Dáil Éireann - Volume 587 - 15 June, 2004
Written Answers. - Family Support Services.
Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin
78. Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she has received a copy of the Family Support Agency’s strategic plan for 2004-2006, including its five priorities for the next two years; her views on whether the agency will be able to deliver on its promise to deliver services for families around the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17713/04]
Mr. Cuffe Mr. Cuffe
 91. Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will make a statement on the report of the Family Support Agency. [17724/04]
Mary Coughlan Mary Coughlan
Mary Coughlan: I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 91 together.
The Family Support Agency which I established on 6 May 2003 brings together pro-family programmes and services introduced by the Government in recent years which are designed to promote local family support, help prevent marital breakdown, promote continuity and stability in family life and support ongoing parenting relationships for children.
The agency provides a direct, nationwide family mediation service and, through funding, supports, promotes and develops the provision of marriage and relationship counselling, other family supports and the family and community services resource centre programme.
The agency has a responsibility to undertake or commission research, to advise, inform and assist me as Minister for Social and Family Affairs and to promote and disseminate information about family-related issues. I believe that the board have both the necessary experience and expertise to steer the agency through its important first years.
The publication of the Family Support Agency strategic plan which I launched last month reinforces this belief. In clear and concise terms it spells out the agency’s priorities for the next three years. These set out to: support and strengthen families; foster a supportive community environment for families; undertake or commission research into family related matters; promote the agency as a key provider of support services and information to families; and recognise the role played by the agency’s staff and continue to invest in their development.
I am satisfied with and fully support the priorities chosen by the board of the agency and consider they have put an effective strategy in place to successfully deliver on these priorities.
For my part I have this year, 2004, made over €20 million available to the agency to fulfil its functions. Over €7 million of this is for the scheme of grants for voluntary organisations providing marriage and relationship counselling and other family supports. For the current year, this will mean financial support to more than 500 groups throughout the country.
The year 2004 also sees the continued development of the family and community resource centre programme. In just 12 months from the establishment of the Family Support Agency, 18 new family resource centres have been approved for inclusion in the programme and 12 of these are already up and running. The agency has been given investment of €8.39 million in 2004 to drive forward this important programme.
I also welcome and fully support the priority being given to the continued expansion of the family mediation service. During 2003, new centres opened in Sligo and Waterford, bringing  to 14 the number of offices now operating nationally.
I am happy to say that two more centres are planned for this year — in Letterkenny, to ensure effective access to the service in the north-west, and in Portlaoise, to similarly expand the service in the midlands. A major family research programme is being completed with the publication later this year of the final studies commissioned under the programme. The consultation process on family issues, which I undertook last year, together with the findings of the Irish Presidency conference and the OECD study on reconciling work and family life, in which Ireland participated, have provided a wide range of material on the future direction of policies to support families. These will be fully taken into account, together with the board’s strategic plan, in drawing up the strategy on supports for families currently being prepared for publication by year end. This strategy should also greatly assist the board in setting its research priorities for the coming years.
I would like to compliment the dedication and professionalism of the board, its chief executive officer and staff. I am confident that the services provided by the agency in accordance with this strategic plan, will be of a high standard. Given the resources put at their disposal, I am confident the board will meet the strategic priorities laid down in the plan.
Dáil Éireann 587 Written Answers. Family Support Services.