Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Children and Youth Affairs announced 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:
After-School Childcare Scheme
A new After-School Childcare Scheme was announced, a joint initiative between the Dept. of Social Protection and the DCYA. This initiative aims to provide over 6,000 afterschool childcare places for children in primary school. A pilot scheme will commence in early 2013. 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 is €14 million next year.
It is envisaged that interested childcare providers, both community and commercial, will be paid a subsidy to provide the after school places to parents who are referred by the Department of Social Protection under the initiative. It is also envisaged that, in co-operation with the Department of Education and Skills, primary schools that are interested in facilitating on-site after school provision will be included under this initiative.
Retention of the Universal Free Pre-School Year
Minister Fitzgerald confirmed that funding has been retained to protect the universal free pre-school year, the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme. Currently there are over 65,000 children 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.”
Capital Programmes for Youth and Childcare
A total of €5 million has been allocated to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs for 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 has said that she plans to make details of these initiatives, including funding for childcare services, available in early 2013.
Establishment of the Child and Family Support Agency
One of the priorities of the DCYA for 2013 is the establishment of the Child & Family Support Agency. The Government has given approval to the drafting of a Bill to establish this agency. 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. The Minister stated that “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 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.”
Area Based Approach to Child Poverty’ Initiative
Minister Fitzgerald announced the allocation of €2.5 million for the new ‘Area Based Approach to Child Poverty’ initiative.This initiative is designed to 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.
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.
The Prevention and Early Intervention Programme has been implemented by the Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) in Tallaght West, Preparing for Life in the Northside communities of Belcamp, Darndale and Moatview and Youngballymun in Ballymun. The Programme has been jointly funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Atlantic Philanthropies.