Dáil debates

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions

Child Care Services Funding

3:25 pm

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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63. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he will support a child care service (details supplied) and protect this vital community service from closure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28129/14]

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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I raise an issue that is not about the past but rather concerns a group of children in Ireland in 2014. Will the Minister support Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Service Limited, also widely known as the Jigsaw centre, in Darndale, Dublin 17? It is under major pressure and if it does not get extra funding, this excellent service will have to close. It provides child care services for children under four. It has great potential and seeks to ensure children, particularly those at risk, can be helped.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Minister, Department of Children and Youth Affairs; Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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I have provided the House with regular updates on issues regarding the services delivered by Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Service Limited to approximately 260 children across the areas of Darndale, Belcamp and Moatview. I am happy to update the House and Deputy Finian McGrath in particular on the current position. I have been contacted about this by colleagues such as Deputies Bruton, Seán Kenny, Terence Flanagan, Broughan and Ó Ríordáin, as well as Deputy Finian McGrath.

It is a matter of record that Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Service Limited has been experiencing cashflow difficulties. The centre incurred expenditure of €2.022 million in 2013 and received funding amounting to €1.96 million, resulting in a deficit of €62,000. Projections by the centre indicate income of approximately €1.8 million is anticipated during 2014. With such a level of financial support available, it should be possible to work constructively to continue services and avoid the closure scenario that has previously been outlined by the centre and Deputy Finian McGrath.

Senior representatives from the Child and Family Agency, Pobal, Dublin city child care committee and representatives from the board and management of Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Service Limited met on 20 May. The objective of this meeting was to ensure all possible solutions to the current difficulties were explored. Representatives from Pobal and Dublin city child care committee subsequently met representatives from the board and management of Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Service Limited on 26 May to continue this process and explore options available to allow the service operate on a sustainable basis within the allocated funding. A number of options were considered and, to assist in this process, Dublin city child care committee engaged the services of an external mediator to undertake an independent detailed analysis of the matter.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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The Minister indicated all efforts have been made to avoid the closure but I do not accept that. The Minister does not really get what is going on at the centre, which is important. This is a child care centre with 260 young children and 99 jobs. It has been proven, as we know, that early intervention works with many at-risk children. The Minister knows the centre requires approximately €200,000 and an immediate injection of €100,000 or it will have to close. In 2012, the centre had a deficit of €65,000 and in 2013 it was €63,000. In 2014, the deficit is €200,000.

The centre has been magnificent in its fund-raising and in 2013 it brought in €112,000. The people who run this centre mean business. These are genuine people helping 260 children from disadvantaged communities. How come the Government can find €800,000 to refurbish Fine Gael headquarters?

How can the Government refurbish buildings in the Leinster House complex for the banking inquiry at a cost of between €3 million and €5 million, yet it cannot find €200,000 for a child care centre in Darndale?

Ministers talk every day about the way children were treated in the past. I challenge the Minister and the Government to treat the children of the present in a dignified, respectful manner and support this child care centre in Darndale.

3:30 pm

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Minister, Department of Children and Youth Affairs; Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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I agree with Deputy Finian McGrath that these are genuine people. I have met them. When I stated earlier that an external mediator had been appointed I meant an "external mentor” had been appointed. This mentor will complete the report by mid-July 2014. My objective is the same as Deputy McGrath’s, to ensure the development of a sustainable model of service delivery into the future.

The Child and Family Agency, as one of a number of State funders of the centre, agreed and has made additional pre-payments to the end of August to Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Service Limited. This is in addition to previous pre-payments advanced for May and June. This will be of assistance to the centre and is designed to allow the necessary time and space to examine the issues involved in greater detail.

I agree with Deputy McGrath about the importance of the centre. When he says I do not get it, he is not reflecting the accurate position on the ground, in correspondence and from my deliberation with Deputies involved. I would be happy to continue to engage with Deputy McGrath on this issue because I am anxious that this centre has a viable future having regard to the great work it is doing throughout the north Dublin area.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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My problem is that we have been talking about this for the past five or six weeks and I have raised it many times before in the Dáil. We are great at tabling motions in this House and talking about inquiries and the past. Here is an opportunity to do something for preschool children in the present.

The centre did a cashflow analysis recently, which it submitted to the Minister last Friday. It is still awaiting a response. The Minister spoke about the external mentor. The centre is under huge pressure to have this assessment made and the up-to-date report finished because it will run out of cash on Sunday, 20 July, three days after the Dáil adjourns for recess. A total of 99 jobs will be lost, 260 children will have no service and a community already riddled with severe economic problems will suffer severe damage. I urge the Minister to act on this important matter over the next couple of days.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Minister, Department of Children and Youth Affairs; Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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The feigned outrage of Deputy McGrath-----

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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Absolutely.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Minister, Department of Children and Youth Affairs; Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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-----is underscored by the fact that he says I received the document last Friday afternoon and I have not replied by Tuesday morning. If he regards that as an undue delay, he is being a little unfair to the process. I welcome-----

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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I got a call from the centre this morning. The Minister should take it seriously.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Minister, Department of Children and Youth Affairs; Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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I welcome the process of engagement that is taking place. I welcome Deputy McGrath’s contribution and I hope that a satisfactory outcome will be arrived at in order to ensure the continued operation of this centre.

The Deputy should be reasonable. If I get a report on a Friday afternoon I think it is somewhat unreasonable to say that because I have not replied by Tuesday morning, there is an undue delay. We are fully aware of the need to forge a resolution to this issue. I am keeping a close eye on the situation and I hope that with the positive engagement of all concerned, including Deputy McGrath, we can reach a resolution of this issue.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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The Minister should support the centre and stop the waffling.