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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 76-95
 Header Item Departmental Consultations
 Header Item Cybersecurity Policy
 Header Item School Enrolments
 Header Item Childcare Services
 Header Item Childcare Qualifications
 Header Item Departmental Funding
 Header Item Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries
 Header Item Domestic Violence
 Header Item Direct Provision System
 Header Item Childcare Services
 Header Item Carer's Leave
 Header Item Ministerial Responsibilities
 Header Item Direct Provision System
 Header Item United Nations
 Header Item Emergency Accommodation
 Header Item Mental Health Services
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1007 No. 7
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 69 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 76-95

Departmental Consultations

 76. Deputy James Lawless Information on James Lawless Zoom on James Lawless asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the consultation mechanisms in place for civil society and individuals as part of Ireland’s engagement with the United Nations universal periodic review process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28740/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The State's third National Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Report is due to be submitted by 9 August 2021 and drafting of same is being coordinated by my Department. Consultation with civil society is an important part of the UPR process. My Department held an online civil society consultation session on 5 May 2021, ahead of the finalisation of Ireland’s National Report. The virtual consultation event was structured on a thematic basis, seeking views of participants on key human rights issues.

In addition to the consultation session, my Department invited written submissions from interested stakeholders and members of the public. Furthermore, a consultation also took place in April 2021 which was dedicated to children and young people.

Details of the consultation on the UPR were published on: www.gov.ie/en/consultation/f0e36-consultation-on-the-state-report-for-the-united-nations-universal-periodic-review-upr/.

Cybersecurity Policy

 77. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the impact of the recent cyber-breach on Tusla services; if any data has been compromised; the budget for data security in the agency in each year since 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28752/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The recent cyber-attack on HSE IT systems has impacted on the operational functioning of Tusla, Child and Family Agency. Many of Tusla's key systems operate on HSE-supported systems, including the National Child Care Information System (NCCIS), the Child Protection Notification System (CPNS) and some legacy and corporate systems.

As a security measure, Tusla actioned an immediate containment shutdown across all systems on the 14th May. This was supported by agency-wide communication that devices were to remain shut down until cleared by the Tusla ICT Directorate.

A crisis management team chaired by CEO continues to meet for all key management decisions required with this incident. A technical incident room chaired by Director of ICT has been established. Tusla has communications and engagement with the HSE, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), An Garda Siochana and relevant statutory regulatory bodies including the Data Protection Commissioner in view of the sensitive nature of records and files held by Tusla.

Tusla continues to prioritise Child Protection and Children in Care Services (including assessment) as normal. While the referrals portal is impacted, referrals must be made over the phone and anyone with a concern is being asked to contact their local duty social work office. Details are available on www.tusla.ie/about/ict-update/. Social workers are continuing to visit children and work with them and their families throughout this period

It is not possible to be definitive as to whether any of the data held has been compromised. A number of investigations and processes are underway in the HSE and Tusla to determine the impact on all systems. Initial indications from the advices received and Tusla's own assessment are that records from NCCIS have not been the subject of theft. However, this remains under active review in the overall investigation and ongoing assessment processes.

For operational and security reasons, the NCSC has advised not to disclose details of systems and processes which could in any way compromise cybersecurity efforts. This includes costs in relation to cyber security tools and services and operational security matters.

School Enrolments

 78. Deputy Richard Bruton Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if the forecast decline in primary school numbers creates the opportunity to see new community based childcare options co-locating in primary school campuses; and if an agreement will be undertaken with the Department of Education to develop this possibility. [28062/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Government policy, including the National Action Plan for School-Age Childcare (2017) and First 5, the Whole-of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families (2019-2028) recognises that the use of school facilities that have suitable environments for early learning and care and school-age childcare should be maximised where demand exists and where it can be facilitated by the relevant school authority. This is also identified as a commitment in the Programme for Government.

Already, 14 per cent of all early learning and care and school-age childcare services in Ireland operate from school facilities.

The Department of Education have advised that the use of school facilities lies with the relevant school authority in consultation with the property owner and having regard to the needs of the school, staff and students.

The Department of Education policy is to encourage the use of school facilities, where possible, for community, training and education-related activities, including early learning and care and school-age childcare.

To assist schools in considering applications for use of their facilities, the Department of Education in consultation with representatives of schools has drafted guidelines on the use of school property outside of school hours which is available here:

www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/guidelines-on-the-use-of-school-buildings-outside-of-school-hours.pdf.

These guidelines are not intended to be exhaustive or prescriptive but are provided to assist schools in considering applications for the use of their facilities.

In line with First 5, the Department of Education plans to conduct a survey of a representative sample of schools on the use of school facilities for early learning and care and school-age childcare services. The results of this survey, which is due to be completed in Quarter 4 2021, will be used to inform a review of the Guidelines on the use of School Buildings outside of School Hours.

Childcare Services

 79. 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 his Department will consider commissioning research into capacity and forecasting in the childcare and early years sector to specifically map future population growth and capacity for childcare places (details supplied). [28591/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Officials in my Department regularly use new and existing data to forecast the supply of, and demand for ELC and SAC.

For the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, my Department prepares an annual forecast of demand for ECCE places. Estimates are derived using a range of administrative and survey data sources. The total eligible cohort is derived from birth data provided by the Central Statistics Office. Overall uptake is derived through the examination of trends in uptake since the introduction of the programme, data from Growing Up in Ireland, and data from the Pupil Online Database held by the Department of Education. Since the extension of the ECCE Programme in 2016, data on school starting age has also been used. My Department also accesses data on the number of children in the ECCE-eligible cohort at electoral division level, which provides a robust indication of demand for ECCE places at a local level.

While the ECCE Programme has almost universal uptake, there is significantly more variation in the level of demand for other types Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School-Age Childcare (SAC). The variation in demand is due to a number of reasons including parental preferences for different types of ELC/SAC, changes to the suite of family leave entitlements, whether and the extent to which parents are working or participating in training or study.

The introduction of the National Childcare Scheme, where eligibility for a universal subsidy is determined by the child's age and eligibility for a targeted subsidy determine by family composition and income, greatly simplifies the process of estimating current uptake of services of different types. My Department also participates in the ESRI SWITCH research programme which involves analysis and reporting on a range of relevant issues including parental preferences and labour force participation rates.

In addition to this, Pobal, on behalf of my Department undertakes an annual survey of providers. Among the data gathered through this survey is information on the number of children enrolled and those on waiting lists, as well as information on vacant places in ELC and SAC services

In the context of Covid-19, officials my Department undertook a programme of research in response to the closures and phased reopening of the sector in 2020. Among this research programme was two waves of a household survey. An additional wave of this survey is currently being undertaken to further estimate the Covid-19 impact on demand currently, and into the coming programme year.

First 5: A Whole-of Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families seeks to build on existing efforts. Identified among the actions in First 5 is a commitment to strengthen capacity to accurately forecast supply and demand for ELC and SAC by undertaking a regular national needs assessment. In addition, officials in my Department are planning research on the ELC/SAC needs of parents who work atypical hours or live in rural communities.

Childcare Qualifications

 80. Deputy Richard Bruton Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman his views on whether the childcare support schemes give sufficient recognition to the need to recognise qualifications and develop a career path for childcare staff; and if he is reviewing that aspect of the schemes. [25555/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman I am committed to the further development of career pathways for those working in early learning and care and school-age childcare services. Establishing clear and supported career pathways is important both in improving recruitment and retention of staff, and in enhancing practitioners' continuing professional development, both of which support better outcomes for children.

First 5  , the Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families, commits to developing a Workforce Development Plan (WDP) for early learning and care and school-age childcare. Among other objectives, the WDP will set out plans for moving to a graduate-led workforce by 2028 and establishing a career framework, including role profiles, qualification requirements and career pathways.

  The first phase of work in developing the WDP concluded in late 2020. A progress report on the first phase of work has recently been published on the gov.ie website (available at www.gov.ie/en/publication/26122f-workforce-development-plan-for-the-elcsac-sector/ ).

  Phase two of work on the WDP, which began in February 2021, involves the preparation of detailed policy proposals by a number of working groups, one of which is specifically looking at the career framework and career pathways. The final WDP report is expected to be published by the end of 2021.

First 5   also commits to designing a new Funding Model for early learning and care and school-age childcare. An Expert Group is tasked with examining the current model of funding and ensuring that State funding delivers quality, affordable, sustainable and inclusive services. The Group’s Draft Guiding Principles to underpin a new funding model recognise the importance of the workforce in delivering quality services. The Draft Guiding Principles refer to the recruitment and retention of staff with the necessary qualifications; ongoing staff training and development; fair pay and working conditions; and a workforce which feels valued and is motivated to deliver the best possible service to children. The Group is due to report to me in November 2021.

  Question No. 81 answered orally.

Departmental Funding

 82. Deputy Brian Leddin Information on Brian Leddin Zoom on Brian Leddin asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the funding supports that have been provided to LGBTI+ community groups and family organisations in the past year; the impact of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28449/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman In line with the commitments in the National LGBTI+ Inclusion Strategy, my Department continues work on mapping of LGBTI+ community services. In November 2020, 29 projects around the country received funding to a total amount of €700,000 under the 2020 LGBTI+ Communities Services Fund.

The fund comprises two schemes – one dealing with community services, and the other with visibility and inclusion. The applications received were of a high standard and the application process was very competitive.

58 applications were received under the Programme. Of these, 29 were successful with 10 projects receiving funding for measures supporting community services for LGBTI+ people, and 19 projects receiving funding to promote the visibility and inclusion of LGBTI+ people.

This fund provides for initiatives that will promote inclusion, protect rights and improve quality of life and wellbeing for members of the LGBTI+ community, enabling them to participate fully in Ireland's social, economic, cultural, and political life. We are seeking to achieve tangible outcomes that will transform the lives of LGBTI+ people across Ireland. The Community Services Fund is designed specifically with these aims in mind.

Services and initiatives that work to promote inclusion and visibility for the LGBTI+ community have an increased importance at a time when many LGBTI+ people may feel disconnected from their community. I am confident that these projects will be successful in ensuring members continue to feel supported.

In addition, the LGBTI+ Community Services Fund for 2021 will be announced in the coming months.

Mother and Baby Homes Inquiries

 83. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman his views on whether sites that were formerly locations of mother and baby homes need to be carefully investigated in advance of any potential uses of such sites; and if he has had discussions with survivor groups regarding the matter with specific reference but not limited to Bessborough in Cork city. [45023/20]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman I understand the distress which development proposals associated with the Bessborough site have caused for those most centrally connected to this issue. I share the concerns raised by survivor groups associated with in Bessborough in relation to the risks associated with this proposed development.

As the Deputy will be aware, I do not have statutory powers under the Planning and Development Acts. The necessity for any site specific investigations in advance of potential development on the former site of a Mother and Baby Home, or other institution, is a matter for the relevant planning authorities in the respective geographic area. I understand that these sensitivities can be factored into the planning process and appropriate terms and conditions can be attached to any permission that might be granted.

Individuals and advocacy groups connected to the site of the former Bessborough institution in Cork contacted me expressing serious concerns and reservations in respect of the nature and timing of the proposed development of the site.

For these reasons, I made submissions to An Bord Pleanála and Cork City Council as part of the public consultation process. I also contributed to the hearing convened by An Board Pleanála. The purpose of my submissions was, firstly, to ensure that the findings of the interim and final reports of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes could be considered in the decision making process, with particular reference to the unresolved questions relating to the possibility of burials on this site. Secondly, and importantly, my intention was to highlight the understandable and reasonable concerns of former residents and their relatives.

I understand that Cork City Council’s decision to refuse a planning application at Bessborough is under appeal to An Board Pleanála.

I know similar concerns arise in relation to the burial arrangements associated with other former institutions and I am open to further engagement on these matters.

Domestic Violence

 84. 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 the recently published domestic violence leave policy by NUI Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28333/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Since its formation, this Government has made clear that tackling domestic, sexual and gender-based violence is a key priority. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to investigate the provision of paid leave and social protection provision to victims of domestic violence with a view to establishing a statutory entitlement to paid domestic violence leave. My Department is currently examining the feasibility of introducing such proposals and has committed to developing a report to be brought to Government in June, with legislative proposals to follow.

I am aware of the NUIG policy and I welcome that NUIG will be the first higher level institution in Ireland to put in place this policy and to provide for paid leave for staff who are victims of domestic violence.

If we are to address domestic violence and abuse as a society, we must recognise its prevalence and fully support victims. Workplace supports and policies are an important aspect of ensuring that victims can remain in employment and retain their financial independence.

Direct Provision System

 85. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the immediate steps he is taking to address the child safeguarding concerns raised in the Ombudsman for Children report Safety and Welfare of Children in Direct Provision. [28650/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department has embarked upon a series of actions, planned for the short to medium term which will build upon existing work to ensure the recommendations of the OCO will be implemented as quickly as possible.

The key priority will be to move all remaining children and families still residing in congregated hotel style living, to own door or independent living accommodation. As such, a new full public procurement will take place in 2021 with the aim of securing the additional spaces required to end the use of emergency accommodation by IPAS.

The procurement will have a specific focus on the provision of child friendly accommodation that will allow parents and children to enjoy a normal private family life.

A new Resident Welfare Team has been established within IPAS to manage the cases of individual families and single residents, identified as having special reception needs, and to ensure that those needs continue to be identified and addressed in the most appropriate way possible. The Resident Welfare Team is a multi-disciplinary team with experts from the fields of education, health and childcare seconded.

IPAS is also committed to working with Tusla during 2021 to develop interagency protocols and operating procedures that will support the sharing of case information between Tusla and IPAS and to track and monitor referrals and cases from beginning to end.

All existing centres and all new centres are required to develop a child safeguarding statement. IPAS will work with Tusla to ensure that compliance with child safeguarding statements and Children First legislation is audited this year. IPAS will be ensuring that child safeguarding statements are translated and made available to all residents. Additional child safety training will also be rolled out to all centre managers as COVID restrictions allow.

A new dedicated Customer Services Team has also been established in IPAS. This team will be taking a more proactive approach to dealing with residents' issues and, as well as strengthening the existing resident complaints system. It will actively engage with residents through customer feedback mechanisms and focus groups in the months ahead.

Childcare Services

 86. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman his plans to improve the pay and conditions of professionals working in the childcare sector. [28457/21]

 225. 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 steps he plans to take to improve the pay and conditions of childcare workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27787/21]

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. 86 and 225 together.

I am very conscious of the need for significant improvement in pay and working conditions for practitioners in early learning and childcare services. The level of pay they receive does not reflect the value of the work they do for children, for families and for the wider society and economy.

As the State does not employ early learning and childcare practitioners, the Deputy will appreciate that my Department cannot set wage levels or determine working conditions for staff in the sector. My Department has, however, over a number of years provided a range of supports to service providers to enable them to improve wages and working conditions.

There are also some important developments currently under way.

In December 2020, I began a short process to examine the possibility of regulating the pay and conditions of employment of practitioners in early learning and childcare, and to examine the suitability of establishing a Joint Labour Committee (JLC) for the sector, in line with the Programme for Government commitment. On foot of this process, the Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail has written to the Labour Court, who are currently examining whether to establish a JLC. If established, a JLC could lead to an Employment Regulation Order, which would establish binding rates of pay and conditions for the sector.

Work is also progressing on a new funding model. The recommendations of a dedicated Expert Group are due later in 2021 and will be central to addressing both affordability and quality issues. The Expert Group’s Draft Guiding Principles to underpin a new funding model recognise the importance of the workforce in delivering quality services.

Finally, work on the Workforce Development Plan continues, with final outputs expected by the end of the year. This is expected to include plans for making careers in early learning and childcare more attractive.

Carer's Leave

 87. Deputy Marian Harkin Information on Marian Harkin Zoom on Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if he will consider extending carer’s leave as a result of Covid-19. [28655/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Section 6 of the Carer's Leave Act 2001 provides that employees with at least one year's continuous service are entitled to take up to 104 weeks of carer's leave to enable them to provide full-time care and attention to a person who is in need of such care.

  Carer's Leave is unpaid but an employee may also qualify for Carer's Benefit or Carer's Allowance, the payment of which is a matter for the Minister for Social Protection.

  There are no plans to amend the Carer's Leave Act at present.

Ministerial Responsibilities

 88. Deputy Pa Daly Information on Pa Daly Zoom on Pa Daly asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman if he will report on his meetings with a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28219/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Following the RTÉ Prime Time report which aired on the 25th February 2021, I undertook to meet with those who shared their stories and experiences on the programme. These meetings took place on the week of the 29th March 2021. A range of issues were discussed at the meetings, including access to information and the Inter Departmental Group on Restorative Recognition, setup to report on supports for survivors of Mother and Baby institutions.

  Question No. 89 answered with Question No. 43.

Direct Provision System

 90. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the number of persons in direct provision centres who are sharing bedrooms with non-family members; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28443/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department maintains statistics on the number of residents housed in each centre on a weekly basis. However, as I am sure you will appreciate, the configuration of each centre and the room makeup is constantly changing as new applicants are placed in accommodation, people with a protection status or permission to remain move to accommodation in the community and transfers take place between accommodation centres.

Given the scope of this exercise, IPAS now collates these figures on a quarterly basis. I can inform the Deputy that on 31 March 2021 the number of unrelated single residents sharing a room in IPAS accommodation was 1,892. This comprises 1,171 residents in a room assigned to 2 people and 721 residents in a room assigned to 3 people. It should be noted that some of these 2 and 3 person rooms may not be fully occupied at any given time for a variety of operational reasons. In line with IPAS policy, there are no more than 3 unrelated single persons sharing a room with other people.

My Department has commenced work on a Request for Tender to procure additional accommodation for single people and families seeking international protection. This tender process will focus on the provision of own-door accommodation and facilities to allow for independent living (access to cooking and laundry facilities and communal family areas outside bedrooms). It is my intention that this will allow us to improve the quality of the accommodation and services offered to applicants and to move away from reliance on temporary based accommodation and to ensure that the Department has adequate capacity and can respond flexibly to increases in demand for accommodation as they arise. It is also intended to reduce the number of single people sharing rooms with non-family members.

United Nations

 91. Deputy Marian Harkin Information on Marian Harkin Zoom on Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the timeline for the ratification of the optional protocol under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. [28656/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an international treaty that establishes two procedures aimed at strengthening the implementation and monitoring of the Convention. The first is an individual communications procedure allowing individuals to bring petitions to the Committee claiming breaches of their rights; the second is an inquiry procedure giving the Committee authority to undertake inquiries of grave or systematic violations of the Convention.

The Programme for Government reiterates the commitment to ratify the Optional Protocol after the first reporting cycle.

  Question No. 92 answered orally.

Emergency Accommodation

 93. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly 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. 1208 of 21 April 2021, the status of the review by Tusla of emergency accommodation nationwide; when the review will be completed and published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28723/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman The response to Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence (DSGBV) is a cross Departmental and multi-agency issue with overall policy coordinated by the Department of Justice. Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has statutory responsibility for the care and protection of victims of DSGBV.

Tusla is scheduled to publish its Strategic Review of Emergency Domestic Violence Accommodation shortly following the completion of substantial work, including a literature review, consultations with stakeholders, geographical and census data analysis, consultation with service users, and policy analysis. Tusla provided an input on the review and its draft recommendations to the Monitoring Committee of the National Strategy on DSGBV on the 31st March 2021, which was well received.

The Minister had hoped to receive the draft report from Tusla during the week of the 17th May. Unfortunately, as a result of the recent cyber attack on HSE systems, which has impacted on Tusla's ability to access its IT systems, this was not possible. Tusla and the Minister are keen to restore access to the Agency's files, including the report and associated documentation. The Minister is committed to ensuring the evolving needs of service users are met and that the recommendations of the review informs strategic actions under the Third National Strategy on DSGBV.

Mental Health Services

 94. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the additional programmes being supported by his Department to assist with mental health issues amongst young adults particularly in view of the mental health effects of Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27607/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman Young people and their mental health have been severely affected by the restrictions to protect public health during this pandemic. This has been borne out by multiple mental health research reports including, a recent national consultation commissioned by my Department, called How's Your Head.

In recognition of the vital role played by youth work in providing such support to young people, funding levels have been maintained throughout the current challenging period. This has enabled the youth sector to continue to provide supports to young people, particularly to marginalised, disadvantaged and vulnerable young people.

Early in my tenure, I was able to provide an additional small grant to support local funded organisations, Youth Information Centres and youth clubs to defray some Covid-19 costs.

Since then, I have also secured an additional €5 million investment in youth services for 2021. I see this funding as supporting the frontline services as they seek to innovate to continue to provide critical services to vulnerable young people.

My officials and I have a very good working relationship with the youth sector and I will be continuing this engagement as we seek to support young people through this very challenging period.

At a broader level, my Department is committed to leading a discussion with relevant Departments and agencies to ensure that mental health services, educational institutions, youth services and sports clubs work together, so that each is aware of the challenges young people have been facing and can help ease them back into everyday life and support their resilience.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 95. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill Information on Jennifer Carroll MacNeill Zoom on Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman the supports provided by his Department to pregnant childcare professionals who following advice of their general practitioners, have been unable to resume work in childcare facilities due to risk of stillbirth associated with the Covid-19 virus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25943/21]

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (Deputy Roderic O'Gorman): Information on Roderic O'Gorman Zoom on Roderic O'Gorman It is important to note that public health advice in relation to Covid-19 and pregnancy is provided by the HSE. This advice is based on the latest evidence available and is continuously reviewed. At this point in time, the HSE has not categorised pregnant women as falling within the High Risk or Very High Risk groups in relation to Covid-19.

My Department does not have an employer role in relation to the staff in Early Learning and Care (ELC) or School-Age Childcare (SAC) services and so it cannot provide occupational health advice or services. It is a matter for individual employers to work with pregnant employees (as they do with all vulnerable employees) to assess their work environment and make relevant adjustments, as appropriate to their circumstances. In doing so they should take the HSE advice on high risk, very high risk and pregnancy into consideration.

ELC and SAC practitioners and service providers may wish to refer to HR guidance, produced by Early Childhood Ireland, which includes some information on pregnant employees working in services.

Where an employee is pregnant and has expressed concerns about attending work then they should be advised to talk to their GP in relation to this and discuss whether they are medically fit to attend, whether for physical or mental health reasons. Where they are not medically fit to attend work and have a medical certificate then the normal sick leave policy of the service will apply. They may have an entitlement to illness benefit and should contact their social welfare office to discuss options and eligibility.


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