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Zappone outlines priorities for 1.38B Euro investment in young people

Examination of Revised Estimates Volume 2018

Select Committee on Children and Youth Affairs

Opening Statement by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs,

Katherine Zappone T.D.

**Check Against Delivery**

Wednesday 7th March , 2018

I am very happy to be here today to discuss my Department’s 2018 Estimate.

As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I remain fully committed to ensuring the full delivery of this Government’s Programme for Government commitments.

I want to see an Ireland where the rights of all children and young people are respected, protected and fulfilled; where their voices are heard; and where they are supported to realise their maximum potential now and in the future.

The Revised Estimate for my Department for 2018 provides a gross funding provision of €1.38 billion. This represents an increase of just under €73 million, or 6%, over my Department’s 2017 allocation.

As a result, my Department will spend €1.355 billion on current expenditure and €28 million in capital expenditure during 2018.

This is a significant investment of taxpayer’s money.  My Department and its agencies are charged with the delivery of  a complex range of policy, legislation and services.

In order to achieve better outcomes for all our children and families, I am sure deputies will agree with me that we must invest wisely in key services.

In negotiating the Estimate for 2018, I therefore placed a particular emphasis on ensuring a solid financial base for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, together with priority areas for development.
I also prioritised continuing the investment in quality early years care and education.  These two areas comprise 90% of my Department’s Vote.  I also prioritised a number of other key elements which I will refer to later.

I have allocated some €754 million to Tusla, an increase of €40.6 million, or 5.6% over the 2017 allocation, and a higher increase than applied in 2017 over the previous year, which was €37 million. 

I allocated €485 million for Early Years Care and Education, representing a €20 million, or 4.3%, increase over 2017.

The Vote also contains provision for almost €62 million for Youth Services, broken down between €59 million in current funding and €3 million in capital supports. 
These resources will fund youth services throughout the country, including services for those at risk of disadvantage.  It represents an increase of €1.5 million, or 2.5%, over the allocation for 2017.

Other key areas of expenditure include €28 million for the operational costs of Oberstown Children Detention Centre, €18 million for the operational costs of my own Department, €9 million for the Area Based Childhood Programme, €6 million for the Intervention Programme for Children and Young People, €4 million for the Adoption Authority of Ireland and just under €3 million for the Office of the Ombudsman for Children. 

All of these areas have seen increases over their respective provision for 2017.
In each case I am satisfied that the extra resources are justified and the respective agencies are capable of delivering on the objectives set for them.

I worked hard during the negotiations on Budget 2018 to achieve increased resources for the priority areas that I had identified.

I am pleased that, as a Government, we can back up our stated commitment to children and young people with increased resources, targeted towards areas where we want to make a real difference in the lives of children, young people and their families. 

Over the last few years I have been working to put Tusla on a firm financial footing and to give it the resources necessary to implement some key improvements to services. 
The €40 million extra for the Agency this year means that it can continue to address a number of major concerns, including implementing the mandatory reporting provisions of the Children First Act, addressing my continuing concerns about unallocated cases, rolling out the National Child Care Information System and supporting critical areas such as private residential and foster care, and services for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, and child homelessness.

I have long been committed to the expansion of Tusla’s out-of-hours social work service.  Tusla’s financial allocation for 2018 means that this will become a reality. 

It involves integrating the three existing out-of-hours services into one national service with a national contact number, and an out-of-hours call centre for all foster carers. 
I am pleased that this initiative will ensure that all parts of the country will have access to a social work service on a 24/7 basis.

In the area of family supports, which cover prevention, protection and welfare services, I was pleased to able to fund an additional 11 Family Resource Centres, to expand the excellent services provided by the existing 109 Centres.  I have provided increased funding to the existing 109 Centres as well

I am  placing great emphasis on reforming the School Completion Programme to ensure that it is organised to best effect with a new governance structure.

I believe that the Programme does extremely important work with some of our most vulnerable young people, and I want to ensure that it is supported and developed in the years ahead.

In the area of early years, I am pleased that we have been making progress in the supports for parents of young children. 

Since being appointed Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, one of my key priorities has been to address the historic under resourcing in the area of childcare.

International evidence is clear that investment in children during their early years results in long term gains to children, families, the economy and society generally.

In recent years the significant increases in resource provision has enabled my Department to advance a number of key reforms and 2018 represents another significant step forward in ensuring access to high quality, affordable early years care and education.

The ECCE scheme will apply effectively for a full two years from September, and it currently benefits some 110,000 children.  This will peak at about 126,000 by April this year.

In addition, there has been a huge uptake of the measures I introduced last September in advance of the Affordable Child Care Scheme.

In 2017 we had scheme uptake rate of some 98% with upwards of 68,000 registrations.
The most recent figures available to us indicate that registrations have now exceeded 70,000. 

I briefed the Joint Oireachtas Committee on 24 January last on the progress we have been making to introduce the full Affordable Childcare Scheme and I will be able to set out a more specific timescale after the vendor for the new IT system has been appointed.

Among the legislative priorities that I want to pursue this year are the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill which passed Second Stage in the Seanad some time ago; the Childcare Support Bill, which passed Committee Stage last week and which will give statutory effect to the Affordable Childcare Scheme; and the Children (Amendment) Bill which will form the basis for major reforms of the current Guardian ad litem system. 
I know the Select Committee shares my ambition to have all three of these important Bills enacted as soon as possible.

In conclusion, I believe that the significant increase in resources under my Department’s Vote for 2018 brings great opportunities for a targeted development and improvement of services.  I will work closely with Tusla, my own Department and all of the stakeholders to achieve the best possible outcomes and the best value for money that we can.

We have already made good progress in recent years, and I am determined to press ahead with the agenda I have set out.