Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Ceisteanna - Questions

Community Development Projects

3:55 pm

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Taoiseach for that response. He might recall that when we discussed the north-east inner city initiative on previous occasions, I asked and I suggest again that there be a review of progress made and achievements in this part of our capital city. That is essential for the success of this initiative.

I acknowledge the work that has been done but I also flag to the Taoiseach that the social and economic problems within the area remain extremely deep. In my own view in many respects we are only skating on the surface of what actually needs to be done. I therefore recommend to the Taoiseach the need for a review to be done not least because we are now in the autumn of 2021 and 2022 will soon be upon us.

Before we broke for the summer recess the Taoiseach may recall that I raised with him the looming closure of a number of community early learning providers in the north inner city. This is as a direct consequence of the restructuring of the national childcare scheme.

Since then, a coalition of providers in Dublin 8 have raised the same concerns as I raised with him. My colleague, Deputy Funchion, is engaging with a number of providers in disadvantaged areas across the State who face similar funding challenges. The truth is that kids from the poorest households are going to lose their after-school or childcare places. Some providers tell me that they will lose up to 70% of their income because the new scheme penalises the children of parents who are not at work and are not studying and as a consequence will disadvantage children who are living in circumstances of profound disadvantage. I have corresponded with the Taoiseach on these matters.

He has made reference in that correspondence to the sustainability fund. In practice, that is not a fund. In fact, it is described to me by those seeking access to it as an adversarial compliance, governance and financial audit. The statement from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth that children with particular needs, as it calls them, might qualify for the full 45 hours if sponsored by Tusla simply does not recognise the very real fear that families not already engaged with these agencies have of inviting Tusla into their and their children's lives.

In my correspondence with the Taoiseach and with the Minister over recent months, and I have been raising this for months, I reminded them of the urgent need for a DEIS model for early learning settings in areas of disadvantage, as supported by the current Government and the previous Administration. This problem is not going away. I ask the Taoiseach to liaise with the Minister to agree a revised strategy to ensure these children retain the existing childcare and early education entitlements they so desperately need.

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