Tuesday 10th October, 2017
Katherine Zappone TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has announced extra funding of €73m for children, youth services and families, bringing the total investment by her Department to €1.38 billion for 2018. The Minister said:
I am very pleased that we have delivered as promised on the commitment to continue investing in our children and young people. Today’s €73m package secures much- needed additional resources for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency and provides a full second year of the ECCE free pre-school scheme, with a heavy emphasis on quality. It also recognises the importance of improved conditions for our early years workforce.
Tusla receives a 5.7% increase of €40.6m for 2018, higher than the €37m increase provided in 2017. The extra funding will be used to progress a number of key priorities including the introduction of mandatory reporting under Children First, addressing gaps in out of hours services and further investing in Family Resource Centres that deliver services to families in disadvantaged areas across the country. Commenting, Minister Zappone said:
I recognise that it has been a very challenging year for Tusla. I strongly support their work and have been committed to resourcing them to meet the growing needs of vulnerable children and families. I have secured a higher increase for Tusla this year to make sure they are resourced for our key priorities in the years ahead.
The additional investment will allow Tusla to recruit over 300 staff to respond to areas of identified risk and to meet increased demand for services. This includes resources for responding to expected increases in referrals following the introduction of mandatory reporting; management of unallocated cases and developing aftercare services. It will also allow for improvements in Tusla’s ICT systems and overall organisational structures, including governance.
Additional funding for Tusla’s Out of Hours Service is aimed at enhancing the capacity and range of supports for out of hours social work services. Central to this is the planned integration of the 3 existing out of hours services into one national service with a national contact number, and the introduction of an out of hours call centre for foster carers. This development will ensure that all parts of the country have access to a social work service on a 24/7 basis.
The additional funding will also allow Tusla develop capacity within the existing 109 Family Resource Centres and build on the strengths of the Programme, community counselling and psychotherapy services. 11 new Family Resource Centres will be established and family support hubs set up.
Minister Zappone acknowledged the work by Tusla in reducing the number of children awaiting the allocation of a social worker during a period that referrals to the services have increased. The additional funding in 2018 will allow Tusla continue to reduce the number of children without an allocated social worker and respond to the anticipated increase in referrals following the introduction of mandatory reporting. People reporting concerns to Tusla will now have their reports acknowledged thereby increasing confidence in the reporting process.
Budget 2018 represents another significant step in ensuring access to high quality, affordable early years care and education. From September 2018 all children will be entitled to a full two years of the ECCE scheme or free preschool, as it has become known. This builds on last year’s development which extended the scheme from 38 weeks, to an average of 61 weeks for children depending on their date of birth and age starting school. The Minister noted:
This further enhancement delivers fully on a commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government that is good for children, families and Early Years providers.
Alongside the extension of ECCE, the Minister announced that the capitation paid to Early Years providers for the delivery of ECCE will increase by 7% from September 2018. Minister Zappone said that she had listened to providers who told her that the existing capitation levels did not allow them pay their staff appropriately. The Minister said:
The wages in the early years sector are low and do not support the recruitment and retention of high quality staff. I hope the increase in capitation I am announcing today will assist employers to improve conditions for their staff. I am aware it is not something that can be sorted overnight but I believe it is a step in the right direction. The Independent Review of the Cost of delivering Quality Childcare which I have commissioned will assist me in seeking more investment for childcare providers over the coming years if this is independently proven to be required.
Minister Zappone also announced investment to continue the childcare affordability measures she introduced last month. These affordability measures are already, in the first six weeks of the schemes opening, benefitting 45,000 children, with 24,000 of these registered so far for the universal under-3 scheme, and 21,000 registered for the targeted schemes. The additional funding will ensure that the door remains open for further children and families to register and benefit from these subsidies throughout 2018.
In conjunction with this measure, Minister Zappone has also secured additional funding to ensure that providers are paid for the administration associated with these schemes on an annual basis. A total of €18m will be available in 2018 and thereafter to pay providers for the administration associated with these schemes and the ECCE scheme.
A total of €2.3m was also secured for a range of initiatives including to further enhance the Early Years Inspection regime and to further address sustainability concerns being expressed by some community providers.
Minister Zappone said:
Today is another milestone for Early Years Care and Education. High quality, accessible and affordable early years care and education benefits children, our society and our economy. The additional funding I have secured represents another big step and I am committed to continuing to seek the investment children, parents and providers need and deserve. We must continue to invest in our children and the Early Years workforce and I am delighted that, for two Budgets in a row, I have been able to take significant steps in this regard.