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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1 - 40
 Header Item After-School Support Services
 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
 Header Item Youth Services Funding
 Header Item Youth Services Provision
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Child Protection Services Provision
 Header Item Internet Safety
 Header Item Traveller Community
 Header Item Child Abuse Reports
 Header Item Youth Services Provision
 Header Item Child Care Services Staff

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 944 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 1 - 40

 The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].

  Questions Nos. 1 to 13, inclusive, answered orally.

  Questions Nos. 14 and 15 resubmitted.

  Questions Nos. 16 to 21, inclusive, answered orally.

After-School Support Services

 22. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the total funding available to implement the action plan for school age children; and the way in which this will deliver affordable care for children out of school hours. [15134/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Action Plan on School Age Childcare, a cross-Department report, was launched at the meeting of the Early Years Forum on Monday 6 March. The Action Plan was heavily informed by consultations with various groups over 2015 and 2016, and contains information related to school age childcare provision in Ireland and international best practice. The Action Plan sets out the actions that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Education and Skills can immediately progress to address the needs identified. Progress on the Action Plan will be monitored and independently reviewed after three years. The Plan highlights that the essential components of a child centred and effective model of school age childcare are access, affordability, and quality.

Most of the actions committed to in the plan do not require additional funding at this point in time but will be delivered with existing resources. For example, an immediate priority is the development of a comprehensive set of quality standards to specifically address the needs of school age children. A robust system of quality assurance against the standards will also be designed and will be a requirement to be eligible for any State funding. The Learner Fund my Department operates will be redesigned to include dedicated funding each year for education on school age childcare. The Department of Education and Skills will use its existing resource to develop guidelines for schools interested in providing school age childcare services.

€3 million has been provided in 2017 for major and minor capital grants to ensure sufficient access to high quality and affordable school age childcare. The new capital scheme will be open to both community/not-for-profit and private services and will comprise three separate strands. The first strand, for the establishment of new School Age Childcare services, will see a grant of up to €20,000 being made available. The second strand will see a grant of up to €10,000 being made available for the expansion of existing services to provide additional places. The third strand will see a grant of up to €5,000 being made available to existing services to improve quality.

My Department has a budget of over €460m per annum to address both the affordability and quality of early years and school age childcare. Approximately 110,000 children benefit annually from the free pre-school scheme. Another 31,000 children benefited from subsidised early years and school age childcare in 2015/2016 with a budget available of approximately €86m.

The Affordable Childcare Scheme which I plan to introduce on a phased basis from September is a key part of the School Age Childcare Action Plan. It will provide a critical infrastructure for the provision of subsidised childcare to a much wider population, by suitably quality assured services. The scheme will enable Government to make additional investment available, year on year I hope, to reduce the cost of childcare, ideally to reach a stage where Ireland compares favourably with its OECD counterparts. The annual Estimates process will provide the mechanism for Government to consider the level of further investment possible for childcare.

  Questions Nos. 23 to 29, inclusive, answered orally.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

 30. 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 when the interim report on the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15225/17]

 35. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone when the second interim report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes will be published; the reason for the delay; if the scope of the terms of reference of the commission will be expanded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15210/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 35 together.

The survivors and loved ones of those who were resident in the Mother and Baby Homes must be central to our consideration of this complex and very emotive issue. Like many of the Deputies in this house I have met and engaged with them. Indeed one of the most memorable days of my time as Minister was at the site in Tuam before the Commission began its work. There I met with survivors and Catherine Corless, who had recollections of the home.

Some of those I met at the site are trying to find out what happened to loved ones who were resident there. They want answers, they want the truth - and that is completely understandable. As Deputies will understand it was an emotional day for all – as by coincidence later in the afternoon the Mother and Baby Home Commission confirmed it was going ahead with an investigation of the site. In that regard I can also understand the impatience for the publication of the Second Interim Report - indeed I share that impatience.

Deputies will be aware from previous PQs that it has been necessary for me to engage with Cabinet colleagues on issues in the report which extend beyond my own remit as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. I again briefed Cabinet on the matter this morning and underlined the need for us to move swiftly to a conclusion. Within the coming week the Government will be ready to clarify completion of this process. Let me assure the House now that officials within my Department will ensure that survivor and other representative groups are advised of developments prior to any public announcements.

Deputies are also asking about the terms of reference of the Mother and Baby Home Commission. I am of course aware that there have been many calls for an extension of the terms. I am committed to a scoping exercise to examine that possibility. It will examine whether broader terms of reference will help answer the questions of survivors, loved ones or indeed those questions we must face as a nation. As Minister I need to consult with the Commission on this matter. I will do so and make further announcements in the coming weeks.

It would be remiss of me however not to remind Deputies that we must not lose sight of the breadth and considerable scope of the Commissions existing terms of reference. The Commission does have significant autonomy to follow where the investigation takes it and can make any recommendations it deems necessary to Government.

Deputies, we are examining a dark period in our history - for too long only whispered about, that’s if it was acknowledged at all. The work and investigations being carried out are bringing a spotlight to these events. It is and will continue to be emotional for all involved - it is and will continue to be uncomfortable for our country. However it is work which must be done. The Commission is two years into a three year work programme. We must not say anything or take actions which will threaten to undermine that work. Can I acknowledge the political unity which exists to achieve that truth.

Youth Services Funding

 31. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her plans to restore funding to the youth services and facilities fund back to 2011 levels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15202/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am pleased to confirm that I have allocated an extra €5.5m in current funding to support the provision of youth services in 2017. This will bring the total youth funding by my Department to €57.4m, an increase of 10% over last year's allocation. Following the cuts during the economic crises, I have now restored youth funding to 95% of its 2011 figure, and I hope to be able to make more progress next year.

My Department administers a range of funding schemes and programmes to support the provision of youth services to young people throughout the country including those from disadvantaged communities. The funding schemes support national and local youth work involving approximately 1,400 youth work staff working in youth work services and communities throughout the country.

My Department, along with all Government Departments, was required to deliver substantial savings on all funding programmes in line with the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure 2012 – 2014. My Department sought to ensure that front line youth services, particularly those for the most vulnerable young people, were protected as far as is possible from the impact of any necessary reductions in funding.

I am pleased that my Department is now in a position to provide further investment in youth service provision which is close to restoring the funding levels that existed prior to 2011. My Department has carried out a Value for Money and Policy Review of a number of schemes supporting youth services. The review involved an in-depth scrutiny of the impact youth service provision has on young people’s lives and made a number of recommendations for the future operation of the youth schemes and their development in the years ahead.

I want to streamline the various funding schemes for youth services so that we maximise their benefit and target money to best effect. I have prioritised the work on developing a new integrated funding scheme as recommended by the Value for Money and Policy Review. Consultations with youth services are continuing with a view to introducing this new and fit for purpose youth funding programme as soon as possible.

Finally, I am committed to continuing to seek additional support for youth services in Budget 2018 and beyond.

Youth Services Provision

 32. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the status of discussions between her Department and the Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board on the appointment of a dedicated youth office for County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15201/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department will provide an allocation to Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board for the provision of a full time youth officer for County Kildare in 2017. My Department is engaging with the ETB in this regard and I expect that the post will be filled shortly. In the interim, the ETB has a Youth Officer in place who is very active in both counties.

The Deputy will be aware that the provision of the full-time officer follows my engagement with public representatives, youth organisations, the Gardaí and others in Co Kildare. Indeed the Deputy himself as well as Deputy O’Loughlin joined me on 22 June last when I opened the Hive Youth Café in Kildare Town. It was an evening of celebration. During the visit I also took time to sit down with youth and community representatives to discuss the needs of a county which has one of the youngest populations. It was a productive discussion and I came away very impressed with the partnership which has formed in Kildare to deliver for young people.

It was agreed then that we would continue further engagement and on 16 November I met members of the Kildare Children and Young People's Services Committee and the Kildare Local Community Development Committee here in Leinster House. The urgent need for the provision of the full time post was highlighted during that discussion. I can now confirm that following that meeting and contacts with the Deputy and other public representatives that we are now in a position to move forward.

My Department has has been working with a number of ETBs which have not had a full Youth Officer function in place. With this in mind, I have increased the overall allocation for this purpose nationally, from €1.743m in 2016 to €2m this year.

The increased allocation is illustrative of my commitment to youth services, and I wish Kildare and Wicklow ETB well as it moves to fill this valuable post.

Child Care Services Provision

 33. Deputy Shane Cassells Information on Shane Cassells Zoom on Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if she will address the anomaly created under the affordable child care scheme whereby the places of children who are currently availing of essential early intervention supports under CCS and whose parents will not meet the eligibility criteria for ACS will no longer be funded; the way the early intervention needs of this group of children will be met post-ACS introduction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15204/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Affordable Childcare Scheme will provide progressive financial support for childcare costs, with the largest subsidies going to the families with the lowest incomes. Where a family has childcare needs and has a net family income below €47,500, they will be eligible for an income-related subsidy under the scheme. The highest rates of subsidy will apply to families with net incomes below €22,700, which includes all families whose incomes are below the relative income poverty line. Approximately 99% of current beneficiaries of targeted childcare schemes will be eligible for a subsidy under the Affordable Childcare Scheme.

I want to emphasise that in any situation where a current beneficiary of the Community Childcare Subvention or any other targeted childcare scheme would see their level of subsidy fall when the Affordable Childcare Scheme is introduced, their current level of support will be maintained for a transitional period.

One change from the current targeted schemes is that, under the Affordable Childcare Scheme, if a parent is not engaged in any form of work, education or training, then at most 15 hours of subsidy will be available. If the parent takes up any form of work (including part-time work) or training, they will be eligible for up to 40 hours of subsidy. This approach reflects the fact that one of the core objectives of the Affordable Childcare Scheme is to support labour market activation. The Affordable Childcare Scheme will be a significant support helping families get out of poverty through work, education and training.

When a parent is not in work or training, childcare will be subsidised on a standard hours basis. This approach will mean that this scheme is open - albeit for standard hours rather than enhanced hours - to parents who stay at home to care for their children, and are not taking part in work or training, but who choose to avail of up to 15 hours of childcare per week. In the case of school-going children, the child development objectives are met through school-going hours and, as such, the 15 standard hours childcare applies to non-term time.

There is also a small but important group of families for whom childcare is needed on child welfare grounds or for whom childcare is a necessary early intervention support, and where there is a referral to the Community Childcare Subvention scheme by Tusla. For the Affordable Childcare Scheme, it is proposed that, where such a referral is made, families would automatically qualify for a subsidy without having to satisfy any income or work/study test. Tusla would recommend the hours of childcare needed, i.e. whether an enhanced or standard subsidy is required. The scheme would then provide the maximum rate of subsidy in respect of those hours of care, and no payment would be asked of the parents in these circumstances. This approach is consistent with current practice under CCS and is critical to supporting strong child welfare and protection practices. My officials are currently in discussion with Tusla in relation to the way in which this referral process will operate in the Affordable Childcare Scheme.

Child Protection Services Provision

 34. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the number of children in Tusla who have an allocated social worker; the number who do not have an allocated social worker, indicating the length of time without an allocated social worker; the categories of the unallocated cases such as priority, high risk, low risk and so on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15023/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I have placed a high priority on addressing the number of children who are without an allocated social worker. I secured additional funding for this purpose in 2017, and Tusla is now in the second year of a 3-year plan to ensure the allocation of a social worker to all children and young people who need one.

  The number of children with an allocated social worker at the end of 2016 was 19,621. At the end of 2016, the number of children awaiting allocation to a social worker was 5,413, which represents a reduction of 19% (1,305) from the figure of 6,718 at the end of 2015.

  Of the 5,413 children awaiting allocation to a social worker at the end of 2016, their priority levels are as follows:

Level of PriorityNumber
Low Priority1,350
Medium Priority3,262
High Priority801


  Information on the length of time a child has been awaiting allocation to a social worker is available in respect of the high priority cases. Of the 801 high priority cases awaiting allocation, 307 are waiting less than a month, 210 are waiting one to three months and 284 are waiting in excess of three months.

  Cases to be allocated to a social worker include children who have already received services from Tusla whose social worker is no longer available to them, as well as children waiting to be allocated for the first time. All unallocated cases are assessed and prioritised according to risk. The Deputy should note that all urgent and emergency cases notified to Tusla are dealt with immediately. Urgent and emergency cases could involve cases of abandonment, allegations of physical and sexual abuse, parental ill health and the need to find an immediate placement, or threat to the safety or life of a child by a third party.

  It is a continuing priority of Tusla to address the problem of unallocated cases in 2017. A key challenge to achieve this objective will be the recruitment of sufficient social workers, and other professional and supporting staff. Tusla is engaged in a major recruitment drive for social workers, social care workers and business support staff for this purpose.

  My Department will continue to closely monitor progress in this regard. I attach a high priority to tackling this matter and I will continue to engage directly with the Tusla Board and senior management team, over the course of the year, to review progress.

  Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 30.

Internet Safety

 36. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the details of the measures her Department is taking to combat cyber blackmailing, cyberbullying and other forms of online abuse directed at children or carried out by children on other children; the details of any data on the prevalence of reported cases of these activities; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [14776/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Online abuse in its various forms, as described by the Deputy presents serious and complex issues, exacerbated by the rate at which technology continues to develop. In its recent appearance before the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, the ISPCC outlined and discussed with the Committee a number of concerns about online habits and how young people interact with each other using modern technologies.

  My Department does not have a lead responsibility in this area and, accordingly, does not have specific measures to combat these issues. However, my Department plays a supporting role in a wider range of actions across a number of Departments seeking to address online abuse.

  The implementation of the Children First Act 2015 and the ongoing role of the Interdepartmental Committee established by that Act, and chaired by my Department, will ensure that the child welfare and protection systems will be robust and responsive to any needs arising from such abuses.

  The National Youth Health Programme is a partnership between the HSE, the National Youth Council of Ireland and my Department. The programme's aims are to provide a broad based, flexible health promotion/education support and training service, to youth organisations and to all those working with young people in out-of-school settings. The ‘Web Safety in Youth Work’ resource, available on the National Youth Council’s website, provides valuable advice to young people on reporting online behaviour and on passing on concerns about the protection and welfare of a child or young person.   

  Combatting online child grooming is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality, and is addressed as part of a wide-ranging package of measures aimed at the reform of Ireland’s criminal law on sexual offences, set out in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 2017.

  The saferinternetireland.ie website has a range of resources aimed at parents and their children, including a recent ‘Family e-Safety Kit’ activity pack aimed at six to twelve-year-olds. The ISPCC has developed guidelines and supports for parents. Education is a fundamental issue for parents and young people along with parental guidance, supervision, and the setting of boundaries considered critical to ensuring children’s safety online.

  The Office for Internet Safety, an executive office of the Department of Justice and Equality, was established by the Government to take a lead responsibility for internet safety in Ireland, particularly as it relates to children. That Office has previously published guidance related to cyber bullying and filtering technologies for parents. As part of its work it holds an annual Safer Internet Day and supports the ‘Hotline.ie’ service. In addition, there are a number of other websites, such as Childline and Webwise, which have the capacity to facilitate anyone to report suspicious behaviour encountered online.

  In seeking to address the problem of bullying we must tackle the root causes of bullying. This includes a focus on tackling prejudice, including homophobia, where it exists in our schools and wider society. The implementation of the Action Plan on Bullying, which is being led by the Department of Education and Skills, provides the framework for the Government’s absolute commitment to working with a broad base of interests to protect children from bullying and the often devastating consequences that it can have.

  The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment continues to promote best practice by social media providers, with respect to privacy controls and reporting mechanisms for abuse/bullying so as to better protect children online. That Department has continued to engage with Internet service providers, including social media providers, to promote continued evolution of terms of service and guidelines. These measures address actions identified under the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People Better Outcomes Brighter Futures.

Traveller Community

 37. 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 the initiatives she has taken to ensure Traveller children are provided with the supports they require in view of the recent statement by An Taoiseach recognising Traveller ethnicity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15215/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone At the outset, I want to confirm my strong support for the recognition of the Traveller Community as an ethnic group and the recent events in Dáil Éireann, led by the Taoiseach, at which it was confirmed. It is important we recognise the significant challenges facing this indigenous Community and the significant disadvantages experienced by Traveller children with poorer outcomes in education, employment, accommodation and health.

  The Deputy will be aware that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its Concluding Observations following its examination of Ireland in January 2016, recommended that “Ireland considers legally recognising the Traveller and Roma as ethnic groups in the State party and, in doing so, implement disaggregated data collection on these communities to facilitate the provision of targeted support programmes and measures”

  My colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, has primary responsibility for Traveller and Roma policy. The Department of Justice and Equality is currently finalising a new National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy, and a set of actions to bring about a real improvement in the quality of life for Travellers and Roma, including children.

  Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, the national policy framework in relation to children and young people, contains a range of commitments to Traveller and Roma children, addressing issues such as health, education, and social inclusion. The State of the Nation’s Children Report (2016), includes a specific section on the population of children in the Traveller Community; along with a number of findings related to Traveller children, in areas including nutrition; self-esteem; drug and alcohol use; family relationships; and feelings of safeness within the community.  The National Strategy on Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-making (2015-2020) contains specific actions to strengthen participation in decision-making by Traveller children and young people.

  Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has a statutory responsibility to ensure each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education. Tusla's education welfare service, comprising the statutory Education Welfare Service, the School Completion Programme and the Home School Community Liaison scheme, are key supports for children who are vulnerable to early school-leaving and educational disadvantage, including Traveller children.

  Children and families from the Traveller Community who require additional support or are identified as vulnerable, also avail of other mainstream services within Tusla. Tusla works in partnership with local authorities, the Health Service Executive and schools to ensure an integrated response to the needs of children and families from the Traveller community, including public health nursing, disability services, and other relevant services. Tusla is operating and supporting a number of integrated and inclusive Traveller specific projects, and provides counselling grants to organisations serving the Traveller community.

  My Department also provides annual funding to support specific projects which are targeted at young Travellers; and offer a wide range of programmes and services aimed at young people at risk and who are disadvantaged, due to a combination of factors such as social isolation, substance misuse; involvement in crime; homelessness; early school-leaving and unemployment.

Child Abuse Reports

 38. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if there has been a full report or if she is planning to commission a report into allegations of abuse and neglect at a home (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15219/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone As the Deputy will be aware, a major investigation into historical child abuse has already been conducted by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. Its remit was to inquire into the abuse of children in institutions in the period 1940 to 1999. Its terms of reference were broad and the institutions covered included schools, industrial schools, reformatory schools, orphanages, hospitals, children’s home and any other place where children are cared for other than as members of their families.

Former residents of all such institutions were invited to engage with that Inquiry, as its terms of reference included all care settings outside of the family home. As was noted in that Commission’s final reports, investigations were conducted into all institutions where the number of complainants was more than 20. Where the number of complaints was less than 20 the Investigation Committee’s legal team interviewed the witnesses.

I understand that the institution to which the Deputy refers was within the scope of the Inquiry and that it was subsequently included in the list of institutions covered under the Residential institutions Redress Act, 2002. This scheme provided for the payment of fair and just rewards to persons who were victims of institutional abuse as children.

In these circumstances, I have no plans to commission any further investigation into this former residential home for children.

Youth Services Provision

 39. Deputy Gino Kenny Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the steps she will take to address the youth needs in Balgaddy, which is an area of disadvantage and exclusion in Dublin mid-west; if facilities will be put in place to accommodate the needs of young persons in the area and specifically, in the Tor an Rí area of Balgaddy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15206/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone In 2017, funding of €57.4m has been provided to my Department for various youth schemes, an increase of €5.5m over 2016. The additional funding is being used for programmes that target disadvantaged young people and to assist national youth organisations in their work to support local voluntary youth services. My Department has now notified projects and services of their 2017 allocations.

The funding schemes support national and local youth work involving approximately 1,400 youth work staff working in youth work services and communities throughout the country.

I am advised that the Ronanstown Youth Service, operated by Crosscare, provides a range of services to at-risk young people in Balgaddy. In 2017, an amount of €552,356 has been allocated to Ronanstown Youth Service, a 5% increase over its 2016 allocation.

I am aware that the service's Balgaddy Youth Unit is temporarily closed as a result of an electrical fault and that every effort is being made to resume service provision. Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB is working closely with the service in this regard.

My Department is continuing to implement the recommendations of the Value for Money and Policy Review of Youth Funding Schemes. My Department is committed to having robust systems in place to identify need and to ensuring that the resources are directed to delivering specific outcomes for young people.

Child Care Services Staff

 40. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if she will address the need for additional supports to be extended to community child care facilities in view of the recent decision to prevent community employment workers counting towards child-to-staff ratios.  [15212/17]

 45. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the steps being taken to alleviate the staffing difficulties being experienced by operators of crèche and early years facilities, in particular in rural areas, arising from the June regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15209/17]

 63. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if her attention has been drawn to the consequences of the new regulations from Tusla for community child care services and the impact on the services they provide, including reduction in hours of child care and possible closures. [15033/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 40, 45 and 63 together.

It is my understanding that the Deputy is referring to the the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 which require that all staff members working directly with children in pre-school services must hold at least a major award in early childhood care and education at level 5 on the National Qualifications Framework, or a qualification deemed by the Minister to be equivalent. This requirement came into effect for newly-registering services on 30th June 2016 and for existing services on 31 December 2016.

The requirement that staff looking after young children have a qualification has been extensively welcomed as an important quality measure. In preparation for the implementation of the Regulations, Childcare Committees Ireland were commissioned by my Department to investigate the impact of the new childcare regulations on community childcare providers. All community services were afforded the opportunity to engage with the project.

The project indicated that the vast majority of services would not face financial hardship as a result of changes required under the regulations. However it did find that some services had come to rely on Community Employment scheme participants as part of core staff ratios.

In order to ensure that the regulatory change does not impact on service delivery or the availability of childcare places, I recently announced that €1m of additional funding will be made available to childcare providers who have been facilitating the training of Community Employment (CE) scheme participants.

I have made up to €2,000 available for services initially, to assist with the recruitment process or to provide expert support in HR management. After analysis of each service's financial situation, I will consider provision of limited funding to each service using the balance of the €1 million in sustainability funding I negotiated in Budget 2017 to ensure that they can fully meet the cost of these staff. No service will be forced to close.

Delivering high quality, accessible and affordable childcare is my key goal. I want to ensure that every child will be cared for by a qualified professional, and that services can sustain existing levels of provision, while they prepare for the new Affordable Childcare Scheme. This new scheme will be critical in providing an infrastructure for further investment in childcare. It will make childcare more affordable and will also assist with improving quality and sustainability.


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