19 December 2012

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Announces New Supports for Children and Families

  • 6,000 places in a new After-School Childcare Scheme
  • €2.5 million for new Area Based Approach to Child Poverty initiative
  • Capital funding for National Children Detention Facility – to end the practice of detaining 16 and 17 year olds in St. St Patrick’s Institution;
  • Savings to be matched by reforms and value-for money reviews.

Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Children and Youth Affairs today welcomed the 2013 Estimate for her Department which includes a number of new initiatives aimed at supporting children and families.

The 2013 Department of Children and Youth Affairs estimates package includes:
  • Over 6,000 places in a new After-School Childcare Scheme, for children in primary school, to support low-income families to take up employment;
  • €2.5 million for a new ‘Area Based Approach to Child Poverty’ initiative
  • Retention of the universal free-pre-school year;
  • €20.4m in capital funding for development of National Children Detention Facility at Oberstown - to end the practice of detaining 16 and 17 year olds in St Patrick’s Institution;
  • Savings across a number programme area, to be matched by reforms and value-for money review.
The 2013 estimate include an allocation of €443 for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. This represents an increase of €16m over 2012 allocation and consists of €417 million in current expenditure and €26 million in capital expenditure. The separate 2013 estimate for HSE Child & Family Services is €546m. This funding line will be transferred to the new Child & Family Support Agency when established in 2013.
Commenting on the overall estimates package, Minister Fitzgerald stated: “The 2013 Estimate shows the continuing commitment of this Government to the ongoing development of quality and effective services to support children and families. As part of our efforts to address Ireland’s deficit, my Department, like all others, has had to find savings. However our overall approach has been to prioritise investment in child and family services and to reform funding streams and delivery mechanisms in order to make the best possible use of resources.”

After-School Childcare Scheme
Minister Fitzgerald in conjunction with her colleague the Minister for Social Protection has today announced a new After-School Childcare Scheme,. This joint initiative will provide over 6,000 afterschool childcare places for children in primary school. This will begin with a pilot scheme in early 2013. The places will be targeted at low-income families and will support parents availing of an employment opportunity. Both Ministers emphasised the initiative is part of the Government's overall strategy to support parents in low income families to take up employment. The funding provision for this initiative will be €14 million in a full year. Officials of both Departments will work closely on the operational details of the scheme and the estimated costs in 2013 will be reviewed in this context.
The new After-School Childcare Scheme will further augment my Department’s programme of childcare supports for low income parents, which with this additional funding will now amount to over €88m. This programme includes the existing Childcare Community Subvention (CCS) scheme and the Community Employment and Training Scheme (CETS). This is addition to the universal free pre-school year which has a separate budget of €175 million (see below).
Minister Fitzgerald said: “Extending childcare provision has been a key priority for me. This initiative shows how Departments are working together to deliver on this Government’s agenda to promote employment and to support children’s development.”

Area Based Approach to Child Poverty’ Initiative
Minister Fitzgerald has welcomed the new ‘Area Based Approach to Child Poverty’ initiative for which €2.5 million has been provided for in the 2013 Estimates.
This initiative will build on and continue the work of the Prevention and Early Intervention Programme (PEIP) which supported projects in Tallaght, Ballymun and Darndale. These projects involve a range of pilot programmes to improve outcomes in areas such as literacy, speech and language, parenting, health and pro-social behaviour. These programmes are currently being evaluated by national and international experts. Minister Fitzgerald said that it was important that we mainstream the learning from these pilot projects so that proven and effective supports for children and families could be delivered right through the country, including through the range of services to be provided by the new Child & Family Support Agency.
The new initiative announced today reflects the Programme for Government commitment to adopt an area based approach to child poverty in co-operation with philanthropic partners, drawing upon best international practice and existing services, to break the cycle of child poverty where it is most deeply entrenched.
In line with this commitment, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, in conjunction with the Office of the Tanáiste and the Departments of Social Protection, Communities, and Education will work in 2013 to expand the number of project sites from 3 to 6. By 2015, the Exchequer funding for the initiative is expected to be in the region of €4.75 million.
Minister Fitzgerald said that the new initiative will not simply be a continuation of the PEIP scheme but will instead seek to implement programmes which have already been evaluated and proven to work in improving outcomes for children and families at risk of disadvantage,

Minister Fitzgerald stated: “We know that early intervention improves life chances for children and families. This is even more true in communities with high levels of disadvantage and joblessness.”

“I welcome this investment which supports a key Programme for Government objective and demonstrates this Government’s commitment to early intervention to support childhood development and tackle child poverty.”
“This new initiative will draw upon existing community strengths and efforts already underway.”

Retention of the Universal Free Pre-School YearDespite
the need to find savings to meet the Budget deficit, Minister Fitzgerald is pleased to confirm funding has been confirmed to maintain and protect the universal free pre-school year. Over 65,000 children are availing of the year at an annual cost of €175 million.
Minister Fitzgerald stated: “Given the importance of early years education and early interventions to improving the educational and development outcomes for children, I have been steadfast in preserving the universality of this scheme.”

National Children Detention Facility project
Minister Fitzgerald has welcomed the decision to allocate €20.4m in capital funding in 2013 to her Department to enable the National Children Detention Facility project in Oberstown to proceed. Earlier this year Minister Fitzgerald announced the Government’s decision to end the practice of detaining 16 and 17 year olds in St. Patrick’s Institution through developing the Oberstown facility.
Minister Fitzgerald stated: “Since assuming responsibility for the children detention system in January of this year, I have worked with my colleagues in Government on a range of actions to end the practice of detaining children in St Patrick’s Institution which is of course an adult institution.”
“First of all, in April of this year I announced a capital investment package for the Oberstown children detention schools project. This will result in sufficient capacity to extend the child care model of detention to all young people under the age of 18 years by mid 2014.”
“Secondly, I ended the practice of detaining 16 year old boys in St Patrick’s Institution on 1 May 2012 by using existing capacity that was available on the Oberstown children detention school campus in Lusk, Co Dublin. Since July 2012 there have been no 16 year old boys detained in St Patrick’s Institution.”

Capital Programmes for Youth and ChildcareA
further €5 million has been allocated to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in 2013 to provide for a number of initiatives including a new capital programme for Youth Cafes and other youth projects as well as schemes funding Play and Recreation and Parent and Toddler groups. The Minister plans to make further details of these initiatives, including funding for childcare services, available in early 2013.

Establishment of the Child and Family Support Agency:One
of the most important tasks now facing the Department is the establishment of the Child & Family Support Agency. The Minister welcomed the allocation of €546 million in the Health Service Executive Vote for 2013 in respect of Children and Family Services. This consists of €545 million in current expenditure and €1 million in capital.
Minister Fitzgerald stated: “The maintenance of the budgetary provision for child welfare and protection services at a time of wider curtailment in public expenditure reflects the priority attached by Government to this area. The potential provided by these resources will be further strengthened in 2013 through reform and the establishment of the new Child & Family Support Agency in 2013. This will involve moving the child welfare and protection services out of the HSE and creating a new statutory body which will also encompass both the National Educational Welfare Board and the Family Support Agency”.
“Under this Government’s reform programme, we are moving to a situation where child and family welfare is the sole focus of a single dedicated State agency, overseen by a single dedicated government Department.”
The removal of child protection services from the HSE and the establishment of the new Child and Family Support Agency are key commitments in the Programme for Government.
The Government has given approval to the drafting of a Bill to establish the Child and Family Support Agency. Work on the preparation of the legislation is proceeding as a priority and the intention is that the Agency will be established in early 2013. This will involve the transfer of over 4,000 staff.
The Minister said that the reform of child and family services and the establishment of the new Agency represent an essential response to the deficiencies in services identified in previous reports on child protection in Ireland. The Minister commented that: “for too long in this country we have had too many different agencies and services all doing their own things – with insufficient joined-up thinking and no working together. As a result, for too long, children were being failed.”
The Minister stated: “Leadership expertise, enhanced accountability and more efficient inter-agency working will be important features at the heart of the working of the new Agency. Equally important will be the increased focus on early intervention and family support services, aimed at delivering 'proportionate' responses to child welfare concerns and to protect children in the home. This approach will be supported by the inclusion of the existing Family Support Agency and its nationwide network of 106 Family Resource Centres.”

Savings & Reforms In
line with the Government’s Comprehensive Review of Expenditure agreed in 2011, the Department of Children & Youth Affairs is seeking savings across a number of programme areas. The Department of Children & Youth Affairs has sought to ensure that savings are matched with reforms so as to seek to deliver greater value-for-money and operating efficiencies.

  • With respect to youth service funding, five separate funding streams will be streamlined so that from January 2013, 470 projects will receive one funding stream allowing more flexibility in setting priorities, managing savings and reconfiguring service provision. Furthermore the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will next month commence a formal Value for Money review and this is expected to report by mid 2013. There will be no cut to funding for local voluntary youth clubs.The Family Support Agency recently undertook a review of funding to Family Resource Centres. The Report from the review is due to be finalised within the next few weeks. The Family Resource Centres will, along with the HSE’s Children and Family Services, form an integral part of the new Child and Family Support Agency, due to be established in 2013. FRC’s will form part of new seamless community-based model of family support which will further facilitate and support greater operating efficiencies.With respect to the School Completion Programme, a full review will take place in 2013. This will address potential to achieve greater consistency in programme delivery, administration and other costs amongst the 124 local projects who deliver the programme.