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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 189-204
 Header Item Carer's Allowance
 Header Item Public Procurement Contracts
 Header Item Public Procurement Contracts
 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
 Header Item Refugee Resettlement Programme
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education
 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
 Header Item Direct Provision System
 Header Item European Council Meetings
 Header Item Child and Family Agency
 Header Item Child and Family Agency
 Header Item Early Childhood Care and Education

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1004 No. 6
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 74 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 189-204

Carer's Allowance

 189. 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 the average length of time a person claims carer’s allowance. [10953/21]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys Carer's Allowance (CA) is a means-tested payment, made to a person who is habitually resident in the State and providing full-time care and attention to a child or an adult who has such a disability that they require that level of care.

There are a number of factors that impinge on the length of time a person continues to receive Carer's Allowance. The continued entitlement to CA varies depending on both the circumstances of the carer and the nature of the illness or disability of the person receiving care. In addition, there are circumstances in which a person may reapply for CA, but the original claim date is retained on the system, therefore making durations appear longer than they might be in reality. As a result, I am advised that the average length of time a person claims CA is not readily available.

Public Procurement Contracts

 190. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the number and value of procurement contracts for Covid-19-related spending in 2020 and 2021 that took place via negotiated procedure without prior publication in her Department. [11186/21]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys During the pandemic, the Department has continued to avail of existing contracts where it was possible to do so. Due to the difficulties in securing goods, and the urgent requirement for some services, there were fourteen contracts to the value of approximately €1.3m awarded without a competitive process in 2020.

  No contracts for Covid-19 related goods and services have been awarded without a competitive process to date in 2021.

  I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Public Procurement Contracts

 191. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the breakdown of procurement contracts for Covid-19-related spending in 2020 and 2021 that took place via negotiated procedure without prior publication by her Department, by goods and service type in tabular form. [11217/21]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys While the Department used existing contracts where possible, it was necessary due to the difficulties in securing goods, and the urgent requirement for some services, to award fourteen contracts for Covid-19 related goods and services without a competitive process in 2020. No such contracts have been awarded to date in 2021. Details of the breakdown of goods and services are set out in the following table.

Goods and Services Contracts
IT Goods - Laptops, software, equipment to facilitate remote working and social distancing 7 contracts
PPE Goods - Masks, sanitiser, signage, wipes, wall dispensers, etc. 5 contracts
Call Centre Services 2 contracts

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

 192. 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 if he will publish the full minutes of the collaborative forum on mother and baby homes meetings including the full contributions of forum members; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10632/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The minutes of the meetings of the Collaborative Forum are published on my Department's website. The facilitator to the Collaborative Forum has been requested to prepare minutes of the two most recent meetings and these will be agreed with participants in the first instance.

Normal practice for minute taking, as agreed by the membership of the Forum at one of its first meetings, has been that notes of meeting are captured, with minutes drafted and circulated for comments and observations by members, before being adopted and then published.

The minutes of these meetings are intended to record issues discussed and actions arising from the discussion. The minutes of a meeting are not intended to produce a verbatim transcript of all contributions. Forum meetings must provide a safe space for all participants to speak freely and, for this reason, it was agreed that Forum meeting would not be recorded by any party.

Refugee Resettlement Programme

 193. 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 number of families and unaccompanied children who have arrived in Ireland from the Moira Camp, Greece to date; the efforts being undertaken to accelerate the process of relocating refugees from the camp as residents continue to experience winter conditions, makeshift shelters, insufficient and unstable power supplies and sanitation and transportation issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10635/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Ireland has committed to accepting 50 individuals, comprising family units, and 14 additional unaccompanied minors from Greece. Following discussions with Greek authorities the arrival of refugees identified for resettlement in Ireland is currently being arranged, subject to necessary checks and following public health guidelines.

My officials continue to engage with the relevant authorities in Greece in this matter, and with Tusla to prepare for the arrival of the unaccompanied refugee children formerly living in the Moria Camp.

Early Childhood Care and Education

 194. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if early childhood care and education, ECCE, hours are available to children of essential workers across all childcare and early years services. [10656/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman As announced by An Taoiseach on 23 February 2021, ECCE services will reopen for all participating children on 8 March 2021, without any eligibility requirement related to whether their parents are essential workers.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

 195. 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 taped recordings of the 550 testimonies given to the confidential committee of the mother and baby homes report that have been destroyed; and the actions his Department is taking to retrieve this material. [10715/21]

 196. 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 if the taped recordings given to the confidential committee of the mother and baby homes report were saved onto a hard drive; and if he has requested that the Commission of Investigation surrender hard drives that could contain this information. [10716/21]

 200. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman further to Parliamentary Question No. 219 of 11 February 2021, if there have been further developments in relation to the issues raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10848/21]

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. 195, 196 and 200 together.

I have engaged intensively with the Commission to resolve the understandable concerns of survivors in relation to the audio recordings made by the Confidential Committee. The Commission notified me on Monday 22 February that it had retrieved the backup tapes containing the audio recordings from the Confidential Committee from its off-site storage.

An IT expert has checked whether the audio recordings are retrievable by testing a random sample and verified that they are accessible and audible.

The Commission states that consent was given by 549 of the 550 witnesses to the use of an audio device and the subsequent deletion of the recording. For clarity, the final witness, who objected to their testimony being recorded, was not recorded.

An important point to note in the information I have received from the Commission, is that approximately 80 people have sought for their interview with the Confidential Committee to be redacted. The Commission is now considering how this will be done and has reiterated its commitment to maintaining the anonymity of these people in line with their expressed wishes.

The retrieval of these audio recordings by the Commission is a significant and welcome development. Their transfer to my Department this week will provide an avenue for those who consented to the recording of their interview to seek access to this personal data.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

 197. 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 survivors who gave testimonies to the commission of investigation's confidential committee that have been contacted, who are still to be contacted or who the Commission of Investigation have not been able to contact; and the breakdown of those that indicated they wished their testimonies to remain unredacted. [10717/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman As the Deputy will be aware, the statutory Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is independent of Government in the conduct of its investigations. This independence, which is provided for in law, is a fundamental principle in the establishment of an inquiry under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. These questions raised by the Deputy are procedural matters for the Commission of Investigation. As the specified Minister for receiving its reports, I had no role or influence in how the Commission conducted its work.

I am therefore not in a position to provide clarity beyond the information which the Commission has provided in the context of my engagement with the Commission around the transfer of its archive. However, I understand that the Commission has used its best endeavours in its efforts to contact all 550 persons reported as providing a personal account to the Confidential Committee. From these contacts, approximately 80 persons have sought for their personal information to be redacted. The wishes of these people must be honoured and consideration is being given regarding how this will be met in terms of the audio recording.

The Commission has also advised that consent was given by 549 of the 550 witnesses to the use of an audio device by the Committee and the subsequent deletion of the recording. For clarity, the final witness, who objected to their testimony being recorded, was not recorded.

Direct Provision System

 198. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if his attention has been drawn to a protest in direct provision centre (details supplied); if he will ensure the person engaged in the protest receives the necessary health supports, physical and mental; the steps he is taking to address the failures with the direct provision system and move towards a humane, fair and human rights based system of accommodation for those seeking asylum and here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10719/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman I am aware of the incident in the accommodation centre referred to by the Deputy which I understand has now ended.

The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department worked closely with the accommodation centre staff, relevant state agencies and other service providers with regard to the resident’s needs and situation for the duration of the incident. Such engagement will continue to ensure that the required health needs are met through the onsite medical services at the centre which includes a full primary care service and nursing staff.   

I can assure the Deputy that the health and well-being of all people who avail of accommodation provided by my Department is of the highest priority to my Department.

Where a protection applicant chooses to accept an offer of accommodation from my Department, they will, in normal circumstances, be first brought to the National Reception Centre in Balseskin, Dublin. At Balseskin, they will be offered a health assessment by the on-site HSE team, which comprises a nurse, nurse specialist, area medical officer, general practitioners, social worker and psychologist. This ensures that applicants can be assessed for any special reception needs that they may have before they are designated an accommodation centre. The IPAS works closely with the HSE screening team to ensure that International Protection applicants are moved to locations where their medical needs can be met.

It is important to note that services for all International Protection applicants (including health services) are mainstreamed. Protection applicants are linked with primary care services (GPs). They are entitled to a medical card while residing in International Protection accommodation and have a waiver of prescription charges. Applicants access health services through the same referral pathways as Irish citizens including referral to disability and mental health services. Every effort is made to ensure that residents' specific needs are met.

European Council Meetings

 199. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of formal and informal Council of the European Union meetings that have been held since 27 June 2020 under the remit of his Department; and the number of formal and informal meetings, respectively held virtually. [10810/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman My Department is currently collating the information requested and a reply will issue directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

  Question No. 200 answered with Question No. 195.

Child and Family Agency

 201. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the length of the waiting list to access early years supports from Tusla early intervention teams in the north inner city, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10866/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman As this is an operational matter for Tusla, I am referring this matter to Tusla for direct response to the Deputy.

Child and Family Agency

 202. Deputy Patrick Costello Information on Patrick Costello Zoom on Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of psychotherapists, family therapists, filial therapists and counsellors directly employed by Tusla by Tusla area and service or team they are working in. [10926/21]

 203. Deputy Patrick Costello Information on Patrick Costello Zoom on Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of play therapists, drama therapists, dance therapists and child art psychotherapists directly employed by Tusla by Tusla area and service or team they are working in. [10927/21]

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. 202 and 203 together.

  I wish to inform the Deputy that my officials have asked Tusla to respond directly to you on this matter.

Early Childhood Care and Education

 204. Deputy Johnny Mythen Information on Johnny Mythen Zoom on Johnny Mythen asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the steps being taken to replace the preschool services in areas (details supplied); and the preschool services that will be provided or made available in both areas for children with psychical and intellectual disabilities . [10954/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman My Department does not own or manage preschool services. My Department does, however, provide funding to mainstream pre-school services, including through the universal, free, two-year Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme and the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM).

AIM is a programme of supports to enable children with a disability to access and meaningfully participate in the ECCE programme. It includes 7 levels of progressive support, moving from the universal to the targeted. AIM supports are available through all mainstream pre-school settings that are funded through the ECCE Programme.

In addition to the supports provided through AIM in mainstream settings, pre-school services are also offered in a limited number of specialist pre-schools and early intervention classes which cater exclusively for children with disabilities, which fall within the remit of the HSE or the Department of Education.

The degree of support provided through AIM depends on the needs of the child in the context of the pre-school setting they are attending. The levels of support are:

- Level 1, which aims to embed an inclusive culture in services, includes the national inclusion policy and guidelines for ECCE, the funding of the LINC training programme in Leadership for Inclusion, the establishment of Inclusion Co-Ordinator roles in ECCE settings, and a small increase in capitation for services with qualified Inclusion Coordinators.

- Level 2 involves provision of information for parents and providers on AIM, through the AIM.gov.ie website and information provided by County/City Childcare Committees.

- Level 3 recognises the requirement to continue to develop a qualified workforce that can confidently meet the needs of all children wishing to participate in the ECCE Programme. Supports include funding of training courses such as Hanen, Lámh and Sensory Processing E-Learning (SPEL).

- Level 4 addresses the needs of early years practitioners to have timely access to advice and support from experts in early years education (and disability in particular) to assist them meet each child’s needs.

- Level 5 recognises that some children require specialised equipment, appliances, assistive technology and/or that some early years settings may require minor structural alterations to ensure children with a disability can participate in the ECCE Programme. Supports include grants for equipment and some capital building works for a service.

- Level 6 provides access to therapeutic supports where they are critical to enable the child be enrolled, and fully participate, in the ECCE Programme.

- Level 7: Additional Assistance in the Pre-School Room involves additional capitation for service providers where an application process has demonstrated that supports Level 1-6 have not, or will not, by themselves, meet the child’s needs. Funding can be used by the provider to buy in additional support, or reduce the staff / child ratio, supporting the Pre-School Leader to ensure the child’s optimal participation.

Local County Childcare Committees (CCC) help provide information on pre-school settings in their locality that may have capacity for children, including those with physical and intellectual disabilities, to attend. The Wexford County Childcare Committee can be reached at: Tel. 053 9237156/053 9239763, Email info@wexfordchildcare.ie, Website: www.wexfordchildcare.ie.


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