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 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries (Continued)
 Header Item Other Questions
 Header Item DEIS Scheme

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 944 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone]  As I have previously outlined, given the wide remit of the commission's work, it has been necessary for me to engage with Cabinet colleagues on issues in the report which extend beyond my remit as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. I acknowledge that the process has taken longer than I initially envisaged. I am very sensitive to the expectations of former residents and their advocates who want to see the contents of the report.

I do not believe it would be helpful today to respond to media speculation on the contents of the report in advance of the full report being made public. Publishing the report has been the focus of my approach since I received it from the commission. It is open to the commission to recommend any remedies it deems appropriate in light of the findings of its final reports.

My Department will contact representative groups to advise of developments in this regard prior to any public announcement.

I can assure Deputies that the time being taken by Government to consider this interim report is not hindering progress in the commission's ongoing investigations.

My Department has an information line in operation to provide factual information in regard to the commission's remit and its reports to date. This line is open during office hours and relevant details are available on my Department's website. There is also a telephone line available for people seeking details of the support available to those affected by these issues.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I thank the Minister for the last part of her reply regarding available information and telephone lines.

I am very concerned that the timeline for publication will not be met. The Minister said in the Dáil that she would be publishing the second interim report of the commission by the end of this month. The Minister's answer indicates that will not be the case. The report has been with the Minister for eight months, since 27 July. Reading between the lines, there appears to be something in the recommendations that the Government is not keen to implement, such as a proposal for a redress scheme or similar. I may be wrong about that.

I urge the Minister to publish the interim report. There are many people whose lives have been turned upside down by the information that came out in Tuam and who are very concerned.

I also ask the Minister about the scoping exercise that she said she would carry out regarding the expansion of the terms of reference of the commission of investigation.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I know exactly what I said in the Dáil. It is a great disappointment to me that I will not be able to deliver on that by the end of this month. The extension is due to the time required to respond to some of the report's recommendations in a different way than perhaps has been done in the past. This has proven extremely challenging.

  I am very happy to say that there is significant engagement across Government Departments to find that way. I am having more meetings this week.   As I said before, I hope I will soon be able to indicate when I will be ready.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan In the interests of transparency and public knowledge, would the Minister consider publishing the report even if she has not got the full Government response? People are entitled to see what is in the report. The Minister could explain that it is possible to respond to certain areas but that a response has not yet been formulated in regard to other areas. I think that would be the right thing to do. I ask the Minister to consider that.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am being transparent in terms of the process. I appreciate that people would like to see it as soon as possible. I understand that as well as anyone in this Chamber because of the work that I have been doing on that report in regard to a number of survivors and advocates. It has probably taken more of my time in the past couple of months than anything else in the Department. In my discernment, I have decided it is more helpful if the Government can have a little more time to formulate a plan for responding to the recommendations of the commission. I appreciate that Deputy Jan O'Sullivan may disagree but that is my discernment.

Other Questions

DEIS Scheme

 21. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the impact that the recent Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools, DEIS, announcements will have on the work that is being carried out with young persons in the school completion programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14938/17]

Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin: Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin I ask the Minister to indicate the impact the recent DEIS announcements will have on the work that is being done with young people in the schools completion programme and if she would make a statement on the matter. This is particularly in regard to schools where the DEIS status has been taken away and one school in County Kildare which I will give details of.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone First, I want to welcome the publication of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools plan 2017. The DEIS plan aims to achieve a more robust assessment framework for identifying schools and allocating resources. It also seeks to support best practice in schools through inter-agency collaboration. The educational welfare service of Tusla will be very important in this regard. The implementation of these and other key goals in the plan will lead to an improved learning experience and outcomes for pupils attending DEIS schools.

The educational welfare service of Tusla, officials from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Education and Skills will be meeting in the coming weeks to discuss the inclusion in the school completion programme of schools that have been included in the DEIS programme for the first time in 2017. The group will also examine schools that are currently in the school completion programme but do not have DEIS status. Following these meetings, proposals will be developed and given to me for consideration. I anticipate that any changes that may result from this process will not come into effect until September 2018 at the earliest. In this regard, the educational welfare service has confirmed that no changes are planned in relation to the school completion programme for the 2017-18 school year. No new schools are entering or leaving the programme.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs continues to work with the educational welfare service to implement the recommendations of the Economic and Social Research Institute report on the school completion programme and to make sure that children and young people get the best outcome possible for our investment. Tusla has taken a number of actions to address the findings of that report and to strengthen the operation of the programme for the future.

I am strongly committed to the continued support and development of the school completion programme. I believe that the new DEIS plan will play a valuable role in that regard.

Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin: Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin I thank the Minister for her response. I note that she welcomes the delivery of the report and all the positive aspects that DEIS status can bring to a school. It is therefore even more concerning when DEIS status is taken from a school.

I recently asked the Minister about the very difficult situation in Kildare where not one school received a new status. The Minister assured me that DEIS status would not be taken from any school there. In early March, one of the schools in my constituency, Kildare community school, was informed by letter from the Department that its DEIS status would be taken from it. I have tried to raise this under Topical Issues since then. There is an anomaly that the school completion programme is with Tusla and the two cross over, which is why I only have the opportunity to raise it with the Minister. I ask that this issue be raised when officials from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs meet with those of the Department of Education and Skills.

There are 880 students in Kildare community school. More than 250 of them are expected to avail of various DEIS supports available. Of the students, 60% come from DEIS primary schools. It is a great school but it is dependent on extra supports from the DEIS scheme.


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