with. That is purely the remit of the Government and it will have documentation from the commission of investigation to guide it in the manner in which it acts.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am aware that the matter touches on the motion the Deputy tabled and I have already indicated in my response to the motion that it contains a number of proposals which I am considering and which we will facilitate and investigate. A certain amount of reflection and work is needed in order to make decisions to put in place the best response so that the whole truth is recovered.

Regarding the specific issue of an injunction, to which the Deputy refers in the question, I am advised that such applications cannot be sought on a preventative basis and that they are temporary in nature and used to prevent an imminent action from damaging the interests of the party who makes the application. I am not aware of specific circumstances in which such a consideration applies.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire I suggest that it would very likely be in the State's interest to intervene in situations in which there is a potential development in this regard, such as may be the case in a number of locations.

It is my understanding that the second interim report was before Cabinet this morning. On 27 July last year, the Minister issued a press release that stated that the commission was to report back in September. The Minister has committed to publishing such a report by the end of the month. It has still not been published, to my knowledge. I presume it will be published in the coming days. When does she intend to publish it? Furthermore, will the Minister outline the reason for the delay? The second interim report has been with her and her Department for some six months. This has caused a great deal of concern and anxiety among survivors. It is important we get a sense of the reason for the inordinate delay in the publication of the report. Furthermore, it has been reported that the report does not recommend an expansion of the terms of reference. This being the case, I believe that the commission is no longer fit for purpose.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am interested in Deputy Ó Laoghaire's comments on this matter. However, I will bring my response back to his original question to me. I will take up some of the other issues later in response to other questions.

Again, regarding the question of making decisions to bring forward injunctions, the Deputy argues the Government has a responsibility to do so and that it is something we should consider. I am saying I am not necessarily unwilling to consider it but I understand from the advice I have received that in order to do so we need to have it brought to our attention that there are some real concerns about a preventative measure in respect of different sites that may require an injunction on the basis of people who have an interest in that regard. I am open to hearing from these people and reconsidering the issue.

Child Care Services Administration

 18. 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 the status of the information technology infrastructure that will be used to deliver the single affordable child care scheme; her contingency plan if the information technology infrastructure is not ready by September 2017; if her attention has been drawn to the considerable inconvenience that a lack of infrastructure would cause parents and child care facilities alike; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15425/17]

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte I ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the status of the information technology infrastructure that will be used to deliver the single affordable child care scheme and her contingency plan if the information technology infrastructure is not ready by September.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Intense preparations are under way to deliver our ambitious goal of turning our child care system from one of the most expensive in the world to the best. What we are putting in place this year will benefit children and families for generations to come. It is vital we get this right. As the Deputy acknowledges, there is much work to do.

The Deputy is well aware, as a member of the Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, that the committee is involved in progressing the necessary legislation and there are business processes to be developed and data protection issues to address as well as a new and robust IT system.

We will need to integrate data from the Department of Social Protection and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and testing of the systems will have to be rigorous. This system must work for all families, no matter their circumstances. Despite the huge workload, my officials and those in other Government Departments and Pobal are determined that families will start getting extra money this autumn. This is our top priority. In order to guarantee these payments, some other work will take longer than expected. For example, the fully automated system will not be ready when families start benefiting from the increased subsidies. We are working with Pobal to ensure that our interim measures will deliver without any excessive administrative burden.

I do not want to put any extra unnecessary work on parents or the dedicated providers. I fully recognise that people need information. In the next few weeks, I will be in a position to provide a detailed update on delivery plans. Full information will then be made available to the public. However, let me emphasise that this is a huge undertaking. A rushed system which does not work would be a major setback which could take years to correct.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte I thank the Minister for her comments. I hear what she is saying, that we will pay the price for a rushed effort in the long run. However, many parents and child care providers are asking what will happen in the interim, how they will avail of the scheme, how they will apply for it, where they will find the time to fill out the forms and, if self-employed, whether they will apply to the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Social Protection or the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Who will take ownership of the scheme in the interim? It is clear the priority is that the parents will be able to avail of the funding; how they will access it is the question. In the interim, it is back to paper, but who will take ownership? I assume the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will do so, but where will the parents go? Will they go to the child care provider again or will they have to sit at home and manually apply for the scheme? If they apply but do not have all the information, for example, from the Department of Social Protection or the Revenue Commissioners, where will the shortfall be caught from?

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I thank the Deputy for her questions. My Department is taking responsibility for the scheme and, as I have indicated, we intend within the next short while to outline our answers to all the questions the Deputy asks. I accept, and I appreciate that she accepts, that significant and complex work must be done in respect of the IT system and that in order to do it we need more time than we had anticipated. However, it is better to get it right because it is the basis for generations to come. In addition to continuing this substantial work, my Department has been engaged in developing a set of interim measures which we believe will work effectively to ensure that parents and providers will receive the moneys we have promised from September 2017. We will have a full information programme to identify the ways in which providers and parents will access this, and that delivery will be as streamlined as possible.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte There is a comfort in the Minister's answer that her Department is taking ownership of the scheme. That is fantastic because hers is probably one of the hardest working Departments.

She is right that the work required is significant and very complex. However, the providers need to know when the parents come to them to ask questions and enrol in the scheme if they are to tell those parents through which office they will do so in the interim. What are we saying to the providers? Are we saying that funding could be found for them for extra non-contact hours? There will be a significant workload for them. Does the Department of Children and Youth Affairs have any plans to announce any extra little bit of funding so that they would be able to take on the extra workload that will now be put upon them?


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