Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 29 June 2016
Select Committee on Children and Youth Affairs
Estimates for Public Services 2016
Vote 40 - Children and Youth Affairs (Revised)
On 16 June 2016, the Dáil ordered that the Revised Estimates for Public Services in respect of the following Vote be referred to this committee for consideration, namely, Vote 40 - Children and Youth Affairs. At today's meeting, the select committee will consider these Estimates and report back to the Dáil.
At the outset, I welcome the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, congratulate her on her appointment and wish her every good luck on behalf of the committee during her tenure in charge of that Department. The committee looks forward to working very closely with her to ensure she achieves our collective goals for the Department during this period. I also acknowledge her officials who are here, Mr. Fergal Lynch, Secretary General, Mr. Dermot Ryan, assistant secretary, and Ms Bernie McNally, assistant secretary.
The proposed format of today's meeting is that we will hear brief opening remarks from the Minister before going on to deal with Vote 40 on a programme-by-programme basis. At the outset of the consideration of each of the programmes, the Minister may give an overview of the programme, including detailing any pressures likely to impact on her Department's performance or expenditure relating to the programme in 2016. We will then open it up to the floor for questions from members of the committee.
I remind members and those in the Gallery that their mobile phones should be switched off completely for the duration of the meeting as they cause interference with the recording equipment in committee rooms if in silent mode. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I call on the Minister to make brief opening remarks on the overall expenditure of the Department before proceeding to Vote 40.
I thank the Chairman. As members know, this is my first appearance before the committee and I would like to start by wishing the committee and its members well in their deliberations. I send my good wishes to and congratulate Deputy Jim Daly as he assumes the Chair. I wish him the best in his leadership role.
I am very happy to be here to discuss my Department's 2016 Revised Estimate. I remain fully committed to ensuring the full delivery of the programme for Government commitments in delivering real reform for child welfare and protection services; building affordable, high-quality and sustainable early years services for our citizens under the age of six; and enabling the full citizenship participation and engagement of our young people. I have high hopes for them.
The Revised Estimate for my Department in 2016 provides a gross funding provision of €1.138 billion, which is an increase of €98 million or 9% over the 2015 allocation of €1.04 billion. As Deputies are aware, there are two major elements to the additional resources in the Vote for 2016. They are an €85 million package of investment for child care and early years and substantially increased resources for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency so it can meet its obligations to children and be placed on a firm financial footing.
Affordability, accessibility and quality are at the heart of the €85 million child care and early years package. The measures provided for include an extension of free preschool provision by extending the age range for children accessing the scheme. The maximum number of weeks of free preschool education to which a child is entitled will increase. On average, it is estimated that children will be entitled to avail of 23 additional weeks of free preschool provision under this measure.
My understanding is that we have all advocated for this change. This extended free preschool provision will increase current investment in the early childhood care and education, ECCE, programme, which stands at €1.724 million, by €47 million in 2016. These costs include full restoration of capitation payments to providers to pre-2012 levels from 2016. The child care package also provides supports to help children with disabilities to fully participate in preschool education under the ECCE programme. The supports will cost €15 million in 2016. Full-year costs from 2017 are estimated to be in the region of €33 million, so there will be an additional €18 million for 2017. The package also provides for extended child care subvention programme places and a move towards consolidating all targeted child care supports. A total of €16 million has been provided for these additional child care subvention places in 2016.
Turning to other areas of the Vote, the 2016 allocation to Tusla will be increased by some €38 million over last year's provision. This will bring the agency's current funding to €662.4 million and there will be a total capital provision of €13.5 million, which is being supplemented by a further €2.5 million carried forward from 2015. The increased provision for Tusla in 2016 strengthens its overall base funding position. That is why getting this extra money for 2016 is so strategic. It ensures that the agency has the capacity to respond to both unmet need and anticipated demand during 2016. An additional €1.1 million in current funding and €2.25 million in capital funding is provided for youth organisations. Additional funding of €1.6 million is also provided to the Irish Youth Justice Service in respect of the running costs for the new children's detention centre in Oberstown.
In conclusion, significant additional resources have been secured for 2016. It will allow us to build on the very strong and good work by all involved in working with children, families and all the extraordinary people in our communities, centres and crèches to deliver on this Government's commitment to fundamentally reform and increase the scale of the delivery of the services.
Members have been sent a briefing on the various programmes so we will now proceed sequentially to Vote 40. We will go through it programme by programme. The first programme is the children and family support programme. The Minister will give a brief overview of that programme. I propose to take questions in group format and we will then move on to the second and third programmes.
I will focus on programme A in my Department's Vote, concerning the children and family support programme. The overall objective under this programme is to support and improve the existing service delivery arrangements to protect and support the welfare and well-being of children, young people and families, including oversight of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. Two main components of this programme are Tusla and the Irish Youth Justice Service. The funding for subhead A3, Tusla in 2016 amounts to €676.042 million, comprising €662.482 million in current funding and €13.560 million in capital funding. This capital sum is, as I said earlier, being supplemented by a further €2.5 million, which was made available from the carryover of unspent funds in 2015.
The committee might also note that the baseline allocation to the agency for 2016 includes an additional €15 million that was acquired through the Supplementary Estimate in December 2015. Current expenditure at the end of May 2016 - because looking at how we are doing is also part of our deliberations on this subhead - amounted to €270.698 million against a profile or estimate of €269.68 million.
That minor variation of 0.4% is attributable largely to timing issues and is expected to equalise over the remainder of the year with the subhead being on profile at the year end. It is similarly expected that Tusla will fully utilise its capital funding allocation in 2016. Monitoring and oversight are vital and my leadership is key in all of that.
In turning to subhead A4, youth justice - it is on page 5 of the briefing provided to members but it is not subhead A7, it should read A4 - the allocation for 2016 amounts to €22.551 million. That includes €21.611 million in current and €0.940 million in capital. Additional funding of €1.6 million is being provided in this subhead in 2016 to support the running costs of the new children’s detention facility in Oberstown, which I was very pleased to visit last week, as well as a bail support scheme designed to provide therapy services in the community to assist children in adhering to bail conditions. The overall objective of the bail support scheme is to reduce demand for detention school places where possible and minimise as far as possible the remand of children in custody so that they are being supported instead within the community.
It is anticipated that the current provision of €21.611 million for this year will be sufficient to meet costs in 2017. However, at present the picture in relation to the capital spend in youth justice, all of which is related to the construction project for the new children’s detention facility in Oberstown, is less clear. The project is nearing completion. However, in 2016 it is expected that a deficit of approximately €1.6 million will surface this year as a result of structural and other design issues. Discussions are ongoing with the OPW to identify the definitive value of the cost overrun. Notwithstanding these ongoing discussions, it is hoped that any funding shortfall in this instance can be accommodated within the resources allocated to the Vote in 2016. I am very happy to take any questions from the committee on this programme.
I also thank the Minister. We are all pleased to be on this committee and we look forward to working constructively together on it. As agreed, we will concentrate on the first programme, programme A.
The first question relates to the additional resources in terms of child welfare and protection services. There is a concern about unallocated cases in particular. Could the Minister give some information on what progress has been made in that regard? What is the situation with cases that might still not have been allocated the appropriate support?
Could I also ask about Oberstown? In the output targets there is a reference to completing the transfer of responsibility to the Oberstown campus for the detention of male children who are serving a sentence of detention on foot of recruitment of new care staff. Is that on target? The Minister referred to the funding that was required for it. In 2015, under the subheading, A7, youth justice, children detention schools - perhaps that is A4 although it is listed as A7 in the document I have.
It is a reduction from 2015 but the reduction is in the capital spend so I presume that is what is required to complete the work but I would appreciate if the Minister could clarify it.
The third question relates to young people transitioning from care. There is some information but all of us would agree that young people transitioning from care are particularly vulnerable and need a variety of supports. I am not sure whether they all get the support that is intended. There is a reference to maintaining and improve the percentage of all children and young people in care, engaging with the education service and maintaining and improving the percentage of aftercare assessments offered to young people transitioning from care. We would have assumed that all children should be offered an assessment when they are transitioning from care because they are vulnerable in so many ways.
We would have assumed that all children should be offered an assessment when they are transitioning from care because they are vulnerable in so many ways including to homelessness, not having the kind of support young people who grow up in a family will have when they are leaving home. The Minister might give us information on progress in that area. It is monitored but in that monitoring has the need to put more resources into that area been identified?
I thank the Minister for her presentation. I will overlap slightly on what Deputy O'Sullivan already said. First, with regard to Oberstown, what is the position on staff training?
Second, with regard to Tusla and social care workers, additional funding was allocated at the end of 2015-early 2016. How many staff have been recruited into social care work positions and are we still recruiting? What is the position? Also, I tabled a parliamentary question last week to which I received a comprehensive answer but it seems a large number of children had unallocated social care workers. One area comes to mind. The figure for Waterford was 11%, while Dublin-Wicklow was hitting a rate of 18%. Where are we going on that in terms of the last quarter of the year?
Third, on the legislation, in 2015 the output target was to enact the Child Care (Amendment) Bill. Do we have an output target for 2016 in terms of legislation?
I ask members, and the Minister when responding, to ensure we keep to the fiscal side of the areas we are discussing because they are of huge importance to all of us and deserve much more scrutiny than a fleeting mention. We will focus on the fiscal side and the resources today.
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Ara. I also welcome her officials as this is the first time I have had engagement with many of them.
As a general observation, in terms of the way the figures are presented, until a few months ago all but one of the members would have been members of a local authority. When local authorities are presented with figures on a regular basis on corporate policy groups and so on, there is a percentage for the level of spending at that point in the year to date. As a general rule, that would be useful here. The Minister touched on some of the percentages in her contribution but to be able to read and comprehend those in future presentations would be welcome.
I have some observations which will overlap with the contributions from Deputy Rabbitte and Deputy O'Sullivan. A concern has been expressed in recent weeks about the number of unallocated cases. I add my voice to that query raised but following on from the Child Care (Amendment) Bill at the end of 2015, there was a legal right to an aftercare plan. A substantial number of children are not receiving aftercare plans. Can that lack of resources be addressed by the end of the year?
I understand that the new Tusla IT system is to be implemented by the end of 2017, and it is Tusla's responsibility to develop that alongside external bodies. I suppose that programme will not be delivered entirely by the end of this year but is that in line with the expectation in terms of spending and delivery?
On Oberstown, it was remarked that there may be a deficit in spending, and the Minister referenced design issues. I found that interesting because queries were raised by the staff, and I am aware there are ongoing industrial relations issues in Oberstown, about the design and layout of the building. Is it the case that some of those concerns were taken on board and the design is being revised on that basis or are there more mundane reasons for any of the design delays?
I have two more questions. On the youth justice side, I may be mistaken about this but is there any responsibility under that programme for the Garda youth diversion project?
If so, what is the level of spending on that? Will consideration be given to increasing it for next year given the spike in crime levels in a number of localities?
My last point on the school completion programme is one I raised recently during our questions. Is that budget likely to be used in its totality or will there be a deficit?
I am delighted to have the Minister here and I thank her for her continued good work. I have some brief questions. To digress slightly from the fiscal side, when we are talking about detention schools I would like the children's courts, which may come under the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality also, to be looked at also, particularly-----
The children's courts. When we are talking about the detention schools and the therapeutic services the Minister provides, in future I would like to see something here for the children's courts. They need to be looked at but also the therapeutic intervention services the Minister provides.
The other area I am very interested in is unregulated child care of which there is a good deal being provided throughout the country. I would like to see that examined. I thank the Minister for her detailed presentation.
I apologise to Deputy Rabbitte. If it appeared I was correcting her, I was not. My remarks were primarily directed at the Minister in terms of her response. I do not want us to get into too much detail on these subjects because I intend to go into them in detail in due course. I was asking everyone to focus on the fiscal side. I call the Minister to respond first to the three questions from Deputy O'Sullivan.
Some of Deputy O'Sullivan's questions dovetailed with those from other Deputies, especially in terms of Tusla, child welfare and protection, the concern about unallocated social workers, and the recruitment of social workers to help meet that concern. Additional funding of €6.1 million has been provided in 2016 to deal with this issue. Tusla's target is to reduce by 60% the number of cases awaiting allocation. In terms of reducing the number of cases awaiting allocation, there is a direct link between that and the number of social workers it is recruiting to which I will return shortly.
The reduction of high priority cases to less than 5% of all unallocated cases is a target that is going down. The target in regard to unallocated cases in general is not going down as quickly as we had hoped at this point but we anticipate that Tusla will continue to move towards that target, particularly in light of the recruitment of its social workers. It has identified a target of whole-time equivalent social workers working within Tusla of 1,576 by the end of 2016. That will represent, as many Deputies are aware, a net increase of 168 social workers. However, Tusla needs to increase the number of its whole-time equivalent social workers by a further 64 by the end of the year to meet its targets.
Many of the Deputies are aware that there is a proactive campaign by Tusla to recruit social workers. More than 300 applications were received, and those people will be interviewed in July and August. It is important to say, however, that some of the moneys are focused on having a holistic response in terms of the protection and care of children. It is not just about social workers; it is a multi-disciplinary approach. Tusla is looking for clerical and administrative staff as well as social workers. We are cautiously hopeful that it will make that target but clearly it is dependent on the numbers it recruits.
Deputies may be aware that Tusla has proactively engaged in an audit of retrospective cases. That is a very good piece of work but it may take away some energy and resources, although we hope it will not impact on the target for reducing the number of unallocated cases.
I assure Deputies that I am aware of this problem. I have already had three meetings, in my short term, with the chief executive and the chair. I have had a meeting with the board of Tusla. I have identified the area of the recruitment of social workers in terms of the unallocated cases, particularly as a key priority of mine.
Deputy Rabbitte was helpful in pointing out the spread of concern about where the lower number of the unallocated cases are. Clearly, I am sure the matter will be taken into account in terms of planning by Tusla once it gets the new folks on board.
A couple of members mentioned aftercare services, including Deputies Jan O'Sullivan and Ó Laoghaire. Aftercare services are a particular concern of mine. Between 450 and 500 18 year olds leave care every year and some of them are very vulnerable. Some need support to go on to third level education and many of them continue living with their foster carers. Tusla, since implementing its aftercare policy, there is an aftercare plan for each child or young person prior to leaving in the form of aftercare support, including financial support. Around 45% of the young people who have left care are in ongoing education and training.
Concerns were expressed about the implementation and commencement of the aftercare plan. We are aware of the need to prepare for the commencement of that piece of legislation. We have indicated that this is a priority in terms of Tusla and hope it will be in a position in order to do this work, as soon as possible. I ask members to please come back to me if I have not covered their question.
I was very pleased to visit the Oberstown campus last week. I was very impressed with the leadership, both the current director and the senior management. I was impressed by their awareness and willingness to drive change in a transition programme, in light of the huge efforts made over the past couple of years to amalgamate the place into a single campus with a single set of governance. They have also brought into play a new way of understanding and being with young people in that context. People are aware that it is a detention school and not a prison. On my visit I spent a lot of time in the school. As I said to the young residents, as I gave them their certificates, my wish for them is their freedom, that they were in a school and were in a learning setting within the context of the detention centre.
I shall now talk more specifically about the questions posed by members. I feel that the moneys allocated to Oberstown have been used very wisely in terms of staffing, the design and construction of the build and then the governance. Good progress has been made with staffing and it has been a key issue. The centre continues to drive the venture by having increased recruitment of staff. Obviously we are aware of the negotiations taking place at the Workplace Relations Commission. I am glad that all parties are back at the negotiating table and other offers and suggestions have been made to the staff.
We plan to open one additional unit shortly and I hope that will happen at the beginning of the school calendar year. It would mean we would have all 17 year olds in the one place. The director of the campus told me that he anticipates and hopes the unit will be provided by 1 September, which would be extremely significant. It would end forever the need to accommodate children in adult prisons, which is a very big deal. I believe the project is on target.
Deputy Rabbitte asked about training. An ongoing training programme is being provided by the staff at Oberstown. Again, this is part of the industrial relations issues. A progressive and empowering approach is being utilised and encouraged among staff. Many of them have provided very committed service for many years. There is now an emphasis on the de-escalating of difficult situations and on helping staff to deal with children without having to resort to strong physical intervention.
In terms of the building, one gets a good feeling when one enters the site. Often I experience an emotional intelligence about an environment. Once one moves through the building one notices the design, which reflects the extraordinary effort that was put into the consultation process that lasted a number of months. We had hoped and envisaged that a top class design would result and that has now been implemented. As people are aware, there are some design issues and I saw some of their impact when I visited the centre. The design issues are being worked on and will be resolved as soon as possible. There are some additional expenses. Again, we are looking at providing money to support the work but it is important and has to be done. The practical issues are being worked on and one example is the locks and doors.
In terms of the Garda youth diversion projects, individuals benefit considerably from early intervention. I would like to support the scheme further in 2017. The spending on the projects was €11.5 million in 2014 and we have spent €6.3 million to date in 2016.
In terms of transitioning from care, aftercare plans and my political priorities, the concern around children who are homeless is key, particularly the group who leave care and may be faced with difficulties in terms of homelessness. We are trying to address some of those issues now in preparation for feeding into the plan proposed by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. If more resources are required for this issue, I am willing to look for them.
I take the point made by Deputy Ó Laoghaire about identifying the overall percentage increase in terms of spend midway or at whatever point we are at, and agree with him that it would be helpful. A question was asked about a national child care information technology system. That would be part of it where we will have an ICT system to support social work departments to record data utilised in respect of a child known to Tusla. I think that it is also on target in terms of being rolled out. The roll-out of the system nationally is scheduled to be completed by the end of quarter two of 2017.
As Deputy Rabbitte is aware, the Adoption (Amendment) Bill has passed Second Stage in the Dáil. I am open to dealing with all of the other Stages as soon as possible whenever we can get Dáil time. The adoption (information and tracing) Bill was raised in relation to those questions. To bring us back to discussing the Estimates, we have the money in 2016 and this is how it is being used. We hope to publish the adoption (information and tracing) Bill in early autumn. I would like to be able to take it through the Dáil and the Seanad in the autumn. As I said to Deputy Jan O'Sullivan and others, this is a major priority of mine and I accept that it is also a priority for members.
The budget for the school completion programme is €24.8 million; will this be spent? Tusla has protected the budget in 2015, given the importance of the programme. It is particularly important to me personally as a Minister. I am well aware of the work of the programme over the years and have worked with people to support the quality and scale of what we can do. The budget should be spent in 2016. The Deputies will be aware that the programme for Government contains a commitment to a new school completion strategy, as I mentioned yesterday evening, which I believe is critical to advance this extremely important service for children. That strategy will take into account the extremely helpful review conducted by the ESRI on the level of funding, which Tusla paid for. Clearly the report recommends that we cannot reduce the funding further. It would be important to examine whether we can increase funding. We need to look at how the funding is allocated and spread across the country, particularly which schools get it and how much is invested in light of the review of DEIS schools. It will be terrific to have that information in moving towards the initiation of a school completion strategy in order to deal with some of those issues.
I thank the Minister. For the information of the many members who asked questions about Oberstown, when the joint committee is up and running we hope to go and visit the facilities at Oberstown to inform our work.
Will the Minister make her opening remarks on programme B, the sectoral programmes for children and young people?
The overall objective of this programme is to continue to support the provision of universal and targeted services for the care, development and well-being of children and young people. The programme comprises the ECCE preschool year scheme, the general child care programmes, the child care initiatives, the youth organisations and services, the area-based childhood programme, and intervention programmes for children and young people funded by the dormant accounts scheme.
The combined allocations for the child care programme under subheads B3, B4 and B5 in 2016 amount to €344.122 million. This includes the ECCE preschool year programme, the general child care programmes and the child care initiatives. The committee might note that an additional €85 million was provided in the budget in 2016 towards the cost of a suite of measures to support affordability, accessibility and quality in child care. I acknowledge all the advocates, the political parties and my Department, whose support helped to get that funding. It is critical to build a sustainable framework, and we are heading towards it but we are not there yet.
Under subhead B3, the current expenditure at the end of May 2016 on ECCE amounted to €95.263 million against a profile of €97.808 million. The variation in this case is attributable to a number of factors. These include a below-profile cost of administration, which amounts to €1.38 million, and a lower-than-expected spend of €4.746 million on the disability scheme, which is offset by a higher spend of €3.639 million on ECCE capitation. The variations are also largely due to timing considerations relating to fund draw downs and it is expected that the position will reverse over the course of the remainder of the year. My Department has very strong oversight of this.
The current expenditure under subhead B4, relating to general child care programmes, amounted to €33.5 million against a profile of €34.977 million at the end of May 2016. Similarly, the position on subhead B5, relating to the child care initiative, was marginally below profile, with expenditure of €2.465 million against a profile of €2.593 million.
The variation on both subheads is largely attributable to timing issues relating to fund drawdowns and the expectation that the resource allocations will be fully utilised.
Subhead B6, youth organisations and services, is showing an end of May spend of €24.272 million as against a profile of €30.377 million. The variation of €6.105 million arises because of lower than expected expenditure outlays under both the local youth club grant scheme and payments under the Youth Work Act 2001. Expenditure will accelerate as the year progresses and, again, the resource allocation will be expended in full.
The remaining two subheads in programme B relate to the area-based childhood scheme, subhead B7, and the intervention programme for children funded by dormant accounts, subhead B8. Both programmes are expected to come in on profile at the end of 2016.
I am happy to take questions in regard to the programmes.
Programme B is quite detailed and covers a great deal. I have questions on the ECCE expansion scheme. Do we have enough funding to deliver it, as this is most important to the providers of the service? My understanding is that the second year of the ECCE programme is for 23 weeks as opposed to 38? Is that correct?
When the ECCE programme was introduced for the first time, the programme ran for 38 weeks. It was presented as a full-year programme that coincided with the school year. Is it the case that the ECCE expansion programme runs, technically speaking, for 23 weeks but that it can run for 33 or 38 weeks if the provider can facilitate it?
Technically speaking, that is the average number of weeks we are estimating. It is not to say that the programme is not available for longer. It is available for every child up until the time he or she enters primary school. I understand the Deputy's point. Chairman, should I be having this exchange?
I have questions on the ABC and the other early intervention programmes. The ABC programme runs from 2013 to 2016. Is there a plan in place for the future of the programme? I would really appreciate it if the Minister would expand on that? I would also really appreciate it if she would comment on the position with regard to family resource centres.
I, too, have questions on the ECCE programme. In the context of the question that Deputy Rabbitte asked, will the Minister clarify whether children can start to attend at three different times of the year? Is that the reason the length of time that children attend varies?
The provision of an additional €85 million is extremely welcome. I think the Minister will get the support of everybody on the committee to continue to look for more funding for early childhood care and education because it is an area in respect of which Ireland has under-invested historically. I think the committee would be interested in doing work on how we might support the Minister in obtaining extra funding for this area. I know we are dealing with the Revised Estimate for 2016 but I think we all have a view on the ECCE programme and are wondering what will happen after the second ECCE year.
I very much welcome the fact that children with disabilities are now included under the programme. Will the Minister expand on how their involvement is supported? Are there targets and performance measures or other methods to assess the way providers respond to children with disabilities?
On the ABC programme, the documentation we received states that one of the outputs is to ensure that the emerging learning from the ABC programme will be captured and that work towards mainstreaming it into established services will be engaged in. I know there is a plan to mainstream it and that part of the reason for so doing relates to the way in which the programme is currently funded. Will the Minister provide more information on how mainstreaming will work?
Will it involve one model? Will it be in the same areas or is it likely to spread to other areas? I am not sure whether the Minister has fully developed plans yet. I would appreciate any information she could give us.
Following on from the Minister's comments, did I hear correctly that she believes there will be an underspend in the ECCE allocation for children with disabilities? If I heard that correctly, I ask her to elaborate on why that may be the case. I imagine the learner fund falls under one of the headings between B3 and B6, inclusive. Is the allocation for 2016 likely to be spent by year-end? The Minister may not have the relevant information, but is it possible to get an understanding of the breakdown between level 5 and level 6 qualifications in terms of the people who are applying and the spend on the scheme?
I support previous comments on ABCs. I wish to offer a general comment, which does not involve fiscal matters. I attended a very interesting seminar yesterday in Cork. Along with tackling area-based poverty, we will have to examine the changing nature of disadvantage and poverty. I put a lot of it down to a lack of local authority housing. People with low incomes are increasingly living in rented and insecure accommodation. There was some evidence given at the seminar that supports the view that in some areas disadvantage is becoming more dispersed.
I wish to refer to a matter I raised with the Minister previously for the benefit of the officials present. The forthcoming regulations are very welcome and will come into effect at year-end or the start of next year. They probably should have been considered in the context of last year's budget. There should have been increased funding to ensure that facilities and community settings, in particular, would be able to meet the new regulations. I understand a number of facilities are under pressure.
The Minister informed me that 91% of facilities are likely to meet the regulations, but 9% will not. A number of facilities are now having to make a decision about whether they take on additional staff or cut back on places. A reduction in places is not something any of us would support. This issue should have been dealt with last year. If applications for additional funding are coming in to the Department, I ask the Minister to ensure that services can meet the regulations. They should be looked upon favourably.
I thank Deputies for their questions, which dovetail quite a bit.
Deputies Rabbitte and O'Sullivan referred to the expansion of the ECCE scheme. Children will have different start and end dates. The bottom line is that every child from the age of three years should have a place until he or she starts school should he or she wish to avail of it. It is anticipated that every child will get a minimum of 51 weeks and some will get as much as 88 weeks. On average, each child will get 61 weeks in total, depending on his or her date of birth and age at which he or she starts school. As Deputy O'Sullivan said, children will enter in September, January or April when they are three years of age.
Deputy Ó Laoghaire referred to regulations. In 2016, we will focus our efforts on supporting monetarily almost 5,000 service providers and work towards the sustainability of early years education in general. We are restoring the capitation rate for the ECCE scheme to the pre-2012 levels of €64.50 and €75 from September this year. We have lifted the cap on the number of community child care subvention places to allow community services to take as many CCS children for which they have capacity.
If they are able to take some children, that helps them in their efforts with their cost base and sustainability.
We have changed the rule on higher capitation in the ECCE scheme to allow services to claim per room. This was sought by the sector for some time. Child care committees Ireland is a structural support service we are enabling and supporting to examine services nationally that might be impacted by the new regulations and determine what can be done to support and prepare them for that. The 30 city and county child care committees will also work closely with services that are experiencing difficulties and help them back onto a substantial footing.
What the Department and I want most is that services are able to stay in business. They may need to make some changes in order to do that. We have implemented some changes in terms of increasing investment, capitation and regulation, such as staff ratios in rooms and capitation. At same time, we still need to be vigilant in order to ensure that we can maintain as many services as possible and enable new services to come on board.
On sustainability, the programme for Government is committed to an independent review of the cost of providing child care. I am sure Deputies are aware of that, and Deputy O'Sullivan said she wanted to work with me in that regard. We may be able to work together in the context of that review. We hope to be in a position to get that moving early in the new academic year. The review will greatly inform future policy developments. I am of course aware of the fact that advocates in national organisations are conducting reviews - I understand Early Years Ireland is one such body.
The learner fund is an issue close to my heart. In 2015, the focus was on level 5 to enable services to meet the regulatory requirements while 2016 funding focuses on level 6, something to which Deputy Ó Laoghaire referred. We expect that all of the funding will be utilised. I will campaign to make sure that it is taken up and available. If funding remains, we may allow it to be assigned to level 7 and level 8 to enable more services to avail of the higher capitation rate.
As we continue our exchanges in the committee, if members have suggestions, recommendations or want to table parliamentary questions on how we can fund this area I would welcome them. It is not just about investing money, although I would love to get more money for the learner fund. It is also about the accessibility of the learning, training, motivation, encouragement and support for people in the services.
AIM, the disability model, is a legacy for which I acknowledge Senator James Reilly and the ongoing hard work of the Department. On whether there will be indicators to determine if the scheme is working, as members probably know, the scheme was launched and is ready to go. We are looking for enrolment in September. The model has been greatly welcomed. We have a strong team in place in the Department, assisted by Pobal, the HSE and county and city child care committees. The implementation team and steering group will monitor it.
A member asked about targets. They will be monitored. It is expected that it will take probably take two to three years to fully implement them. One target involves higher education grants for the provision of 900 inclusion co-ordinators throughout different services.
The funding is expected to be fully spent and, again, because of the previous Government commitment, we must get a significant extra sum of €18 million for 2017 in order to continue the work that has begun.
I am a strong believer in the approach of the area-based childhood, ABC, programme. I am also aware that perhaps there are ways in which we can be more effective in an area-based approach. At the same time, we must examine the process and, as Deputy Ó Laoghaire has said, perhaps we have not found the best ways to effectively target every young person or child who is disadvantaged. That is absolutely a concern for me. As people know, the programme has been very positive for local communities, including Tallaght, Ballymun and Darndale, where the movement towards an area-based approach started. There were 13 sites in the past couple of years. As Deputies know, this is testing innovative and new approaches in disadvantaged areas to improve outcomes for children and families living in poverty. The results are being evaluated but they are coming on stream. We need to attend to the results. We have spent much money on the research and evaluation. We have some of the best researchers in the area in this country, but they were learning the best ways to evaluate this new testing and innovation. It will be a challenge for us as we move forward to see how, more specifically, we can place the investment in an area-based approach or a better targeting of children experiencing poverty. How can we better define the ways in which this will mitigate the impact on children living in poverty with this investment from the Department, while at the same time there are efforts from other Departments to increase the income of low-income or jobless households?
I am committed to ensuring the three original sites can continue their work up to July 2017, and I am working with the sites accordingly. For example, I am meeting elected representatives of Young Ballymun today and I am also examining where we will go with ABC after July 2017, as some Deputies have asked. It is important that we retain what we learned from the 13 sites and mainstream the most effective programmes. We are developing an approach but it has not yet been completed. It is very challenging, and one aspect will be that if we have been testing innovative methods in all the sites, how we can encourage the mainstreaming of those approaches? What does mainstreaming mean? We will continue to support it and perhaps the Departments dealing with education or health will take up some of the programmes in order to provide support in the different settings. It is one of the big challenges for us in terms of investment. I am an advocate for investing in programmes that work but may come from other budgets. The testing and innovation came from our budget.
The Department is also preparing proposals for a quality capacity-building initiative, which would help move us from site-specific initiatives to mainstreaming. As part of that, we will examine the 13 sites, and we are aware of concerns about developing area-based approaches in other settings. I visited one in County Kildare recently. I am sure there are other suitable places throughout the country. The question is how we can continue the area-based approach. We certainly need to ensure that the lessons we learn are mainstreamed. I have no doubt my Department will seek investment to do that and other Departments will also be involved. There is no question of simply stopping the ABC-related work. Perhaps it will be the biggest challenge for all of us to figure out how to best utilise the lessons we have learned and see what is the most effective investment for next year and subsequent years. I assure Deputies I am really aware of the challenge.
Will the Minister expand on the funding of family resource centres or where she sees the Department supporting them? I have admired the ABC programmes because we do not have them in Galway. I visited Preparing for Life, which is in Darndale, the other day. The Minister is dead right in her comments as we must look at other initiatives to bring this to the rest of the country. What is good about the process is very good and we would love to embrace some of that on the other side of the Shannon. Currently, the family resource centres do so much for us in the west.
I accept that. There are two centres in County Kildare. I was told there are 18 in Kerry. The Deputy raised the issue and we must consider it. This is critical in the work of Tusla, which is supporting 109 communities in this regard with the family resource centre programme. It provides core funding to the established programme, which it has managed since 2014. This is the largest family support programme, delivering universal services to families in disadvantaged areas across the country.
The Deputy asked if we have enough of these and that is a another issue. I accept we must look at that and certainly feed the information back. There is a significant spend already relating to family resource centres. At the same time, I know we are developing processes relating to the family, parenting and prevention, particularly with the support of Atlantic Philanthropies. I am considering if there is a way to engage family resource centres in a more proactive way for children who are homeless or in emergency accommodation. I accept the Deputy's questions and concerns. I have explained what we are doing but there is additional scope for the future.
This is the final programme in the Department's Vote. The committee might note that this is a wide-ranging programme which aims to oversee key areas of policy, legislation and inter-sectoral collaboration to improve the lives and well-being of children and young people. Subhead C3, relating to legal fees and settlements, has incurred no expenditure to date this year. As legal costs are difficult to estimate it is not possible at this time to forecast what the end-year position will be. However, the matter will be kept under ongoing review.
Research subhead C4 shows expenditure at the end of May 2016 of €33,000 against a profile of €76,000. The marginal variation is largely attributable to timing issues on Growing Up in Ireland, the national longitudinal study, and on other research projects that will largely normalise over the remainder of the year. It is possible an underspend of €485,000 will arise at the end of the year due to delays in start-up on the Growing Up in Ireland survey. Should this happen, it will necessitate additional funds in 2017.
Subhead C5 contains resource provisions for a wide range of projects and services. Overall, the spending on this subhead at the end of May amounted to €711,000 against a profile of €2.848 million.
The variation is largely attributable to timing issues with fund drawdown for a number of the programmes supported under the subhead, which will regularise by the year end.
Subheads C6 and C7, relating to the Adoption Authority of Ireland and the Office of the Ombudsman for Children, both show underspends in the region of 30% at the end of May. Both underspends can be attributed to the timing of costs incurred and both are expected to be fully utilised at the end of the year.
The position for subhead C8 at the end of May, relating to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, amounted to €0.776 million against a profile of €0.994 million. The variation is attributable largely to timing differences, which are expected to reverse somewhat over the coming months as a number of projects commence. However, it is noted that the work of the commission will be the ultimate determinant of the full-year outturn. To this extent, the most significant share of the allocation is profiled in the latter part of the year and the true position will become evident only as the year progresses and the work of the commission advances. I was happy to have the opportunity to meet a couple of members of the commission recently in my offices to look at how things are going there.
I am happy to take any questions on the programme.
I thank the Minister. There has been much media commentary on one of the areas, the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, in recent weeks, as its remit does not incorporate all of the mother and baby homes. The Minister might care to comment on that. Seeing as the Minister met members of the commission fairly recently, her comments would be welcome. Second, are we on target with the delivery of phase two of the Growing Up in Ireland study?
With regard to our duty to oversee the financial side of things, the Minister mentioned that a number of underspends would probably be caught up on by the end of the year. Can the Minister give us an undertaking that she will keep the committee informed? We have a duty in that regard.
I am interested in subhead C5. There are not many other financial questions that we can ask under this subhead. The Minister has a particular interest in the voice of the child and in children's participation, which are mentioned in the briefing document. I ask her to elaborate on how that might be improved on. The Minister mentioned how, for example, in homelessness, the voices of children can be heard and children supported in terms of the services that are provided for them.
I re-emphasise and support the point made by Deputy Rabbitte. I would share the view that probably not enough institutions come under the remit of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and, that being the case, the budget would probably need to be bigger if additional institutions were included.
I will pick up on the point of the possibility of an underspend on Growing Up in Ireland. If there is likely to be an underspend, is it anticipated that the funding would remain for similar research projects, and where might these be?
I presume it is somewhere under this programme as well that the Department's obligations under the Official Languages Act 2003 fall. I am not sure whether the Department has an extant language plan. If it does, what is likely to be the spend on that? Basically, my question is whether the Department is in compliance with the Act.
My final question is geared more towards next year than anything else. In subhead C5, I note that there was an increase in funding for the Adoption Authority of Ireland. During the course of the Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2016, I commented that when the Bill was passed - as I anticipate it will be - there would likely be a spike in the number of people looking to regularise their situation and formally adopt. Surely this will require an increased allocation in 2017.
On Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, Deputy Rabbitte's primary question has to do with the number and scope of institutions being investigated and whether that is sufficient.
Obviously, the number was determined by the terms of reference. This is what the commission is engaged in, that is, reviewing the work to date and discussing some of these issues with us. What is most important about the work of the commission, at least from my perspective, has to do with the results of what it is currently undertaking, particularly in terms of the confidential committee that was established as well as the development of a social history for the period of 1922 to 1998. There is much more work going on there than was originally anticipated in both of those contexts because more individuals have come forward. There has been an active campaign to invite persons, whether adults who were babies in these institutions or staff who worked there, to come forward to give their confidential evidence to the committee and for it to understand and interpret what was going on.
In terms of the social history module, what was found was that the social history of that time was not comprehensive and there were many inaccuracies. Therefore, more unanticipated archival work is being done in order to bring together what will, hopefully, be an extremely significant contribution to our understanding of what happened and why. That work will, therefore, presented to us, the Government and the State, to determine the most appropriate response. Prior to making a decision about whether there would be a need for the commission do additional work, in terms of extending its scope or scale, it is rational and appropriate to first hear from and see what the commission uncovers, particularly in regard to those two key aspects of its work. I can also assure members, in terms of my own personal commitment to women in the past and the children of these women, that given the extreme and terrible difficulties and challenges and wrong that they no doubt faced, it is another top priority of mine to examine what comes out of the commission and whether or not it is important to extend it.
The Growing Up in Ireland survey is mostly on target and the cross-departmental group that overseas it with my Department is satisfied with the progress. Phase one was completed and phase two has commenced. The field work was slightly delayed but we will get back on track.
It is good that Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked about the voice of the child and young person. Obviously, it is central to the role of my Department to ensure that the voice is heard and, more importantly, influences the policy. A number of works and products that came out of that part of the work of the Department and the voices of children coming forward finished in 2015. These are on my desk and I am trying to go through them to ensure that they influence policy and that it is not merely a report on a shelf.
We lead in many consultations in our own policy areas but we also support the consultations with respect to other Departments. There are a few pieces of work, which await completion and which we want to publish as soon as possible.
We will be building on this further by establishing a participation hub which will be a central, accessible resource to Government Departments, State agencies and NGOs where it can be administered and receive indications of interest on what needs to be done as well as moving that forward. I am delighted that Ireland was the first country in Europe to publish a participative strategy across Government.
I will now turn to the Official Languages Act. The Department is compliant, the scheme is in place in it and we are conscious of the needs regarding the child care resources. There is no specific requirement for an Irish language qualified person on the staff of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs but staff are supported to develop Irish language skills through training. The Department is recruiting one staff member from the Irish qualified panel to assist us with the work of the child care elements.
That is correct. I do not have a formal statement other than to note that it relates, in the main, to pension and other salary deductions. The most significant portion of the income comes from Tusla. At the end of May, the income figures can be behind in profile but I note that in previous years income has met its profile targets.
Do members have any further questions for the Minister? No. I note the apologies of Deputy Catherine Martin for the record. That completes the select committee's consideration of the Revised Estimates for 2016, Vote 40 - Children and Youth Affairs. On behalf of the committee, I thank the Minister, Deputy Zappone, and her officials for their attendance and for dealing so comprehensively with members' questions and observations. The committee has agreed to invite the Minister to attend the Joint Committee for Children and Youth Affairs in the autumn to examine the proposed allocations to her Department for 2017. It is hoped that this meeting will be scheduled in advance of the 2017 budget allocations. The committee secretariat will correspond with the Department with a view to having documentation submitted to the joint committee before the end of July 2016.