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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 790-806
 Header Item Workplace Relations Commission
 Header Item School Completion Programme
 Header Item Preschool Services
 Header Item Foster Care
 Header Item Child Care Services Regulation
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Preschool Services
 Header Item Child Care Services
 Header Item Aftercare Services Provision
 Header Item Traveller Community
 Header Item Child and Family Agency Data
 Header Item Foster Care
 Header Item Children in Care
 Header Item Child and Family Agency Funding

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 946 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 790-806

Workplace Relations Commission

 790. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor the adjudications and the findings of the Workplace Relations Commission in respect of public bodies in each of the years 2015 to 2016 and to date in 2017 that have not been accepted by her Department having consulted with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; the numbers involved and the reasons for this; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18739/17]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor): Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) was established on 1 October 2015 under the Workplace Relations Act 2015 and has responsibility for information provision, workplace advice, mediation, conciliation, adjudication, inspection and enforcement in relation to employment rights, equality and equal status matters and industrial relations.  At that time, the WRC assumed the roles and functions previously carried out by the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), Rights Commissioner Service (RCS), Equality Tribunal (ET), the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) and the first instance (Complaints and Referrals) functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT).

Section 41(13) of the Workplace Relations Act states that proceedings before an adjudication officer shall be conducted otherwise than in public. Section 41(14) states that the Commission shall publish on the internet in such form and in such manner as it considers appropriate every decision (other than information that would identify the parties in relation to whom the decision was made) of an adjudication officer under this section.

Notwithstanding the foregoing I can confirm that there are no adjudications or findings of the Workplace Relations Commission during the period in question that have not been accepted by my Department.

In relation to the Agencies which are under the aegis of my Department this is generally an operational or day-to-day matter for the Agencies.  In that regard, it has not been possible in the time available for my officials to compile all of the information requested by the Deputy.  Once the available information is collated, I will arrange for it to be conveyed to the Deputy.

School Completion Programme

 791. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the allocation to the school completion programme over each of the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17793/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone As the Deputy may be aware, responsibility for the National Educational Welfare Board which included the School Completion Programme was transferred to my Department on its establishment in 2011. Upon the establishment of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency on January 1 2014, operational responsibility for the School Completion Programme was transferred to the Agency.

  Funding information in relation to the School Completion Programme prior to the establishment of my Department is not readily available.

School YearSCP Funding
2011-2012€28.256m
2012-2013€26.456m
2013-2014€24.756m
2014-2015€24.756m
2015-2016€24.756m
2016-2017€24.756m

Preschool Services

 792. 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 if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties being experienced by crèches and preschools in recruiting trained staff; her plans to attract more persons to work in this sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17464/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am very much aware of the difficulties being reported regarding the recruitment and retention of early years staff. The matter has been discussed at the Early Years Forum which I chair, and in other fora with my Department.

We are working with the Department of Education and Skills to develop a new Early Years workforce plan. This will examine workforce supply issues.

I am also aware that pay and conditions of staff is a significant barrier to retaining staff in the sector. While my Department is not an employer of childcare workers, we are a significant funder. I am committed to the development of high quality services in this country and it has been proven that high quality care is dependent on a workforce that feels valued. My Department is working with the sector to explore how we can improve retention rates. The Programme for Government contains 14 commitments to improving access to high quality, affordable childcare. The Affordable Childcare Scheme, which is currently under development, will provide an important infrastructure for future investment in the Early Years sector.

It is clear that we need to focus collaboratively on how best to make the early years sector a more attractive and personally rewarding place in which to work. I think that pay is only one issue, although, clearly an important one. The fact that we are investing considerably increased resources in the sector will also be important. In Budget 2017 I secured a 35% increase in childcare funding, up by €120m to €466m. This was on top of a 35% increase in Budget 2016 also.

These increases reflect the emphasis I am placing on developing a quality service with appropriately supported staff. In this regard, the City & County Childcare Committees are assisting services who experience difficulties in recruiting or retaining staff, and the Learner Funds are in place to support staff in achieving minimum qualification requirements, both regulatory and contractual.

Childcare workers are part of a growing sector, which the Government is strongly supporting. I believe that by working together we can ensure that it is a viable and strong sector which makes a significant contribution to the care and personal development of our children.

Foster Care

 793. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the HSE payment per week per foster child. [17502/17]

 794. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the HSE policy for the number of children that can be fostered by one person. [17503/17]

 795. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if the HSE policy allows for one person who owns and rents upwards of five properties to take in multiples of foster children in each property. [17504/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 793 to 795, inclusive, together.

Foster care is the preferred option for children who have been received into care. This can be as a result of abuse and/or neglect and their parents' inability to care for them due to a combination of difficulties in their own lives. At the end of January 2017, there were 6,323 children in care of whom over 92% (5,844) were in foster care, either with relatives or with general foster carers. There are 2 weekly rates of Foster Care Allowance - €325 for children aged 0 - 12 years and €352 for children aged 12 years and over which is paid to the foster family. Foster care allowances are provided in order to allow foster carers meet all of the child’s daily living needs, e.g. food, clothing, school uniform, school books, extra-curricular activities, school trips, pocket money (depending on the age of the child), and treats such as toys, games or holidays.

I can advise the Deputy that Departmental policy which Tusla operates is in accordance with the National Standards for Foster Care. The Standards recommend that no more than two unrelated children be placed in any one foster family in recognition of the challenges involved in meeting their needs. Exceptions are made for sibling groups, where approval will be sought from the Principal Social Worker prior to placement and notification sent to the Foster Care Committee.

Prospective general foster care applicants undergo a comprehensive and rigorous assessment before they are formally approved by a Foster Care Committee and any child is placed with them. Relative foster carers may, in accordance with Regulations, have a child placed with them in an emergency, following initial checks, but before a full assessment and appraisal is carried out. Foster carers are selected on the basis of their ability to meet the needs of the individual child. Social work support is also provided for foster carers in the form of a link worker. The link worker is a professionally qualified social worker and meets regularly with foster carers to provide training, information and whatever other support that may be required.

The use of private foster placements, in approximately 6% of total foster placements, is a necessary part of ensuring that the service is available at all times and that Tusla has access to specialised placements. The private foster placements includes services for emergency placements when Gardaí have to intervene and remove a child to a place of safety. All foster care, whether recruited directly by Tusla or sourced through private sector providers, operate using the same model of care. The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) carries out independent inspections of all foster care services in Ireland against the National Standards for Foster Care.

The latest figures from Tusla indicate at the end of January, 2017, there were 6,323 children in care. Of these, over 92% are in foster care, either with relatives or a general foster placement.

Child Care Services Regulation

 796. Deputy Michael Collins Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone if she will review the guidelines in relation to employing persons under the better start access and inclusion model in view of the fact play schools across the country are refusing the funding offered under this programme due to the recruitment criteria (details supplied). [17562/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 provide that each employee working directly with children attending a pre-school service must hold at least a major award in early childhood care and education at Level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) or a qualification deemed to be equivalent.

The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), which is a programme of supports to enable children with a disability to access and fully participate in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, was introduced in June 2016 and is administered by Pobal on behalf of my Department. The degree of support provided through AIM depends on the needs of the child in the context of the pre-school service. One of the supports offered under AIM - Level 7 - is additional capitation. Where approval for additional capitation has been agreed, and in circumstances where the maximum capitation has been approved, it can be used in one of two ways. It can be used to reduce the adult to child ratio in the pre-school room, from 1 adult and 11 children down to 1 adult and 8 children, without any financial loss to the pre-school provider. Alternatively, it can be used to buy in additional assistance to the pre-school room.

Applicants who intend to use additional capitation provided under AIM Level 7 to employ an additional person for the pre-school room or increase hours for existing staff must ensure that such staff have a Level 5 major award in early childhood care and education.

The Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 allow for an exemption to the qualification requirements for an employee of a registered childcare provider receiving funding under Level 7 of AIM where it has deemed that specialised health support, for example nursing care, is required. In limited circumstances, an exemption may be granted by Pobal where it has considered that such specialist support is required and is critical to the child's meaningful participation in the ECCE programme. Such exemptions will primarily be for children with medically complex needs. The service would need to request an exemption during the appraisal process or once funding has been approved prior to recruitment.

When the Early Years Quality Agenda was introduced in 2013 to further improve quality in early years services, one of the items to be progressed was the introduction of a requirement that all staff working with children in pre-school services must hold the Level 5 major award in early childhood care and education. The new qualification requirement is based on international evidence demonstrating that increasing the qualification levels of staff in childcare increases the quality of the service and therefore improves the outcomes for children using the service.

There are no plans to review this qualification requirement as it relates to AIM at the present time. However, this matter can be brought to the attention of the Cross-Sectoral Implementation Group to consider. It can also be considered in the context of planned reviews of AIM, the first of which will take place end 2017 with a full formal evaluation planned for 2019.

Departmental Expenditure

 797. 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 the estimated cost of increasing the capitation grant for the free preschool year by €5 per week per child for both existing lower and higher capitation rates.  [17575/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The actual cost of this proposal would be subject to a number of factors including actual levels of participation, and the number of children subvented at the 'higher capitation' rate- costs increase as the number of higher qualified staff increase. My Department estimates the cost of such a measure to be in the region of €20m per annum, with increases of €3m annually for every additional 1% of children paid at the higher capitation rate.

Preschool Services

 798. 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 the estimated cost of employing ten new special needs assistants working for early years services at five hours per day five days a week for 52 weeks. [17576/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone The Deputy has asked specifically about the estimated cost of employing Special Needs Assistants. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs does not fund Special Needs Assistants.

  The Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), which is a programme of supports to enable children with a disability to access and fully participate in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, was introduced in June 2016 and is administered by Pobal on behalf of my Department. The degree of support provided through AIM depends on the needs of the child in the context of the pre-school service. One of the supports offered under AIM - Level 7 - is additional capitation. Where approval for additional capitation has been agreed, and in circumstances where the maximum capitation has been approved, it can be used in one of two ways. It can be used to reduce the adult to child ratio in the pre-school room, from 1 adult and 11 children down to 1 adult and 8 children, without any financial loss to the pre-school provider. Alternatively, it can be used to buy in additional assistance to the pre-school room. Further information is available at http://aim.gov.ie/.

Child Care Services

 799. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 839 of 7 March 2017, the estimated cost for the number of children anticipated to avail of targeted subsidies in the ACS scheme in year one. [17598/17]

 800. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 840 of 7 March 2017, the estimated cost for the number of children anticipated to avail of the universal subsidy in the ACS in year one. [17599/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I propose to take Questions Nos. 799 and 800 together.

Budget 2017 provided an additional €19m to enable the introduction of a new single Affordable Childcare Scheme. This is in addition to the existing funding which supports the current targeted schemes and which equates to €87m annually. The full year costs of the scheme will be approximately €150m.

The Budget 2017 allocation provided for both development costs for the introduction of a new IT system and operational costs for the new scheme. It was estimated that in year one approximately 87% of operational costs would relate to the targeted element of the scheme and 13% to the universal element.

At the meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs on 8 February 2017, I stated that we will not have an automated system ready for September, and that I would communicate further details on timelines as soon as possible. I intend to announce details shortly.

Aftercare Services Provision

 801. 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 further to Parliamentary Question No. 29 of 28 March 2017, the specific date on which she hopes to have the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015 implemented in full. [17662/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone My Department is working closely with Tusla to ensure that the provisions of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015 can be fully implemented as quickly as possible. The amendment to the Act is primarily concerned with aftercare – the planning and support put in place to meet the needs of a young person who is leaving statutory care at 18 years of age, to assist him or her in making the transition to independent living. The legislation imposes a statutory duty on Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, following an assessment of need, to prepare an aftercare plan identifying relevant aftercare supports for an eligible child or eligible young person. It is anticipated that the relevant provisions of the Act will be commenced in Q2 of this year.

In preparation for the commencement of this new legislation, Tusla has introduced a number of new practices. It has developed dedicated aftercare teams and it continues to roll out inter-agency steering committees to strongly promote good co-ordination of these services at local level. Tusla is identifying gaps in the aftercare service nationally and has undertaken a major recruitment campaign of social care workers to fill aftercare post vacancies.

Tusla has consulted with all key stakeholders in order to finalise the revision of its Aftercare policy. The consultation process has included foster carers, young people / young adults, aftercare staff, social work staff, NGO's, private foster care and residential care providers and other State Departments. All have been invited to events and offered the opportunity to make written submissions. Following these consultations, feedback will be considered, amendments made to the draft document, and the final draft of the Aftercare documents will be presented to the National Policy Oversight Committee in Tusla for approval. The Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015 will be commenced as soon as practicable after approval of the revised policy.

I believe that our young people leaving care deserve high quality supports throughout the system, and that full implementation of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015 will be a key element of how our society helps them to make this critical transition in their lives.

Traveller Community

 802. 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 will report on progress by her Department to date since the publication of Better Outcomes Brighter Futures, to fulfil Commitment 5.6 specifically in relation to Travellers as noted within that commitment. [17665/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People (2014-2020) was launched by Government in April 2014. This is a whole of Government framework, implementation of which is overseen by my Department. Individual commitments remain the responsibility of relevant Departments or Agencies.

  While Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures is a universal framework which applies to all children and young people from birth to 24, it recognises that certain groups of children and young people face additional barriers to achieving their goals and aspirations in life. This includes traveller children and young people. Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures contains a range of commitments to Traveller children, addressing issues such as health, education, and social inclusion.

   In the case of commitment 5.6:

“Reduce discrimination and intolerance of all types experienced by marginalised groups (i.e. Travellers, Roma, migrants and asylum-seekers; children and young people with disabilities; those in care and detention; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people; and those from ethnic or religious minorities).”

Lead responsibility for this commitment rests with the Department of Justice and Equality. The Department of Justice and Equality is also responsible for the development of the Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy which is nearing completion. This will be a whole of Government Strategy, and following discussions with Traveller representatives includes:
- a coordinated and targeted response to the poor outcomes faced by Travellers in the areas of health, education, accommodation and employment,

- collaboration between Traveller organisations, local authorities and other stakeholders to develop understanding and respect for the valuable cultural heritage of Travellers

- embedding a consistent approach to the collection of disaggregated data across all administrative systems to monitor outcomes and inform evidence based policy

- ensuring that the specific needs of women and members of the LGBT community are taken into account to ensure the inclusion of marginalised groups within the Traveller/Roma communities

- design and costing of a sustained mediation and counselling intervention to eliminate feuding over a period of time

  Furthermore in March 2017 the Government formally recognised that Travellers are an ethnic minority.

  The State of the Nation’s Children Report (2014) includes a specific section on children in the Traveller Community on areas including nutrition, self-esteem, drug and alcohol use, family relationships, and feelings of safeness within 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. 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 and Family Agency Data

 803. 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 number of high priority cases that have not been allocated a social worker to date. [17666/17]

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, the Child and Family Agency, 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 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.

  At the end of January 2017 (the latest data available), there was a total of 25,189 open child welfare and protection cases nationwide. An open case is one which is assessed as needing a dedicated (allocated) social work service. Of the 25,189 open cases, 80% (20,173) had an allocated social worker and 5,016 were waiting to be allocated a social worker. Of the children awaiting allocation to a social worker at the end of January, 2017 their priority levels were as follows:

Level of PriorityNumber
Low Priority1,287
Medium Priority2,886
High Priority843


  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 843 high priority cases awaiting allocation, 271 were waiting less than a month, 194 were waiting one to three months and 378 were waiting in excess of three months. Cases that are unallocated are closely monitored, supported and managed by the duty social work team under the supervision of the principal social worker. 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.

  It is a continuing priority of Tusla to address the problem of unallocated cases in 2017. Tusla currently has 1,467 WTE social workers and an end of 2017 target of 1,520 WTE. This target is short of the target set in Survival to Sustainability by approximately 100 WTE and reflects the constraints of the social work labour supply. Funding is in place to address the issue of unallocated cases, however, the recruitment environment for social workers is very challenging. Tusla is also focusing on intervening at an early stage of a family difficulty through social care and family supports.

  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.

Foster Care

 804. 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 portion of the €37 million additional funding secured for Tusla for 2017 that has been allocated to improving foster care. [17667/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone As these are operational matters, I have asked Tusla – The Child and Family Agency to respond directly to the Deputy with the most up-to-date information.

  The referred reply under Standing Order 42A was forwarded to the Deputy.

Children in Care

 805. 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 when a supervised residential unit (details supplied) in Letterkenny, County Donegal, will be reopened; and if her attention has been drawn to the distress that this prolonged closure has caused. [17697/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I have been informed by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, that at this time all Tusla Children’s Residential Centres in the West are under review to determine how the needs of the young people in the region may be best met. I am advised that consideration is being given to the demands on each service and ensuring that each Centre’s purpose and function fits with the overall plan for services for troubled young people in the West. Within this context, the purpose and function of the Centre in question will be finalised.

Every effort is being made to minimise any disruption to staff and young people. The staff team in the facility concerned is currently involved in providing outreach to support young people in other placements as well as facilitating access and activities for children and families in difficult circumstances.

Child and Family Agency Funding

 806. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone the details of funding for counselling for students affected by bereavement (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17703/17]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Katherine Zappone): Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone Tusla has advised that in 1994 the Department of Social Welfare opened a grant scheme to provide counselling supports to children who had experienced bereavement or loss. This grant scheme then passed to the Family Support Agency (FSA) when it was established in 2003 and subsequently to Tusla on establishment in January 2014.

Up until 2011 applications were invited through an annual public advertisement, however in 2011 due to austerity this scheme was closed and no new applications have been accepted since 2011. Since 2011 the grantees who received funding in 2011 have continued to receive an annual grant equivalent to their 2011 grant. This Counselling Grants Scheme is for a total of €245,900 annually and currently there are only 64 grantees nationwide benefitting from this scheme. With over 4,000 schools in Ireland 64 grantees means that less than 2% of schools are in receipt of support from this scheme currently. Opening up the scheme nationally with a current budget allocation of €245,000 is not an option as this equates to less than €60 per school. Hence the decision was made to cease the scheme in its current format.

Tusla Educational Welfare Services informed grantees in January 2016 and as part of the 2016/2017 grant application process reconfirmed that the scheme would not operate for 2017/2018. Tusla Educational Welfare Services wrote again to confirm this in January 2017.

Tusla Educational Welfare Services is very supportive of the provision of appropriate school counselling supports and the option of continuing the scheme with adequate funding to provide the opportunity to all schools and School Completion Programmes nationally. All School Completion Programmes have been requested to identify their unmet as part of their annual plan for 2017/18 due on 21 April.

Identified gaps in service, including counselling provision for bereavement and loss, will be reviewed on the basis of the information provided in the 2017/18 annual plans.


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