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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 223-245
 Header Item Foireann Roinne
 Header Item Seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge
 Header Item Community Employment Schemes
 Header Item Domiciliary Care Allowance
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Departmental Budgets
 Header Item Social Welfare Payments Administration
 Header Item School Meals Programme
 Header Item Illness Benefit
 Header Item Fuel Allowance
 Header Item Fuel Allowance
 Header Item White Papers Publication
 Header Item Refugee Resettlement Programme
 Header Item Legislative Measures
 Header Item Legislative Measures
 Header Item Foster Care
 Header Item Childcare Services
 Header Item Childcare Services
 Header Item National Childcare Scheme

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1002 No. 6

First Page Previous Page Page of 110 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 223-245

Foireann Roinne

 223. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Coimirce Sóisialaí Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys sonrú a dhéanamh ar gach post atá sainaitheanta mar phost a bhfuil riachtanas Gaeilge leis ina Roinn faoi láthair, líon na bhfostaithe ina Roinn a bhfuil cumas sa Ghaeilge acu, agus líon iomlán na bhfostaithe ina Roinn. [43889/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Mar chuid de phróiseas pleanála mo Roinne maidir lena lucht saothair, tá socair gur fearr a chuirfear seachadadh an ghnó trí mheán na Gaeilge i gcrích más amhlaidh a shaineofar áiteanna a bhfuil riachtanas Gaeilge ag baint leo de rogha ar an nGaeilge a theorannú do phoist áirithe. Tá na hoifigí poiblí seo a leanas lonnaithe i gceantair Ghaeltachta: Ionaid Intreo in Acaill, sa Chlochán Liath agus i mBéal an Mhuirthead agus oifig chraoibhe an Daingin agus tá seirbhís ghutháin agus seirbhís "aghaidh ar aghaidh" á gcur ar fáil trí Ghaeilge sna hoifigí seo go léir.

  Tá 190 duine ag fónamh faoi láthair sna hOifigí Craoibhe agus sna hOifigí Roinne araon atá ar fáil chun seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge a sholáthar.

  Tá 6766 (6460.57 post coibhéise lánaimseartha) fostaí ag mo Roinn go hiomlán.

  Tá rún daingean ag mo Roinn go gcuirfear seirbhís ardchaighdeáin ar fáil dá custaiméirí i nGaeilge nó i mBéarla de réir mar atá ag teastáil ón gcustaiméir, agus tá ár ngealltanais ina thaobh seo leagtha amach inár Scéim Teanga. Tá ár bhfoireann eolach ar a ndualgais faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla agus faoi Rialacháin na dTeangacha Oifigiúla. I dtaca le háiteanna nach mbíonn an fhoireann a bhíonn ar fáil in ann plé le duine trí Ghaeilge, tairgfear seirbhís ateangaireachta don chustaiméir. Is féidir an tseirbhís seo, ar féidir í a shocrú faoi ghearrfhógra, a sholáthar ar mhodh glao gutháin trí bhealach, nó i bpearsain, de réir mar is gá. Tá na seirbhísí digiteacha ardáin go léir agus an t-eolas ar fad laistigh de www.MyGovid.ie www.MyWelfare.ie agus www.WelfarePartners.ie ar fáil dár gcustaiméirí i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla araon. Ní fhéadfaidh aon seirbhís dhigiteach teacht i bhfeidhm gan an dá theanga a bheith ar fáil go hiomlán agus a bheith feidhmiúil go hiomlán.

  Thairis sin, tá mo Roinn tiomanta don fhoireann a fhorbairt agus a oiliúint ar bhonn leantach chun éascaíocht a dhéanamh ar sheirbhísí a sholáthar trí Ghaeilge agus tá sí ag leanúint den fhoireann a spreagadh agus a éascú le leas a bhaint as raon na dtacaí agus go háirithe le freastal ar chúrsaí oiliúna sa Ghaeilge.

  Déanann mo Roinn faireachán leanúnach ar fhorfheidhmiú Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 agus ar Scéim Teanga na Roinne agus bíonn sí i dteagmháil le hOifig an Choimisinéara Teanga agus leis an Roinn Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus Meán agus cuireann sí tuarascálacha agus eolas eile ar fáil, de réir mar is gá.

  Is deimhin liom go bhfuil dóthain foirne ar fáil faoi láthair chun freastal ar na hiarrataí ar sholáthar sheirbhísí na Roinne trí mheán na Gaeilge.

  Answer

  As part of my Department’s workforce planning process, it has been concluded that the delivery of business through Irish is best serviced by designating locations where there is an Irish language requirement rather than confining it to particular posts. The following public offices of my Department are located in Gaeltacht areas: Acaill, An Clochán Liath and Beal an Mhuirthead Intreo Centres and An Daingean branch office and all of these offices provide a telephone and face to face service through Irish.

  Currently, there are 190 people serving in both Branch Offices and Departmental offices who are available to deliver services through Irish.

  My department currently has a total of 6766 (6460.57 FTE) employees.

  My Department is committed to providing quality services to its customers in either Irish or English as required by the customer and our commitments in this regard are set out in our Language Scheme. Our staff are familiar with their obligations under the Official Language Act and Regulations. In areas where the staff available are unable to deal with a person through Irish, a language interpretive service is offered to the customer. This service, which can be arranged at very short notice, can be provided either by 3-way phone call, or in-person, as required. All digital platform services and information within www.MyGovid.ie, www.MyWelfare.ie and www.WelfarePartners.ie is available to our customers in both Irish and English. No digital service can go live without both languages being fully available and functional.

  In addition, my Department is committed to the continued development and training of staff to facilitate the provision of services through Irish and continues to encourage and facilitate staff to avail of the range of supports and in particular to attend Irish training courses.

  My Department continuously monitors the implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003 and the Department’s Language Scheme and liaises with Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga and with the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and provides reports and other information as required.

  I am satisfied that there are sufficient staff currently available to respond to requests for the delivery of the Department’s services through Irish.

Seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge

 224. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Coimirce Sóisialaí Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys sainiú a dhéanamh ar na fadhbanna is práinní i leith seirbhísí faoi riar a Roinne a sholáthar trí Ghaeilge sna ceantair Ghaeltachta, agus cad atá beartaithe aici chun iad a réiteach. [43890/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Is í mo Roinn an Roinn Rialtais is mó, agus thart ar 6,000 ball foirne inti, agus ráta suntasach iomlaoide foirne ag tarlú inti. Oibríonn mo Roinn leis an tSeirbhís um Cheapacháin Phoiblí chun deimhin a dhéanamh de thréchur foirne a bhíonn i gcumas plé le custaiméirí trí Ghaeilge.

  Mar chuid de phróiseas pleanála mo Roinne maidir lena lucht saothair, agus ionas gur féidir na gealltanais faoi Scéim Teanga na Roinne a chomhlíonadh, déanann an Roinn athbhreithniú, i gcomhairle le Bainisteoirí, ar na háiteanna a mbíonn gá le foireann chun seirbhís a chur ar fáil do chustaiméirí i nGaeilge.

  Nuair a tharlaíonn folúntas poist in áit a mbíonn gá le duine a bhíonn dátheangach go feidhmiúil, féachann mo Roinn leis an bhfolúntas a líonadh ó phainéil a bhíonn bunaithe ag an tSeirbhís um Cheapacháin Phoiblí. Tá 190 duine ag fónamh faoi láthair in Oifigí Craoibhe agus Oifigí Roinne araon, atá ar fáil chun seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge, chomh mhaith le seirbhísí trí Bhéarla, a sholáthar

  (i mBéarla) My Department is the largest Government Department with approximately 6,000 staff and is experiencing significant staff churn. My Department works with the Public Appointments Service to ensure a throughput of staff capable of dealing with customers through Irish.

  As part of my Department’s workforce planning process, and in order to deliver on commitments under the Department’s Irish Language Scheme, the Department, in consultation with managers, reviews the locations where staff are required to provide a service to customers in Irish.

  When a post becomes vacant in a location where a functional bi-lingual is required, my Department seeks to have it filled from panels established by the Public Appointments Service. Currently, there are 190 people serving in both Branch Offices and Departmental offices who are available to deliver services through Irish as well as English.

Community Employment Schemes

 225. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if her attention has been drawn to the extreme difficulties being experienced by many community employment schemes in recruiting participants; the efforts being made to ensure an adequate supply of eligible persons; if she will extend the scheme eligibility to allow for a larger pool of participants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43923/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection (Deputy Joe O'Brien): Information on Joe O'Brien Zoom on Joe O'Brien The Community Employment (CE) Scheme is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a temporary, fixed term basis.

In general, CE recruitment does not present an issue for CE sponsoring authorities or the Department however, I recognise that the challenges caused by the original Covid-19 emergency earlier this year, coupled with the recent Level-5 restrictions, has had an impact on the ability of a number of CE schemes to recruit new CE participants.

While referrals to CE sponsoring authorities have continued throughout the Level 5 restrictions, the number of CE referrals from Intreo Offices has been impacted by the need to deploy Intreo staff to the delivery of other frontline services. During this period, CE sponsoring authorities have been encouraged to continue to promote awareness of the benefits of CE in their local communities, ensuring that CE vacancies are well publicised. They have also been able to advertise their vacancies free of charge on the Department's JobsIreland website www.jobsireland.ie.

With the exception of CE participants that are taking up employment or those that have reached the State Pension age, CE participants who were due to finish over the period of the Level-5 restrictions have had their CE contracts extended until the 15th January, 2021. Department officials have also continued to work with CE schemes to fill vacancies where it has been safe to do so.

Recruitment to all of the Department’s employment supports, including CE, will increase over the coming period in line with the planned recommencement of central activation services.

The priority for my Department is to ensure that CE has the best outcomes for participants. At present, my Department has no plans to extend the eligibility criteria for CE and places on CE will continue to be made available to support those who are long term unemployed and furthest removed from the labour market, while maintaining the role of CE as an active labour market programme.

I am fully committed to the future of this programme and will continue to support and improve the programme for the benefit of the CE participants and the valuable contribution being made to local communities.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

 226. Deputy Verona Murphy Information on Verona Murphy Zoom on Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the consideration that has been made to realign the age category for domiciliary care allowance from 16 to 18 years of age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43989/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The revision of the age limit for Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) has been recommended in a number of reports produced over recent years and continues to be under consideration in the Department.

The second report of the review of Budget 2012 proposals regarding Disability Allowance and Domiciliary Care Allowance, published October 2012, recommended an extension of the age limit for DCA to 18 and the commencement age for DA to also move to 18 years. The review of the DCA scheme completed in December 2012 also recommended a similar change to the age limits for the two schemes.

In addition, the “Make Work Pay for People with Disabilities” (MWP) report, published in April 2017, made two recommendations that addressed issues around the design of the main income supports schemes affecting young people with a disability. These related to reconfiguration of the starting age of Disability Allowance (DA) from the current age of 16 to 18 years and implementing the principle of early engagement for young persons on DA and on all illness and disability payments.

To fulfil a commitment made at the time of the report, a wide-ranging consultation exercise was conducted with persons with disabilities, their families and representative groups in relation to these recommendations. This consultation began in September 2017 and continued until June 2018.

It is imperative when deciding on any changes to the age limits for the relevant schemes that such changes have a positive effect on those in receipt of the payments and that we avoid any unintended negative consequences.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 227. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys when pandemic unemployment payment arrears will be paid to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44014/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I am advised that the person concerned was paid the Pandemic Unemployment Payment at the rate of €203 per week for 7 weeks from 18/09/2020 to 05/11/2020. She was entitled to €250 per week.

  It is intended that arrears of €329.00 in respect of this period will be paid into the person’s nominated bank account on 22/12/2020.

  I trust that this clarifies the matter.

Departmental Budgets

 228. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the current budgets in her Department for social media advertising for 2021; and the campaigns behind each budget line in tabular form. [44029/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department administers over 80 separate schemes and services, which affect the lives of almost every person in the State. These include everything from Carer's allowance, to Maternity benefit, to Jobseekers Allowance to State Pensions and Back to Work Enterprise Allowance. The Department is committed to ensuring that members of the public are fully aware of the social welfare supports and services that are available to them.

All public information campaigns from DSP are developed to offer clear messages to the public while ensuring value for money for the taxpayer. The Department works with a media buying agency, appointed under an OGP procurement process in order to plan and buy advertising effectively, including social media advertising. Expenditure on social media platforms is made where it is appropriate for the campaign message and target audience, and it can provide a highly cost-effective method of advertising.

While some media campaigns for 2021 are in early stage creative planning, no media buying planning for 2021 has been undertaken to date and hence the allocation of budget to social media advertising by campaign is not available. As such, it is not possible to supply a figure for projected social media advertising spend in 2021.

Social Welfare Payments Administration

 229. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the deadline for return to her Department of special UP38 forms agreed with a company (details supplied) which an employee must agree with his or her employer and provide to her Department in order for potential arrears of support due to be calculated and paid; if the current deadline will be extended; if not, if a degree of flexibility will be provided given the current Covid-19-related difficulties and the short timeframe for employees to submit the respective form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44069/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys My Department has requested that employees return the UP38 form completed by their employer within 21 days. This has already been extended from the normal 14 days within which a person is required to submit any documentation required by my Department in order to make a decision on their claim.

There is always flexibility allowed within these timeframes and where a person has difficulty in returning the required documentation they should contact their Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office to advise them of the position accordingly. A new timeframe which will facilitate the person to return the required documents can then be agreed with the person on an individual basis.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

School Meals Programme

 230. Deputy Gary Gannon Information on Gary Gannon Zoom on Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if the provision of the school meals local projects scheme will be extended over the Christmas school holiday period in order that schools as local leaders may support families in food poverty as they have done throughout the year with the support of this scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44072/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys The school meals programme provides funding towards the provision of food to some 1,557 schools and organisations benefitting 227,000 children. The objective of the scheme is to provide regular, nutritious food to children who are unable, due to lack of good quality food, to take full advantage of the education provided to them. The programme is an important component of policies to encourage school attendance and extra educational achievement.

  Following the announcement of the closure of schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic on 12th March 2020, schools and organisations participating in the school meals programme expressed concerns about the impact of school closures on pupils who avail of school meals, and that the unavailability of school meals impacts in particular on the most disadvantaged in our society.

  Funding to schools continued, to enable schools to provide food until the end of the 2019/2020 academic year, in line with the parameters of the school meals scheme, including the 2 week Easter holiday. This funding was further extended to allow schools who chose to continue to provide food during the summer period until the start of the new academic year 2020/2021. The extension of the school meals programme over the summer months was provided for within the budget for 2020.

  The school meals programme has been operating as normal in schools since schools reopened at the end of August and there is no plan to extend outside the normal school calendar.

  While I have not received any representations from parents groups or schools with regard to maintaining funding for school meals over the Christmas period, I can confirm that funding will be made available if a participating school, acting as a local leader, confirms that it can operate the scheme and that it wishes to do so.

  I trust this clarifies the matter.

Illness Benefit

 231. Deputy Claire Kerrane Information on Claire Kerrane Zoom on Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if the enhanced illness benefit payment is available to persons who have been advised by their general practitioner to restrict their movements and in circumstances in which their employer has sent them home from work as per the guidelines on the website gov.ie (details supplied); if this rule is being followed by Department officials making decisions on applications of this nature; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44080/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Under the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 (No. 1), the Government, having regard to the manifest and grave risk to human life and public health posed by the spread of Covid-19, extended the Social Welfare Acts to provide for entitlement to illness benefit for persons who have been diagnosed with, or are a probable source of, infection with Covid-19.

  The rate of payment of the enhanced Illness Benefit payment in respect of COVID-19 is higher than the normal maximum personal rate for a limited period. The measures were designed to ensure that where a registered medical practitioner or a HSE medical officer diagnoses a person with COVID-19 or identifies him or her as a probable source of infection of COVID-19, the person concerned can comply with medical advice to isolate, while having their income protected. This is essential to limit and slow down the spread of the virus, to keep the number of people affected to a minimum, and to reduce a peak of cases which would cause extreme pressure on the health system.

  The enhanced rate of Illness Benefit was brought in as a short-term public health measure and is not a long-term income support payment. It is payable for 2 weeks where a person is isolating as a probable source of infection of COVID-19 and for up to 10 weeks where a person has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Certification by a registered medical professional is required to support any claim for the special COVID-19 Illness payment. There are no waiting days in respect of the enhanced illness benefit payment. Only one contribution is required in the four weeks before the claim, thereby making the payment more accessible.

  Where a medical practitioner advises a person to remain away from work because an underlying medical condition means they are unable to work safely, then the standard Illness Benefit payment may be made, subject to the conditions of the scheme being satisfied.

  It should be noted that employers are asked to facilitate remote working where possible – in this situation people should remain on full pay from the employer. The Return to Work Safely Protocol provides that if an at-risk or vulnerable worker cannot work from home and must be in the workplace, employers must make sure that they are preferentially supported to maintain a physical distance of 2 metres.   

  From the outset of COVID-19, many employers will have taken the initiative, in line with subsequent requests from the Government, to be as flexible as possible in allowing staff time off where required. Employers have a general duty of care towards their workers and that care is often expressed in the form of negotiation, compromise and flexibility. Some of the options to be considered for workers with responsibilities that preclude them from working their normal hours in the normal, pre-COVID-19, manner may include:

  - offering paid compassionate leave

  - allowing employees to work from home

  - altering shifts, so that employees can co-ordinate caring between themselves and partners, or another person

  - allowing employees to take or rearrange annual leave

  - allowing employees to rearrange parental leave

  - allowing employees to take paid time off that can be worked back at a later time etc.

  - allowing employees to take unpaid leave until they can return to work full or part-time.

  In general, if people are struggling financially, they can apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance which is a means-tested payment.

  I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.

Fuel Allowance

 232. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is receiving a reduced fuel allowance and has had their fuel allowance stopped; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44092/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Free fuel (FF) allowance is a means tested payment, payable to people who either live alone or only with certain other qualified people. The person concerned was awarded the full rate of FF with effect from 2 October 2019 and he continues to qualify for this allowance. On 29 October 2019 a letter issued informing him of this.

  The first payment along with arrears due were made by his chosen payment method on 30 October 2019. FF allowance is paid during the winter months only. The first payment for this FF season issued to the person concerned on 30 September 2020.

  The person concerned is in receipt of a weekly FF payment. If he wishes to transfer to the lump sum FF payment which is paid in two lump sums annually, he can apply to do so.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Fuel Allowance

 233. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has been refused the fuel allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44093/20]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys On 28 April 2020, an application form for fuel allowance was issued to the person concerned. The person concerned was in receipt of the State Pension contributory and the fuel allowance payment is means-tested for such customers.

  Following receipt of the completed application on 24 November 2020, the Deciding Officer requested additional information from the person concerned on 26 November 2020, in order that their weekly means could be assessed.

  Separately, an application form for State Pension non-contributory was received from the person concerned on 1 October 2020. The person concerned has now been awarded State Pension non-contributory at a higher weekly rate of payment than their contributory pension, together with fuel allowance, with effect from 2 October 2020.

  A written notification of this decision issued on 11 December 2020 to the person concerned and due arrears of payment will issue shortly.

  I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

White Papers Publication

 234. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore Information on Jennifer  Whitmore Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman when the White Paper on direct provision will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43618/20]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The Programme for Government contains a commitment to ending the Direct Provision system and replacing it with a new International Protection accommodation policy, centred on a not-for-profit approach. The Government has also committed to the development of a White Paper which will set out how this new system will be structured and the steps to achieving it.

My Department is currently developing the White Paper, which will set out options, together with the recommended direction, for the new model of accommodation and services for International Protection applicants and the transitional processes needed to implement the model. Options for developing a not-for-profit approach are currently being examined in this regard.

Good progress has been made on drafting the White Paper and work is now focusing on testing the accommodation proposals that will be contained in it. In view of the extent of change proposed, the White Paper will take some more time than originally envisaged and I now expect it will be published in the first half of February.

Refugee Resettlement Programme

 235. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore Information on Jennifer  Whitmore Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the supports available for refugee families from Syria coming into Ireland as part of the resettlement programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43620/20]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) was established in 2015 in response to the migration crisis in central and southern Europe. Under this programme, the Government committed to accepting up to 4,000 people into the State, primarily through a combination of the EU Relocation Programme and the UNHCR's Refugee Resettlement Programme.   

  In total over 3,000 persons with Syrian nationality have, to date, begun new lives in Ireland by way of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP).

  The Syrian families arriving to Ireland by way of the IRPP will have already been granted international protection status by the UNHCR. The Minister for Justice grants them ‘programme refugee’ status immediately upon their arrival in Ireland which allows the same benefits and supports as Irish citizens.

  These benefits include, but are not restricted to, the supports which are provided by the various strands of the Irish Government, local authorities and wider community. The benefits provided are a comprehensive package designed to provide support and encourage integration into Irish society.

  The particular supports that Programme participants receive following their relocation to Ireland include:

  - Accommodation and orientation, to include language training, within one of three dedicated Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres in the State, until such time as housing becomes available within the community.

  - The subsequent provision of Local Authority housing within the community.

  - The assistance of a dedicated Resettlement Worker post-community resettlement.

  - Assistance in accessing various State services to include health and education services, language training and establishing both social welfare entitlements and employment opportunities.

  - The assistance of a dedicated Inter-cultural worker to assist with integration into the local community.

Legislative Measures

 236. Deputy Joe Carey Information on Joe Carey Zoom on Joe Carey asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman when the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016 will be enacted to give full provision to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43831/20]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The Disability Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2016 reached Committee Stage in the previous Dáil, however, the Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the Dáil and Seanad in January 2020.

  The Programme for Government commits to finalising this required legislation and while there is no date for publication as yet, work on progressing the legislation is ongoing in my Department with a view to its enactment in 2021.

Legislative Measures

 237. Deputy Joe Carey Information on Joe Carey Zoom on Joe Carey asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman when the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 will be commenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43832/20]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The Government is committed to fully commencing the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (“the 2015 Act”). The Act provides a modern statutory framework to support decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties. The 2015 Act was signed into law on 30 December 2015 but has not yet been fully commenced. The Act provides for the establishment of new administrative processes and support measures, including the setting up of the Decision Support Service (DSS) within the Mental Health Commission (a body under the Department of Health).

A number of provisions of the 2015 Act were commenced in October 2016 in order to progress the setting up of the Decision Support Service and enable the recruitment of the Director of the DSS. Ms Áine Flynn was appointed Director of the DSS on 2 October 2017. The commencement of Part 8 of the Act, which provides a legislative framework for advance healthcare directives, is a matter for the Minister for Health.

The implementation of the 2015 Act requires that the DSS is fully operational and in a position to offer services including the new decision-making support options. A high-level Steering Group comprising senior officials from my Department, the Department of Health, the Mental Health Commission, the Courts Service and the HSE, together with the Director of the DSS, is overseeing the establishment and commissioning of the DSS and this work is ongoing. The DSS, led by its Director, is working on putting in place the necessary infrastructure to support the full commencement of the Act. The infrastructure required includes, amongst many other elements, ICT capability for the DSS. These preparations are being implemented under the oversight of the Steering Group and will allow for commencement orders for the main operative provisions of the 2015 Act to be made when the necessary preparations have been completed. This will enable the DSS to roll out the new decision-making support options.

My Department has, through the Estimates process, sought and received increased funding in 2021 to allow the DSS to work towards the commencement of services in mid- 2022. In the interim, my Department, in conjunction with the DSS, the Mental Health Commission and other stakeholders have agreed to an implementation plan that anticipates the commencement of DSS services in mid-2022. There are also critical dependencies for the DSS on other organisations, including, for example, the Courts Service, the HSE and the Department of Health amongst others, which need to be delivered in order to achieve this timeline. The Steering Group has been meeting regularly to ensure a coordinated approach to the implementation of this project. In tandem with this work, progress is also being made to finalise the amendments to the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 to streamline the processes envisaged under the 2015 Act and to support the DSS to become operational.

Foster Care

 238. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the rules and regulations attached to the placement of children in foster care; his views on whether many of the restrictions placed upon children in such care may actually be having a negative rather than the hoped-for positive effect upon the health and well-being of the child (details supplied); his plans to order a review of such restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43674/20]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Since public health restrictions were introduced Tusla has demonstrated a strong commitment to ensuring children in care, where it is assessed as in their best interests, have contact with their families. Guidance has issued to Tusla staff with regard to children in care and their contact with their parents and families. Tusla is an essential service and as such the public health restrictions relating to travel and number of households meeting do not apply. A risk assessment is required and this must consider the individual circumstances of each child, their family and foster carers.

Each situation is assessed on its own merits and as such it is difficult to comment on the particular situation referenced. Tusla promotes the local resolution of complaints where possible and we would encourage the family/people impacted to make direct contact with local social work management in relation to their concerns.

Childcare Services

 239. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of SAC children who received standard hours; and the number who received enhanced hours under the NCS since September 2020. [43689/20]

 240. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of SAC children who have received funding under the CCSP and the TEC scheme since September 2020. [43690/20]

 241. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of SAC children who received funding under the CCSP and the TEC scheme from September 2019 to 31 December 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43691/20]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman I propose to take Questions Nos. 239 to 241, inclusive, together.

  The National Childcare Scheme provides financial support to help parents to meet the cost of childcare and to support better outcomes for children. The schemes objectives are to promote (i) a reduction in child poverty, (ii) positive child development outcomes, (iii) labour market activation and (iv) improved quality.

  The NCS is designed to be highly inclusive and to meet the needs of those families who need it the most. The NCS is based on the principle of progressive universalism and has regard to the best interests of children.

  By making this fundamental shift away from the legacy schemes where subsidies are grounded in medical card and social protection entitlements, and by tangibly reducing the cost of quality childcare for thousands of families, the NCS aims to improve children’s outcomes, improve labour market participation and reduce child poverty. It is a central policy component of the NCS to poverty proof and assist people in exiting the poverty trap.

  Within this framework, an income-related subsidy is payable for children up to 15 years of age. The subsidy level is determined by the family’s income and the child's age. The number of hours subsidised is determined by the parent's employment or education arrangements.

  The standard hours available are up to a maximum of 20 hours per week and children are eligible if at least one parent or guardian is not in work, education or training.

  The enhanced hours available are up to a maximum of 45 hours per week where both of a child’s parents or guardians are in work, education or training.

  The NCS acknowledges that childcare needs differ widely across families and offering subsidies at an hourly rate allows for flexible childcare arrangements to be made based on parental needs.

  With regard to the specific questions raised:

  - 517 school age children have received NCS standard hours award since September 2020.

  - 11,698 school age children have received NCS enhanced hours since September 2020.

  - 10,554 school age children were subject to a renewed CCSP application since September 2020

  - 254 school age children were subject to a renewed TEC application since September 2020

  - 21,754 school age children were registered with CCSP from September 2019 to 31 December 2019.

  - 1,160 school age children were registered with TEC from September 2019 to 31 December 2019.

  School age children for the purposes of this exercise are those aged 4 and over on CCSP. It is not readily possible to discern actual school going children from a CCSP application. The NCS specifically request school going information and has disaggregated children in the “cross-over” ages of 4-5 where a child can be in either ECCE or school. As such the information in both schemes is not directly comparable.

  It should be noted that the context for September 2019 and September 2020 are considerably different given the impact of Covid-19 and the measures in place to combat its spread. As such strong caution should be exercised in making comparisons in this regard also.

Childcare Services

 242. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of ECCE children who received standard hours; and the number who have received enhanced hours under the NCS since September 2020. [43692/20]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The National Childcare Scheme provides financial support to help parents to meet the cost of childcare and to support better outcomes for children. The schemes objectives are to promote (i) a reduction in child poverty, (ii) positive child development outcomes, (iii) labour market activation and (iv) improved quality.

The NCS is designed to be highly inclusive and to meet the needs of those families who need it the most. The NCS is based on the principle of progressive universalism and has regard to the best interests of children.

By making this fundamental shift away from the legacy schemes where subsidies are grounded in medical card and social protection entitlements, and by tangibly reducing the cost of quality childcare for thousands of families, the NCS aims to improve children’s outcomes, improve labour market participation and reduce child poverty. It is a central policy component of the NCS to poverty proof and assist people in exiting the poverty trap.

Within this framework, an income-related subsidy is payable for children up to 15 years of age. The subsidy level is determined by the family’s income and the child's age. The number of hours subsidised is determined by the parent's employment or education arrangements.

I understand that the Deputy has clarified that her question relates to the Early Childhood Care and Education programme (ECCE). The ECCE programme runs for 38 weeks each programme year and provides 15 hours of free childcare per week. Unlike the legacy schemes the National Childcare Scheme “wraps around” the ECCE scheme. Whilst the child is in ECCE the NCS hours within their award that exceed the 15 hours used for ECCE can be used throughout the year. Outside of ECCE the family can use all eligible hours within their award.

Of those participating in both ECCE and NCS:

- 1,222 children have received standard hours since September 2020.

- 7,449 have received enhanced hours since September 2020.

National Childcare Scheme

 243. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of children who have been referred from the sponsored bodies both nationally and on a county level under the NCS since September 2020. [43693/20]

 244. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of children who have been referred from each sponsored body both nationally and on a county level under the NCS. [43695/20]

 245. Deputy Kathleen Funchion Information on Kathleen Funchion Zoom on Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of children who were referred from each sponsored body both nationally and on a county level under the CCSP from September 2019 to 31 December 2019. [43696/20]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman I propose to take Questions Nos. 243 to 245, inclusive, together.

  Sponsorship arrangements within the National Childcare Scheme (NCS) and under the legacy schemes play an important role in making additional supports available for families with complex and challenging needs that Early Learning and Care can help to address.

  My Department has undertaken a series of measures to raise awareness of the Sponsor Program of the NCS including

  - working directly with the Sponsor Bodies to build their capacity and support the new relationships being built between the Sponsor Bodies, the Parents, the Provider and the Scheme Administrator.

  - working with the CCC’s to assist them with queries, in the case of CCC’s DCYA is following up on specific cases in addition to any policy, information or training questions CCC’s have.

  - working with the National Co-ordinator for the Teen Parents Support Programme (TPSP) to ensure teen parents are aware of their right to access child care under the NCS.

  - DCEDIY has reached out to Children and Young People's Services Committees to provide them with information on Sponsor Children on the National Childcare Scheme.

  - an article on the Sponsorship on the NCS in the Early Years Sectoral e-bulletin December edition, that provided information and details of the contacts needed to access additional information.

  At the request of my Department Pobal have undertaken a review of the Sponsorship scheme administration and processes with a view to introducing changes that will make the process easier to engage with, more efficient and a positive experience for all stakeholders involved. This review has been completed and the rollout of recommendations is in process.

  The figures provided in table 1 is the figure of sponsored children that have taken up a childcare place with a childcare provider since September 2020.

  Table 1. Figures since September 2020

County Health Services Executive (HSE) Minister for Education and Skills (DES) Minister for Justice and Equality (DJE) National Homeless Authorities (for Sponsored NCS) TUSLA Child and Family Agency Total
Carlow       1 35 36
Cavan     1   18 19
Clare         2 2
Cork 3 1   3 16 23
Donegal     4   11 15
Dublin 51 2   91 120 264
Galway       3 13 16
Kerry       2 8 10
Kildare       3   3
Kilkenny         21 21
Laois     1   9 10
Leitrim         4 4
Limerick 1     6 26 33
Longford         3 3
Louth 4     2 8 14
Mayo     1   1 2
Meath 1       3 4
Monaghan         6 6
Offaly     1     1
Roscommon     1     1
Sligo         4 4
Tipperary     5   24 29
Waterford       1 4 5
Westmeath   1     2 3
Wexford         8 8
Wicklow     21   63 84


  Table 2. Figures since September 2020
Sponsor Body Health Services Executive (HSE) Minister for Education and Skills (DES) Minister for Justice and Equality (DJE) National Homeless Authorities (for Sponsored NCS) TUSLA Child and Family Agency Total
Total 60 4 34 112 409 615


  Please note that a child could have attended in more than one county, but will only appear once in the total. This is why the county total does not match the total sum which you would get if you added up each county in turn.

  Information provided in table 3 is the number of children that were referred from each sponsored body nationally since September 2020. As not all are in childcare provision a county-by-county is not available.

   Table 3. Figures since September 2020
Sponsor Total
Health Services Executive (HSE) 89
Minister for Education and Skills (DES) 6
Minister for Justice and Equality (DJE) 77
National Homeless Authorities (for Sponsored NCS) 182
TUSLA Child and Family Agency 550


  Sponsor referrals since programme launch:

  The figures provided in table 4 is the figure of sponsored children that have taken up a childcare place with a childcare provider since programme launch.

  Table 4. Figures since programme launch
County Health Services Executive (HSE) Minister for Education and Skills (DES) Minister for Justice and Equality (DJE) National Homeless Authorities (for Sponsored NCS) TUSLA Child and Family Agency Total
Carlow       2 47 49
Cavan     15   20 35
Clare         3 3
Cork 3 1   4 17 25
Donegal     6   12 18
Dublin 64 2   169 136 371
Galway       17 22 39
Kerry       2 8 10
Kildare       5   5
Kilkenny     5   24 29
Laois     4   20 24
Leitrim         4 4
Limerick 1     18 36 55
Longford     5   4 9
Louth 4     3 8 15
Mayo     1   1 2
Meath 1     3 4 8
Monaghan         9 9
Offaly     1   1 2
Roscommon     29   1 30
Sligo         5 5
Tipperary     11   36 47
Waterford     12 2 7 21
Westmeath   1     2 3
Wexford         8 8
Wicklow     23 3 63 89


  Table 5. Figures since programme launch
Sponsor Body Health Services Executive (HSE) Minister for Education and Skills (DES) Minister for Justice and Equality (DJE) National Homeless Authorities (for Sponsored NCS) TUSLA Child and Family Agency Total
Total 73 4 102 228 498 905


  Please note that a child could have attended in more than one county, but will only appear once in the total. This is why the county total does not match the total sum which you would get if you added up each county in turn.

  Information provided in table 6 is the number of children that were referred from each sponsored body nationally since programme launch. Children are identified by unique PPSN.

  Table 6. Figures since programme launch
Sponsor Total
Health Services Executive (HSE) 106
Minister for Education and Skills (DES) 6
Minister for Justice and Equality (DJE) 168
National Homeless Authorities (for Sponsored NCS) 374
TUSLA Child and Family Agency 642


   CCSP sponsorship:

  Provided in the tables below are the breakdown of children that were registered for Community Childcare Subvention Transitional (CCST) for children in families experiencing homelessness and Community Childcare Subvention Resettlement (CCSR) for programme refugees both nationally and on a county level under CCSP from September 2019 to 31 December 2019.

  The below table does not include all children who were referred from each sponsored body. While CCSR and CCST have a unique identifier, Public Health Nurse (PHN) referrals, Tusla Referrals and Secondary school students are automatically granted the maximum subsidy allowable under CCSP which is identical to other non-sponsored claimants entitled to this subsidy level and therefore we are unable to extract these referrals from other CCSP registrations.

  Please note that a child could have attended in more than one county, but will only appear once in the total.

  In addition it should be noted that CCSP requires an annual re-registration which runs from late August to late October. As such the registration activity in the table below do not necessarily represent new registrations. This fixed annual cycle does not apply to NCS registrations.

   Table 7. CCSP figures from September 2019 to 31 December 2019
County CCS Resettlement CCS Transitional
Cork County 2 2
Clare 0 4
Carlow 8 1
Cork City 4 12
Donegal 4 0
Dun Laoghaire 1 3
Dublin South 1 20
Dublin City 30 179
Fingal 3 17
Galway 6 23
Kildare 2 11
Kilkenny 14 0
Kerry 3 5
Longford 2 0
Louth 1 11
Limerick 2 17
Laois 7 0
Meath 10 0
Offaly 4 3
Roscommon 28 0
Sligo 2 0
Tipperary 1 1
Waterford 17 2
Westmeath 6 0
Wexford 4 1
Total Unique Children 154 312


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