Wednesday, 10 December 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
276. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 208 of 3 December 2003, the measures her Department has agreed with the Northern Area Health Board to ensure that appropriate alternative measures are put in place to address the needs of families with children at the crèches concerned; the details of these appropriate measures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30526/03]
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): The objective of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme is to meet immediate, short-term income maintenance needs. The crèche supplements which have been provided under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme were intended to be a short-term income support for the parents of children who were referred to child care for medical, family support or child protection reasons by the health board public health nurses or social workers. However, in many cases, the supplements in question have been in payment for long durations and for reasons which are outside the scope of the original intention of the scheme.
The bulk of the funding for the crèches in question comes from the health board. The board has confirmed that it is examining the financial support it provides and will seek whatever additional funding is deemed necessary within its child care and family support budget for 2004. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which has responsibility for child care supports, is also considering the scope it may have to provide support to the crèches in question. My Department is monitoring the situation and, in the meantime, the board has confirmed that the crèches will not close as a result of the withdrawal of supplementary welfare allowance crèche supplements.
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