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 Child Care Services
 Header Item Aftercare Services Provision

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 944 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page

Child Care Services

 28. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if the IT portal that will be used to receive applications for the affordable child care scheme due to be introduced in September 2017 will be ready to both receive applications and calculate the level of support to be given for each child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15137/17]

 65. 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 system for administering the single affordable child care scheme; if it will be available for September 2017; and if not, the alternative arrangements that she will put in place. [15221/17]

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I probably do not need to introduce the question as it is similar to the priority question asked by Deputy Rabbitte in respect of the information technology, IT, portal for the new scheme to be introduced in September. As we know that it will not be fully ready, perhaps we can concentrate on what can be done for providers and parents in terms of setting up a system that will be clear and available in time so that there will not be confusion when the time comes.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 65 together.

The policy paper for the introduction of the affordable child care scheme was approved by Government in October 2016. Since then, officials of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Pobal have been working intensively to plan for the implementation of this scheme.

This is an extremely complex and ambitious project because of what is involved, namely, legislation, new business processes, data protection and building a new IT system. We will need to integrate data from the Department of Social Protection and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners so that the system can calculate every family’s net income and affordable child care scheme subsidy. We will need to test the IT system rigorously to make sure it works, even in complicated family circumstances.

As a result of this, the fully automated system that delivers everything will not be in place initially. However, we are working intensively to ensure that a satisfactory interim measure is in place and that the fully automated system for the affordable child care scheme is introduced at the earliest possible time.

I recognise that parents and providers urgently need detailed information about the way in which the scheme will be delivered. I can assure the Deputy that I and my officials are fully committed to delivering on the objectives of the scheme, and we are determined to minimise any administrative burden or inconvenience. In the next few weeks I will provide a detailed update on delivery plans. Full information on implementation plans will then be made available to parents and child care providers, and change management supports will be provided to all participating child care services.

I emphasise that I want us to get the IT systems right from the very beginning. I would prefer to hold back on a fully automated system initially if it means that we avoid the costly and frustrating problems that other major new services have experienced elsewhere in recent times.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I acknowledge the complexity and the difficulty of getting it done within the timeframe. That is why I would like to concentrate on getting as much information as possible out to providers and parents as soon as possible. I welcome the fact that the Minister has said she will update us and others whenever there is information, and I ask her to do so.

One of my concerns, and I have heard this from some providers, is that they may not participate in the scheme if they feel it is going to cause them a huge amount of extra administrative work. I do not think any of us would like to see that happen. We want to ensure they are given whatever support they need to roll out the scheme, given some are saying it is easier for them to just put up their prices rather than participate in the scheme. That would obviously have a serious effect on parents and children, which is why we need to ensure information is available as quickly as possible and that it is as clear as possible in terms of how it will be implemented.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I share the concerns Deputy Jan O'Sullivan has identified. First, we are conscious of the need to have the lowest administrative burden possible and to have a system that is not too complex and which they can get used to before moving on to the next thing. That is why, in the Department, we have had plans A, B, C and D and we have gone through a number of options to try to identify what is best, so long as this is going to be an interim measure. We are almost there, as the Deputy will be aware in light of her previous roles. There are still some finishing touches to be made in regard to what we think will work, and a couple of colleagues in other Departments are asking further questions to ensure we have thought of everything. That is almost concluded.

Second, as we were working through these options, I said that what we need to do is to absolutely make sure the option we choose is the one we can communicate best. We got somebody in specifically to work up a communications and information plan in the last week in regard to finalising the set of measures in a way that we hope will impose the least burden.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte Although the Minister has answered this question already, I ask her for further clarification regarding the interim reports on the commission of investigation on the mother and baby homes, taking into account that I am from east Galway and Tuam is in my constituency. Many people down there are waiting for the interim report.

  Excuse me. Did I skip Deputy Ó Laoghaire?

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan We are actually dealing with the next question.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We are dealing with Questions Nos. 28 and 65.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte I am sorry. I did not realise we had moved on to a different topic.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Does Deputy O'Sullivan have any further questions?

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan No, I think we have got as much clarity as possible.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We move on to what will be the final question. Perhaps we can go straight to the answer and Deputy Ó Laoghaire will have an opportunity to ask one supplementary question.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire That is fine.

Aftercare Services Provision

 29. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if she has carried out or is carrying out a review of aftercare services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15214/17]

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am committed to implementing the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015, which entitles eligible young people to a formal aftercare plan, prepared by Tusla in collaboration with the young person leaving care. My Department is working closely with Tusla to ensure that the provisions of the Act can be fully implemented as quickly as possible in the coming months.

Consultation is under way with all key stakeholders in order to finalise the revision of Tusla’s aftercare policy. The consultation process has included foster carers, young people, young adults, aftercare staff, social work staff, NGOs, private foster care and residential care providers and other Departments. All have been invited to events and offered the opportunity to make written submissions. Following these consultations, feedback will be considered and amendments made to the draft document, and the final draft of the aftercare documents will be presented to the national policy oversight committee of Tusla for approval. The Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015 will be commenced as soon as practicable after approval of the revised policy.

In preparation for the commencement of the new legislation, Tusla has introduced a number of new practices. It has developed dedicated aftercare teams, standardised the financial supports that it offers to those leaving care and is continuing to roll out inter-agency steering committees to strongly promote good co-ordination of these services at local level. Tusla has also further developed the information it provides regarding aftercare services. It is identifying gaps in aftercare service nationally and has undertaken a major recruitment campaign of social care workers to fill aftercare post vacancies.

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Go raibh maith agat. The Minister has answered some of the points. Obviously, sections 2 to 9, which are the flesh of the Child Care (Amendment) Act, are still to be brought into force. I accept that the Minister referred to the legislation being commenced. In some ways, we had reservations in respect of the Act, not because it was bad legislation but as a result of the fact that it contained a number of deficiencies. An aftercare plan is one thing but the provision of aftercare - and all the resources necessary to ensure the quality of such care and to see to it that the plan is implemented - is quite another.

To flag up one point, I will be publishing a Bill on this, the child care (amendment) Bill 2017, which I hope we will be able to discuss at some point. Can the Minister give even a ballpark estimate regarding the timescale for the commencement of those sections of the Child Care (Amendment) Act and for the publication or conclusion of the consultation piece she discussed?


Last Updated: 03/03/2020 15:23:28 First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page