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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 41 - 60
 Header Item Juvenile Offenders
 Header Item Residential Institutions Redress Scheme
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education Funding
 Header Item Child Care Services Staff
 Header Item Foster Care Policy
 Header Item Children and Young People’s Policy Framework
 Header Item Area Based Childhood Programme
 Header Item Foster Care Supports
 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
 Header Item Unaccompanied Minors and Separated Children
 Header Item Youth Services Funding
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Adoption Records Provision
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Child Abuse
 Header Item Juvenile Offenders

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 944 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 41 - 60

Juvenile Offenders

 41. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on the fact that, at any one time, approximately 50% of children in the youth justice system are on remand; her further views on the concerns of youth justice advocacy groups (details supplied) that the practice of detention on remand for children is being overused here as a means to access mental health services which should be available in the community; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [15200/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Irish Youth Justice Service oversees a significant investment in community based programmes to divert young people from further involvement in criminal or anti-social behaviour. In 2016, approximately €17m has been allocated by the Department of Justice and Equality to the Irish Youth Justice Service to administer Garda Youth Diversion Projects, Young Persons Probation Projects and a number of other youth diversion community-based projects. In 2015, 7282 children were admitted to the Garda Diversion Programmes. These projects also benefit from support under the European Social Fund.

  Under Section 88 of the Children Act 2001, a court may remand a child in custody who is charged with or found guilty of an offence, who is being sent forward for trial, or in respect of whom the court has postponed a decision. The discretion as to whether or not to remand a child in custody is solely for the decision of the judge hearing the case.

  As part of the Youth Justice Action Plan 2014-2018, a key commitment was the development of a Bail Supervision Scheme. The scheme, which is currently operating on a pilot basis, provides more therapeutic supports in the community for children who are subject to bail conditions. The scheme provides a ‘wraparound’ service to the young person and their family with a prescribed reporting system back to the courts through the appropriate statutory bodies: Probation Service and An Garda Síochána. The scheme offers greater options to the courts in the knowledge that closer monitoring will take place through interaction with the young people, their families and communities.

  It should be noted that today (24/03/2017) there are currently 34 children detained in Oberstown Children Detention Campus (Oberstown), 9 of which are on remand, which represents 26% of the total number of children detained in Oberstown.

  The Assessment, Consultation and Therapy Service which is a national service provided by Tusla - the Child and Family Agency and which provides clinical services to children in the community, children in detention and also in special care facilities. On admission to Oberstown an individual management plan is put in place for each child which includes a mental health assessment to determine the need for more specialist support provided by the Assessment, Consultation and Therapy Service and short term interventions may continue when the child returns to the community.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

 42. 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 her plans to make recommendations to Cabinet with regard to a review of the congregational indemnity agreement, in view of the revelations concerning the mother and baby home in Tuam; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15220/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I do not have any plans to make recommendations to Cabinet in relation the Congregational Indemnity Agreement.

As the Deputy may be aware, this agreement was negotiated 15 year ago and relates to the contribution of 18 religious Orders to the cost of the Residential Institutions Redress Scheme. My colleague the Minister for Education and Skills is currently responsible for these arrangements and the question raised by the Deputy would be a matter for Minister Bruton and his department.

I will point out that the religious Order which was involved in the operation of the former Tuam Mother and Baby Home was not a party to this agreement. Furthermore, although the Commission has advised that it has now concluded its physical excavations at Tuam, it is essential to recognise that it has not yet reached any formal conclusions about the site or the running of the Home. For this reason, the Commission must be facilitated to complete its objective investigations, to establish the facts of what happened and to issue its reports in accordance with its legal framework.

Early Childhood Care and Education Funding

 43. Deputy Noel Rock Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on devoting extra funds through the ECCE scheme to preschools located in low income areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15026/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme provides early childhood care and education for children of pre-school age. From September 2016, children are eligible for the ECCE scheme if they are aged over 3 years and not older than 5 and a half years.

The State pays a capitation fee to participating play-schools and daycare services. In return, they provide a pre-school service free of charge to all children within the qualifying age range for a set number of hours over a set period of weeks. Variances in rates paid currently relate only to the qualification levels of relevant staff. There are currently no plans to change this.

However, as the Deputy will be aware, plans are currently in place to provide for a new national scheme of financial support for parents towards the cost of their childcare entitled the Affordable Childcare Scheme, which will replace the existing targeted childcare subsidisation schemes with a single, streamlined and more user-friendly scheme.

The new scheme will provide a system from which both universal and targeted subsidies can be provided towards the cost of childcare. In the case of targeted subsidies, these will be payable for children from 6 months of age up to 15 years of age. The level of subsidy will depend on the investment available and on a family’s income.

It is important to note that the new Affordable Childcare Scheme will “wraparound‟ ECCE for pre-school and school-age children.

With regard to the targeted subsidies the base income threshold of €22,700 in the new Scheme will guarantee that the maximum rate of subsidy is available to all families below the relative income poverty line.

As well as making childcare significantly more affordable for those on lower incomes, it will support labour market participation of parents and contribute to lifting children out of poverty.

Child Care Services Staff

 44. 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 additional supports that will be extended to community child care facilities following recent changes whereby community employment workers are no longer counted as part of the child-staff ratio. [15224/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone 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.

  Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 40.

Foster Care Policy

 46. 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 status of the abolition of the 40 year age gap requirement that was previously used by Tusla as part of the assessment for suitability to foster; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14777/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am pleased to confirm that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency has recently revised its Policy, Procedures and Best Practice Guidance for Foster Care Committees. Following extensive consultation with relevant stakeholders to review the original policy and guidance document, which had been approved in 2012, the revised guidance was signed off by Tusla’s National Policy and Oversight Group on 17 February 2017.

I can confirm that one of the issues that arose during consultation, and which has been addressed in the revised document, concerns the previous guidance in relation to the age of applicants. This guidance in relation to age has been removed, with the focus now being placed on appropriate matching and the use of professional judgment when approving carers, placing children and making long-term matches.

I am informed that the chair of the working group is currently engaging with workforce learning and development and a senior member of staff from the Chief Operating Officer’s office to develop briefings which will be delivered to all appropriate staff over the next twelve weeks. This will help to ensure a uniform roll out and to ensure consistent implementation of the new guidance.

Children and Young People’s Policy Framework

 47. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the extent to which she has been in a position to strategically examine and assess any specific deficiencies in respect of child care, youth support and-or development services, with particular reference to identification of any problems arising at the earliest possible stage; if she will put in place adequate supports to assist children or teenagers who may be vulnerable; the extent to which she continues to liaise with specific groups in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15195/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone It is recognised that particular groups of children and young people can face more challenges in achieving the five national outcomes set out in Better Outcomes Brighter Futures: the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People (2014-2020), and numerous specific commitments of the Framework reflect this.

  My Department identified prevention and early intervention as a key cross-sectoral priority. This is being addressed through the Area-Based Childhood programme, the development of a Quality and Capacity Building initiative, and supporting relevant priorities of other Government Departments. As part of this, the Advisory Council for Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, which brings together members of the community and voluntary sector as well as independent experts, has worked on a number of priority areas including homelessness and child poverty. Members of the Council and officials from my Department recently met with representatives from Focus Ireland and St. Vincent de Paul to progress these issues.

  My Department funds the County and City Childcare Committees; and Childcare Committees Ireland, to provide business support to services. Funding is also provided to Better Start, to provide a quality support service and to Pobal who undertake compliance visits on behalf of this Department, and the Department of Education and Skills who provide education focused support to childcare providers.

  My Department also administers a range of funding schemes and targeted programmes that support the provision of youth services for young people who are at risk of drug and alcohol misuse; early school leaving; homelessness; or who are living in disadvantaged communities. Overall, the funding schemes support national and local youth work provision and involve approximately 1,400 youth work staff and 40,000 volunteers, working in youth work services and communities throughout the country. In 2017, funding of €57.4m has been provided by my Department for various youth schemes, an increase of €5.5m on 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.

  As the Deputy may be aware, a number of funding schemes supporting youth services were the subject of a Value for Money and Policy Review in 2014. Work on the development of a new funding scheme has been prioritised by my Department, and consultations with youth services are continuing, with a view to introducing the new youth funding programme in line with the review.

  My Department has embarked on an exercise, in conjunction with Pobal, and each Education and Training Board (ETB) Youth Officer, which will map youth service provision across the State. This mapping exercise will assist my Department and the relevant ETB's in developing a detailed socio-demographic profile, in terms of both population numbers and deprivation levels. It is my intention that this mapping exercise will inform future development and investment in youth services.

  The Deputy will be aware that my Department provides funding for the Child and Family Agency, Tusla. In 2017, Tusla has been allocated Exchequer funding of €713 million, representing an increase of €37 million on 2016. Tusla provides a comprehensive range of services and supports for vulnerable children and families. These include: Child Welfare and Protection Services, including family support services; Educational Welfare Services; Pre-school Inspection services and Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence services.

  My Department is currently working on legislation to reform the Guardian ad litem service. Guardians ad litem perform a very important function in child care proceedings. They are an invaluable source of advice to the Courts and a great support for the children and young people who are involved in these proceedings. The reform proposals will address significant inadequacies in the existing arrangements and will replace the existing ad hoc system with a high quality, child-centred, cost effective national service. Most importantly, it will extend the Guardian ad litem system to benefit the greatest number of children and young people.

Area Based Childhood Programme

 48. 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 the discussions that have taken place to ensure that the area based childhood programme can continue to support families in the most vulnerable communities; if she will continue to provide the necessary funding beyond that which has been allocated for 2017; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15136/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Area Based Childhood (ABC) Programme is a joint prevention and early intervention initiative led by my Department. It was designed as a time bound co-funding arrangement in conjunction with The Atlantic Philanthropies, with resources of €29.7m from 2013 to 2017. The aim of the ABC Programme is to test and evaluate prevention and early intervention approaches to improve outcomes for children and families living in poverty in 13 areas of disadvantage.

All sites are currently in contract for 2017 and operating according to their agreed budgets for 2017. Due to contractual arrangements, each of the existing 13 sites is scheduled to come to the end of their contracts at various points throughout 2017.

My Department secured an additional €4.5million in Budget 2016 to extend all of the existing ABC Programmes to the end of December 2017, bringing the total investment to €34.2 million. This recognises that sites being granted an extension to their original contract may require additional funding.

To ascertain the level of funding that may be required by each site in this regard, my Department requested that the ABC Programme Managers provide the Department with revised financial projections and information on the cyclical nature (including costs) of the various interventions/programmes implemented by each Area.

ABC sites offer several programmes that run along academic year calendars. Bearing this in mind, my Department is putting in place arrangements to support sites to offer programmes to end August 2018 and it is the intention to seek further funding in the 2017 estimates process to facilitate this. A communication was sent at the beginning of March to the ABC site managers, outlining these arrangements.

This extension brings the existing programme closer in line with the expected timeline for delivery of the national evaluation report in 2018. We will utilise the learning from the programme and the findings from the national evaluation to inform the design of prevention and early intervention initiatives that comprehend the Programme for Government commitments.

I look forward to the continued engagement of all ABC sites with my department in 2017 as we work towards the implementation of quality prevention and early intervention initiatives in order to achieve our shared goal of improving the lives of children and families throughout Ireland.

Foster Care Supports

 49. 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 considered increasing supports to foster carers; her views on whether the sector is in need of reform; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15216/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone At the end of December 2016, 82% (3,376/4,134) of foster carers had a link worker and 92% (5,374/5,817) of children in foster care had an allocated social worker. It is important to note that if a child has not been allocated a social worker, their needs are reviewed regularly by the principal social worker.

The additional funding of €37 million which has been secured for Tusla in 2017 will provide increased resources to meet service demands which will include the recruitment of additional social workers.

Tusla is currently developing a new Strategy for children in care, including foster care - which will include areas of reform.

It is vital that all children in care, and their carers, receive adequate support to ensure a successful placement. Foster care is the main form of alternative care for children in need of care and protection, and is the preferred option for children who cannot live with their parent(s)/guardian(s). At the end of December 2016, there were 6,258 children in care in Ireland. 93% (5,817) of these children were cared for in foster placements. The majority of children are in the care of general foster carers. At the end of December 2016, 66% (4,102) of children in care were in a general foster care placement, and 27% (1,715) were in foster care with relatives.

A key support to be provided to children in care include a dedicated Social Worker to ensure a care plan is put in place. This may include plans for access to family members where appropriate. It will also deal with school placement and referrals to other services.

Tusla provides funding to the Irish Foster Care Association which provides supports to carers, including training and a phone advice service. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I am due to meet with representatives from the Irish Foster Care Association tomorrow where the difficulties experienced by foster carers will be further explored.

Tusla faces some challenges, however, in securing specialised foster care placements for children with a disability, behaviour problems or for older children. Tusla has an active procurement policy to ensure it can access specialist foster care services to meet the specific needs of individual children.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

 50. Deputy Ruth Coppinger Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on the establishment of a truth commission relating to institutions such as mother and baby institutions, industrial schools, county homes, and Magdalen laundries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15207/17]

 59. Deputy Ruth Coppinger Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if she will report on her discussions on revealing and establishing the truth concerning institutions such as Magdalen laundries and mother and baby institutions; the expected timeframe for a process in respect of this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [15208/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 59 together.

I recognise the heightened demand for a thorough and holistic understanding of events and experiences following confirmation of the discovery of human remains on the former site of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home. Before we commence such a process, it is important that we do not lose sight of the breadth and considerable scope of the Commission's existing terms of reference and the specific matters which this House sought to be investigated in the public interest.

The function of a Commission of Investigation is to establish the facts. The three Reports of the Commission into Mother and Baby Homes which are due for completion by February 2018, namely, the Social History Report; the Confidential Committee Report, and the Investigative Report, will be critically important in this regard. The Reports will assist us in trying to come to terms with how Irish society responded to vulnerable women and their children at a time when they most needed our support and assistance.

Notably, the Confidential Committee forum was specifically designed to facilitate former residents of these homes who may wish to provide accounts of their experience, and to assist the Commission to ground its work in the reality of the experience of mothers and children.

In recent days, I have committed to exploring the potential for the application of a range of transitional justice mechanisms to acknowledge the experiences of former residents and further enhance public awareness and understanding of a range of past abuses and human rights failures. Any additional mechanism must be complimentary to and properly align with the work of the Commission on Mother and Baby Homes, which is already deep into its program of work. I have begun a process of consultation on how this work could proceed and that dialogue is continuing.

Unaccompanied Minors and Separated Children

 51. 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 if she will report on the progress of Ireland taking in unaccompanied minors from Calais and on the setting up of the national project office to care for these children. [15133/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am happy to report to the Deputy that, in keeping with good practice and the conditions set out in the Dáil resolution from last November, a group of 19 young people have had their needs assessed and have been security screened in France, and a further 21 young people will be met and interviewed shortly. Tusla has advised that all 19 young persons interviewed to date have been approved for relocation, and 13 have arrived and the remaining 6 young persons are at an advanced stage in the relocation process. The young people are aged between 13-17, all boys and come from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Syria, and South Sudan. These young people have been allocated social workers and have been placed in residential settings while their care needs are being assessed. I would note that, during this process, assistance to reunite the young person with family is provided where it is possible to do so. Further missions to France are planned, with the valued cooperation of the French Ministry of the Interior, for April 2017.

To coordinate Tusla's role in this effort, the Calais Special Project (CSP) has now officially been launched by the Agency and is being led operationally by their separated children's team. Additional capacity has been put in place for the assessment and management of the care needs of the young persons when they arrive in the State. Tusla liaises closely with the HSE, the Education and Training Boards and other State bodies to address each young person's identified needs, including educational, psychosocial and health supports. In addition, I wish to acknowledge that the CSP has received the support, co-operation and guidance of the International Organisation for Migration Dublin and France, Irish Refugee Protection Programme, International Protection Office, the French Ministry of the Interior, Irish Embassy in France, and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. I am also grateful to the NGOs who have provided valuable information on young persons who expressed an interest in relocating to Ireland.

I welcome the most recent news of the relocation of young persons to Ireland from France. I will continue to monitor the situation closely to help ensure that the whole of Government response to this humanitarian effort is successful.

Youth Services Funding

 52. 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 her plans to increase funding to youth services in Dublin's north inner city in view of the recommendations of the Mulvey report on the north inner city. [15029/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I welcome the report “Dublin North Inner City – Creating a Brighter Future”. The report found that there was substantial funding being provided to support youth services in the North Inner City but it recommended greater integration of targeted approaches to at-risk young people in the area. Last month, I approved a further 5% increase in funding to each of the targeted youth services operating in Dublin North Inner City.

City of Dublin Youth Service Board (CDYSB) acts as my Department’s funding intermediary in the administration of targeted youth funding to Dublin North Inner City. It also provides support to 30 voluntary youth clubs and groups in the area. CDYSB co-operates and works with a broad range of statutory and voluntary agencies and is committed to maintaining strong working relationships with among others, Dublin City Council, local project management committees and boards, and local community development organisations.

A number of funding schemes supporting youth services were the subject of a Value for Money and Policy Review in 2014. The review made a number of recommendations for the future operation of the existing youth schemes and their development in the years ahead. Work on the development of a new funding scheme has been prioritised by my Department and consultations with youth services are continuing.

My Department is well advanced on an exercise which will map youth service provision across the State. This mapping exercise will assist my Department in developing a detailed socio-demographic profile in terms of both population numbers and deprivation levels. The mapping exercise will inform future development and investment in youth services in areas such as Dublin's North Inner City.

Early Childhood Care and Education

 53. 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 level of consultation between her Department and the Department of Education and Skills and-or the Department of Health on necessary supports for children with a disability who are in mainstream early childhood services; and if she will provide the national strategy to support these children. [15222/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone An Inter-Departmental Group (IDG) was established in June 2015 to design a model that would support access to the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme for children with a disability. The IDG included senior officials from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA), the Department of Education and Skills (DES) and the Department of Health (DoH). It also included representatives from the Health Service Executive (HSE), the National Early Years Inspectorate at the Child and Family Agency, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), the National Disability Authority (NDA), Better Start National Early Years Quality Development Service (NEYQDS) and the City/County Childcare Committees (CCCs).

The Report of this IDG was launched in November 2015. The IDG based its conclusions on national and international evidence and consulted with a range of key stakeholders. The IDG acknowledged the huge benefits to children with disabilities of attending mainstream pre-schools; however the IDG also recognised that a small number of children will continue to require specialist pre-school services, due to very complex needs arising from their disability.

The IDG recommended introducing a model of seven levels of support, ranging from universal to more targeted supports. The IDG concluded that such a child (and parent) centred model would build truly inclusive practice in a workable and sustainable manner and generate effective cross-sectoral working between education and health. Based on this recommendation, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs launched the ‘Access and Inclusion Model’ (known as AIM) in June 2016.

In line with the recommendations of the IDG, two cross-Government groups were established to drive and oversee the implementation of AIM: a Cross-Sectoral Implementation Group and a Project Team. These groups review progress on implementing AIM on an ongoing basis and they are attended by the same organisations who participated in the IDG. Accordingly, consultation between my Department, the Department of Health and the Department of Education and Skills is regular and on-going.

As regards situating AIM within a National Strategy, the IDG and AIM were established in response to an action set out in Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures Access, the National Policy Framework for Children and Youth People.

Child Care Services Provision

 54. 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 the progress made regarding a facility (details supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15213/17]

 619. 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 her plans to have a community child care service reopened (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [15378/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 54 and 619 together.

The service in question closed in February 2016 following a period of intensive support, where my Department made funding available on an exceptional basis to continue service through a crisis. The decision to close was taken by the management of this service. In a bid to ensure continued childcare provision in this disadvantaged area, Pobal and the local County Childcare Committee have co-ordinated with local stakeholders, including Longford County Council, who have committed to infrastructural support to the service. I am prepared to make once-off funding available to assist in the start up of a service also, and have committed to consider any and all proposals from potential operators. Organisations involved at local level have been strong advocates for the provision of a more comprehensive service that would meet the needs of this vulnerable community and reduce the impact of adverse childhood experiences which are prevalent.

However as yet, no stakeholder has been in a position to commit to the establishment and operation of a childcare service. As my Department cannot operate a service directly, we are not in a position to arrange for a re-opened service at this time. I am aware of the need in the area and Pobal and the local County Childcare Committee are continuing to seek partners who may be in a position to operate a childcare service in this area. In the meantime, the County Childcare Committee has worked with impacted families to ensure that they can access childcare in alternative facilities in the area.

Child Care Services Provision

 55. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her plans to tackle the threat of imminent closures of community-based crèches due to high operational costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15217/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone My Department, Pobal and the County & City Childcare Committees (CCCs) work closely with services that experience financial difficulty. As the Deputy knows, in Budget 2017, I was pleased to secure additional funding of €14.5m, to help ease the burden of administration on childcare providers by paying for 'non-contact time' on top of existing payments. Officials are making the arrangements necessary to administer this payment, which will be made in summer 2017.

In addition, I have made provision for €1 million of funding to be provided to services whose sustainability is challenged by the full implementation of the Childcare Regulations 2016, particularly in relation to their reliance on Community Employment Scheme participants.

Given the importance of financial sustainability for the provision of quality childcare, the Programme for Government committed to conducting and publishing an independent review of the cost drivers associated with providing quality childcare in Ireland. This commitment aligns closely with work on the development of the Affordable Childcare Scheme, including options for further development of the Scheme over time. Initial scoping work on the independent review is being progressed in that context. The independent review is a priority action for the Department in 2017.

Any service experiencing difficulties should contact Pobal or their City/County Childcare Committee who will liaise with officials in my Department

Adoption Records Provision

 56. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the steps she will take to reach out to the thousands of Irish persons illegally adopted to families in the US in order to give them access to the records containing their identities, in view of the fact that this is not being provided for in forthcoming legislation in the Adoption (Information and Tracing Bill) 2016; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14779/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill was published on 25th November 2016 and it provides a statutory basis for the provision of information related to both past and future adoptions. The Bill is intended to facilitate access to adoption information and operates on the basis of a presumption in favour of disclosing information in so far as is legally and constitutionally possible. It provides clarity around the information that can be provided and the circumstances in which it can be provided to those affected by adoption. The definition of an adopted person in the Bill is as follows:

  “adopted person” means a person -

  (a) adopted under an adoption order,

  (b) born in the State and placed for adoption outside the State by An Bord Uchtála, a person who was at the time a registered adoption society, the Authority or the Agency, and whose adoption was effected outside the State, or

  (c) otherwise adopted in accordance with the law in force in the State at the time of that adoption;

  Irish children who were adopted in Ireland and then went to USA are included in a) above while Irish children whose adoptions were finalised abroad, be that for example the USA or UK, are included in b) above. The definition of adopted person in the Bill was drafted so as to ensure service provision in all historic adoptions where a child was placed and brought up outside the State primarily in the USA. All persons affected by these adoptions will be entitled to the service provision under Part 4 and 5 of the Adoption (Information and tracing) Bill 2016.

  There will be an information campaign for six months following commencement of the Act to publicise the provisions of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill. Tusla will liaise with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to identify the methods of maximising contact with persons outside of the State affected by Irish adoptions through media outlets, social media and other appropriate methods.

Child Care Services Provision

 57. 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 her plans to include childminders in the affordable child care scheme; and if she is satisfied that the scheme is adequate to address Ireland's disproportionate child care costs in comparison with other EU states. [15031/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Affordable Childcare Scheme will be open to all Tusla-registered childcare providers on an equal basis. In addition to more than 4,000 centre-based childcare providers, which operate independently in a market context, all Tusla-registered childminders will also be eligible to participate in this Scheme. It is acknowledged however, that the number of Tusla-registered childminders is currently small. In order to meet the needs of parents whose preference is to use a childminder, and to build capacity to cater for increased demand in future years, my Department has established a Working Group on Childminders. This Working Group, which is chaired by Childminding Ireland, and includes officials from Tusla and my Department, will make recommendations on reforms and supports necessary for the childminding sector in the short, medium and long term. As part of their deliberations, the Working Group will consider the reforms and supports necessary to enable the cohort of childminders who are not currently eligible to participate in the Affordable Childcare Scheme to do so.

In relation to the Deputy's question on addressing childcare costs, the Affordable Childcare Scheme will replace the existing targeted childcare subsidisation schemes with a single, streamlined scheme which is more user-friendly for both parents and providers. The new scheme will make childcare more affordable, and will enable both universal and targeted subsidies for parents towards their childcare costs. Targeted subsidies will be available for children aged from 6 months up to 15 years and will address families’ full-time and part-time childcare needs, including outside of school hours and during school holiday time. The level of subsidy will vary based on the parent’s income, with the highest levels of subsidy provided to those on the lowest incomes, helping families to overcome disadvantage and contributing to a reduction in child poverty.

The impact of the scheme on affordability depends on the subsidy rates and income thresholds set within the scheme, which reflect the level of public funding available. Budget 2017 allocated an additional €19m on top of funding from the existing targeted schemes. As a result of the subsidy rates and income-thresholds proposed for the initial rollout of the scheme, I expect that the majority of current beneficiaries will see an increase in their level of subsidy. In addition there will be a significant increase in the number of families that will benefit from subsidised childcare for the first time, including up to 25,000 families that will receive the universal subsidy.

The Affordable Childcare Scheme is intended to provide a robust and flexible framework for future public investment. Any future increases in the level of public investment will allow for additional support to further improve the affordability of childcare. Further investment may be used to increase income-thresholds and subsidy-rates in the scheme.

Child Abuse

 58. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if her attention has been drawn to the fact that in 2013 a Health Service Executive counsellor notified the HSE child protection services that a person had disclosed historical sexual abuse allegations relating to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8050/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone As I am sure the Deputy is aware the issue being raised is now the subject of a Tribunal of Inquiry, which is chaired by the Hon. Mr. Justice Peter Charleton. I would note that I addressed this matter as part of the statements made in this House on 14 February 2017, which were made prior to the setting up of the Tribunal. As the Tribunal is now at work, I will not comment further on issues that it may wish to examine under its terms of reference.

  Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 50.

Juvenile Offenders

 60. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the reason seven minors are still currently serving sentences in Wheatfield Prison in view of the Government's commitment to end the practice of detaining children in adult prisons; when these children will be transferred to the Oberstown campus; her plans to expand her Department's role in youth justice issues by taking responsibility for young adult offenders aged 18 to 24 years, as recommended in a report (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15199/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am very pleased to say that in the coming days I will announce the date on which the Oberstown Children Detention Campus (Oberstown) will commence taking 17 year old males who receive a sentence to a period of detention. This is the final step to end the detention of children in adult prison facilities.

  It is intended that Oberstown will take new cases referred directly from the courts initially. As at 24 March 2017 there are 7 male children in Wheatfield Place of Detention.

  Statutory provision in relation to young offenders under the age of 18 years is set out in the Children Act 2001. The operation of the children detention school system under Part 10 of the Act is under the remit of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. The Irish Youth Justice Service, based in my Department and staffed by officials working on an interagency basis from the Department of Justice and Equality and my Department, oversee the operation of the Act, youth crime policy and all relevant projects and programmes.

  The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice report, entitled "Developing Inside - Transforming prison for young adults", referenced by the Deputy makes a range of recommendations in relation to the operation of prison and custodial regimes for young adults in the age range of 18 - 24 years which have implications for the operation of the adult prison system and some of them have implications for the wider criminal justice system, which is under the remit of the Tanaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality.

  While the Irish Youth Justice Service is based in my Department, I must inform the Deputy that my political priorities in this area are focussed on matters relating to the ending of the practice of detaining children in adult prison facilities. In this regard a key priority for me is ensuring that Oberstown is safe and secure for both children and staff. In pursuit of this, a number of reviews have been undertaken and a group has been established with representation from my Department to examine the recommendations from these reviews.

  Another priority policy area for me is the Bail Supervision Scheme which commenced recently on a pilot basis and in respect of which there will be ongoing evaluation and review.


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