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Green Party Councillor Karen Power welcomes historic pay increases in childcare

  • More than two in three childcare workers will receive a pay increase this month as the government have set the first ever minimum rates of pay in the sector.
  • An estimated 73% of Early Years workers will receive a pay increase with half of workers receiving a 10% increase in pay.
  • The Orders will commence on 15 September 2022, providing new minimum hourly rates for the sector.

More than two in three childcare workers will receive a pay increase this month as the government have set the first ever minimum rates of pay in the sector.

With the signing of an Employment Regulation Order (ERO), an estimated 73% of Early Years workers will receive a pay increase, with half of workers receiving a 10% increase in pay.

Some 20% of childcare workers are expected to see a rise in wages of 20%.

The increases are supported through the Government’s €221m Core Funding Scheme.

Green Party Councillor Karen Power said;

“This is a very welcome move from Minister Roderic O’Gorman. Delivering better pay for childcare workers while cutting the costs for parents have been long-standing objectives of the Green Party. We all know how essential it is to support those working in the caring economy. Our two children attend a creche in Skerries and the staff there are like a second family to them. We need to give our children the best start and to do that we need to help those working in the sector with pay that reflects the importance of that work. This is a move in the right direction.

“This new scheme will provide a solid foundation for the development of a really thriving Early Years sector.”

Green Party Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman, stated;

“I have always said that I believe childcare staff need their pay and conditions to reflect the importance of the work they do. Today’s announcement is an historic first step towards that.

“Since I became Minister, my three objectives in childcare have been to increase pay for staff, reduce childcare costs for parents, and improve sustainability for providers. In signing these EROs today, we achieve the first of these goals. Addressing pay and conditions will help to ensure that childcare professionals can see a future for themselves in a job I know so many of them cherish.”

These pay increases and the signing of the EROs come ahead of the full launch of the Government’s Core Funding scheme. This will see funding to support improvements in staff wages, alongside a commitment to freeze parental fees.

The Orders will commence on 15 September 2022, providing new minimum hourly rates as follows:

•           €13 for Early Years Educators/School-Age Childcare practitioners.

•           €14 for Early Years Lead Educators /School-Age Childcare co-ordinators.

•           €15.50 Graduate Early Years Lead Educators /School-Age Childcare co-ordinators.

•           €15.70 for Deputy Managers.

•           €16.50 for Managers.

•           €17.25 for Graduate Managers.

CLLR POWER WELCOMES FUNDING FOR BALBRIGGAN TIDAL POOL FEASIBILITY STUDY

 Funding secured for feasibility study through the Outdoor Recreation and Infrastructure Scheme

·       Scheme encourages people to get active outdoors and discover the ‘hidden gems’ in their County

Progress has been made on developing a tidal pool in Balbriggan with the announcement of €50,000 for a feasibility study to access potential locations for such an amenity. The investment has been awarded on the basis of the project being at an early stage of development.

Councillor Power stated:

“The investment, under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS), will be key to developing a wonderful amenity for the town. A tidal pool would provide a major boost to the local economy by attracting visitors and furthering our reputation as a destination in Fingal for adventure tourism.” 

Funding for larger scale projects under Measures 2 and 3 of the scheme will be announced by Minister Humphreys in the coming weeks.

Legislation on safe access zones for abortion services finally prioritised, but more work still needed to improve pregnancy healthcare, says Greens
Green Party Councillor, Karen Power has welcomed recent comments from Health Minister Stephen Donnelly that anti-abortion protests will finally be banned outside maternity hospitals and clinics providing termination of pregnancy services. The new laws are due to be prioritised for fast tracking through the Dáil and Seanad this Autumn and are expected to come into force later this year.

Councillor Power stated:

The introduction of safe access zones to protect women and staff from intimidation at healthcare facilities that provide abortion care, can frankly, not come soon enough. Current laws do not protect pregnant people from the silent protests that take place around the country outside GP practices, clinics and hospitals and that have been shown to be greatly intimidating.

“The Green Party pushed for a commitment to establish exclusion zones around medical facilities as part of the Programme for Government negotiations and I welcome the recent announcement from Minister Stephen Donnelly that the new legislation will finally be progressed and look forward to it’s introduction later this year.”

The Safe Access to Termination of Pregnancy Services Bill 2021 will enforce 100 metre Safe Access Zones around all family planning clinics, maternity hospitals and other health care facilities in Ireland which provide or give information on abortion.

Another report published today however, a study conducted by Trinity College Dublin, Unplanned Pregnancy and Abortion Care (UnPAC), finds that Ireland’s abortion legislation still presents problematic issues for women seeking abortions at all stages of pregnancy but particularly those facing diagnoses of fatal foetal anomalies (FFAs).
 

Councillor Power welcomes increase in paid parental leave

Parents in Ireland can take up to seven weeks paid Parents Leave and Benefit, as part of new measures introduced by Green Party Minister Roderic O’Gorman. The measures will see the number of weeks that parents can take time off work, with financial support from the State, increase from five weeks to seven weeks.

Green Party Councillor, Karen Power stated;

“Since the formation of this Government, paid parental leave has increased from two weeks to seven weeks. As a parent to two young children I fully understand the importance of being there as much as possible during the early years of a childs life.

Karen with her children Olivia and Thomas

This financial support is available to anyone with a child under two years of age or who has adopted a child within the last two years. It has also been confirmed that the Government have committed to a further expansion of Parents Leave and Benefit to nine weeks in line with the Work Life Balance Directive.

Minister O’Gorman commented on the announcement;

“Welcoming a child into the world is one of the most important moments in a parent’s life. We want to ensure that new parents are supported to spend quality time with their babies in those first weeks and months, and be there to share special bonding moments.

“I am delighted that we have been able to support these parents to spend more time with their families, and I hope the increase we have announced today encourages even more parents to take up the offer of paid parent’s leave.”

Free school transport a welcome relief for parents but they must act now to avail, says Councillor Karen Power

School transport fees are set to be scrapped for the 2022-2023 school year, as part of a new package to curb back-to-school costs, but parents need to act now to register with Bus Eireann.

School children who are eligible for the scheme must register before July 29th to get free fares for the coming year.

Green Party Councillor for Balbriggan, Karen Power said;

“The waiving of fees for school transport is an excellent initiative and will come as a welcome relief for many. It’s important that as many children in Balbriggan, Skerries, Loughshinny and Balrothery avail of it as are eligible.

“Going back to school is always an expensive time for families and with the rising cost of living this year it will be particularly hard.

“Not only will this free transport scheme save parents money but if there is strong take up then it will ease congestion around schools, reduce emission and lower air pollution. It’s very much a win-win-win.

“I’m glad to see this government give priority to public transport both through reducing fares and investing in new infrastructure.

“I really want to get the message out that families need to register now.”

This scheme means cost savings ranging from €100 for primary school pupils up to €500 for a family with more than one child in secondary school, subject to eligibility.

This is a temporary scheme for this year only.

Parents who wish to register can do so at schooltransport.buseireann.ie

Children are eligible for free transport at primary level for 22/23 where they live not less than 3.2 kilometres from and are attending their nearest national school. At secondary level that distance changes to 4.8 kilometres. Parents should check the Bus Eireann website for further details on eligibility.

Details of the school transport scheme are available here. https://buseireann.ie/inner.php?id=256

The Bus Eireann portal to register for the scheme is available here. https://schooltransport.buseireann.ie/

Department of Education FAQ on the scheme is available here. https://www.gov.ie/en/service/school-transport/#school-transport-is-free-for-the-20222023-school-year

Councillor Karen Power welcomes the passing into law of the Circular Economy Act.

Councillor Power welcomes Circular Economy Act being signed into law by the President

New law has potential to divert hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste from landfill

It will allow Fingal County Council to use CCTV to catch illegal dumpers across the county


Skerries based Councillor Karen Power welcomed the passing into law of the Circular Economy Act.

These new laws are the completion of several commitments secured by the Green Party in the Programme for Government relating to waste, resource use and the circular economy.

Key elements of the new law include:

  • Phases out single-use packaging
  • Incentivises the use of reusable and recyclable materials in place of disposable ones
  • Introduces mandatory segregation for commercial waste
  • Allows for CCTV to be used to catch illegal dumpers
  • Prohibits exploration for and extraction of coal, lignite and oil shale.
  • Establishes a legal requirement for government to prepare a Circular Economy
  • Introduces a Strategy and National Food Loss Prevention Roadmap
  • Diverts environmental levies into a Circular Economy Fund to be ringfenced and used for environmental measures

Minister of State for Communications and Circular Economy Ossian Smyth said;

“Many of the provisions in this act are measures that the Green Party have been pushing for, for a long time.

“These measures, when taken together, will work to shift businesses, retailers, and consumers, off the current damaging and wasteful throwaway model to something more sustainable. This is simple stuff but it stands to have a huge impact.

“Lastly, I want to welcome the new Circular Economy Fund, which will take the money made from environmental levies and recirculate them to environmental and anti-waste initiatives. This is really an evolution of the Environment Fund which has been providing funds to environmental NGOs and other projects for many years. I’m glad we can now help put that funding on a more secure footing.”

Councillor Power in particular welcomed the news that the act will increase the powers that Fingal County Council will be able to use to tackle the scourge of illegal dumping and fly-tipping across the county:

“By cutting down on disposable items, tackling dumping, and forcing the segregation of all waste, this law has the potential to divert hundreds of thousands of tonnes of material from landfill and incineration.”

“Facilitating CCTV to tackle illegal dumping and fly changing will be a game changer for us in Fingal.”

The Circular Economy Act was enacted and became law following its signing by President Michael D Higgins. 

This Act underpins Ireland’s shift from a “take-make-waste” linear model – to a more sustainable pattern of production and consumption, that retains the value of resources in our economy for as long as possible. This approach will also significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

In a circular economy, waste and resource use are minimised. The use and value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible. When a product has reached the end of its life its parts are used again and again – to create further useful products, instead of being discarded which is an all too familiar pattern now.

The Act recently passed its final stages in the Dáil, and received broad cross-party support to introduce levies on all single-use packaging over time and where more sustainable alternatives are available. The final version of the Act now comprises more social protections, including measures to protect low-income households and people with disabilities.

Green Councillors call for hybrid meetings to facilitate inclusiveness at local Government level

Cllr Pamela Conroy and Cllr Karen Power who have sourced letters of support from advocacy groups

Fingal County Council are to hold a vote with all members at its “Organisation, Procedures and Finance” meeting on Monday which will decide if council meetings will be facilitated in a hybrid manner – allowing council members and staff to take part in meetings both in person and online. The Council has technology in place that has been tested and shown to allow full participation of participants both in person and online. The technology was trialed at a number of different council meetings earlier this year.

Following the trial all councillors were asked to consider whether to proceed with facilitating council meetings in a hybrid fashion, and if so, under which circumstances should hybrid meetings be allowed.

The Green Party Councillors based in Fingal are calling for a hybrid model to be facilitated for all Council meetings arguing it provides for more inclusive participation in local politics.

Cllr Karen Power said:

“As it stands, local government in Ireland is experiencing a democratic deficit. The female population is represented by only 25% of elected councillors. Childcare, lack of maternity and parental leave, unsociable meeting times are some of the barriers which have prevented female representatives from fully participating in political life. We believe facilitating hybrid meetings can help to remove some of these barriers and encourage more female representation at local Council level.”

This position is supported by a recent policy position paper “Making Local Politics Family Friendly” from Women for Election. Amongst other measures the report advocated for “Option for remote access to meetings with appropriate tech and administrative support.”

Cllr Power continued:

“It is important to emphasize, facilitating hybrid meetings will not prevent those who wish to attend in person from doing so, but rather it can encourage and facilitate more diversity and wider participation. The current situation in Fingal means we have policy decisions that impact on the lives of disabled people being made by people whose lives are not directly affected. By removing the need for in person attendance at meetings we enable active inclusive participation in these policy decisions.”

The group have sourced letters of support from a variety of advocacy groups including National Women’s Council of Ireland, Independent Living Movement of Ireland, disability rights activist Selina Bonnie, See Her Elected, Women for Election and Inclusion Ireland. In her response to the group, Disability Rights Activist Selina Bonnie highlighted how, on a personal level, the ability to participate in a virtual manner had enabled her, “a disabled person (wheelchair user), a mother and full time employee to re-engage in a variety of groups which I had stepped away from over the past decade”.

Responding to this, Cllr Pamela Conroy said:

“We have a unique opportunity when making the decision around facilitating hybrid meetings to take a step that will make our chamber more inclusive going forward. As a group, we feel that it is important that Councillors are fully informed when making this decision and so we contacted various advocacy groups and individuals to ask them to comment on hybrid meetings. Selina Bonnie’s words, and those received from other groups, demonstrate exactly why this council needs to facilitate hybrid meetings. We have a duty to ensure that no one is excluded from participating in local politics. This decision enables us to remove a barrier to active participation, which the last two years have demonstrated does not need to be there.”

Cllr David Healy remarked:

“When the pandemic meant we couldn’t meet in person it highlighted the value of face to face meetings. But it also demonstrated that online meetings enable much wider participation, making it possible for people to attend who otherwise would have been excluded. That is why we are asking the Council to agree to hybrid meetings as standard.”

The Green Party group in Fingal County Council have shared the information they have gathered from advocacy groups and individuals with their colleagues via email ahead of the vote takes place on Monday 11 April at 4pm.

Frequently Asked Questions for Displaced Ukraine Nationals

Frequently Asked Questions for Displaced Ukraine Nationals

Q.1 I am a displaced Ukrainian national seeking refuge in Ireland. What should I do or how do I go about it?
A.1 For general information, please see https://www.irishimmigration.ie/faqs-for-ukrainenationals-and-residents-of-ukraine/
As a Ukrainian arriving in Ireland you have 90 days before you need to regularise your status.
Ireland is an EU country and is working with the EU to activate the EU Temporary Protection
Directive, an emergency provision designed to respond quickly and humanely to the mass
displacement of Ukrainian people.
Once this is finalised, the details will be made available on irishimmigration.ie. In the
meantime, if you require it, displaced Nationals arriving from Ukraine can be given
accommodation by IPAS. You are also free to source your own private accommodation.

Q2. I am a displaced Ukrainian national and I have nowhere to stay in Ireland. Where can I find help?
A.2 If arriving in the airport, please make yourself known to Immigration who will then bring
you to the Border Management Unit. The Border Management Unit will liaise on your behalf
with IPAS, who in turn will arrange accommodation and transport for you.
If you have already arrived in Ireland, please contact the IPAS Helpdesk at
ipasinbox@equality.gov.ie and someone will assist you.

Q.3 I am a resident in Ireland and want to offer accommodation to displaced Ukraine
nationals. What do I do?A.3 Please find all information on accommodation pledges at the Irish Red Cross register of pledges: https://registerofpledges.redcross.ie or call 01642 4600.

Q.4. I am a Ukraine/Irish citizen currently living in Ireland. What documents do I need to
bring children from Ukraine into Ireland whose parents must remain in Ukraine? Who do I contact?
A.4 Please contact the Department of Foreign Affairs at 01 4082000 and ask for their Ukraine
Unit.

Q.5 I am an employer of newly arrived displaced Ukrainian nationals/refugees. Can I support them in hotel accommodation myself or do they need to use IPAS accommodation?
A.5 Any employer is free to accommodate their employees privately once the accommodation
is of an approved standard. The employee will, however need to obtain a PPS number. Please
see answer to question 14 below regarding PPS numbers.

Q.6 How do I register newly arrived Ukrainian children into schools?
A.6 The Tusla Education Support Service can assist you to find a school for your child/children.
See contact email per region below.
https://www.tusla.ie/tess/get-in-touch/#EWO

Q.7 How can I access urgent medication and/or medical assistance?A.7 Where there is NGO support available on site, contact them with any medical
requirements. In the absence of an NGO, please ask the Centre management team for
assistance.
If you require immediate access to medical care or medication, or any questions on your
entitlements, services or how to access HSE health or social services in your area you can
phone HSE Live (HSE) on http://www.hse.ie or via phone on 00 353 1 240 8787.

Q.8 I am a displaced Ukrainian temporarily residing with a member of the general public but will soon require accommodation?
A.8 Anyone being temporarily accommodated with friends or family may request access to
IPAS accommodation.

Q.9 How can I access my finances and Banks in Ukraine?
A.9 IPAS deals with accommodation-related queries and as such cannot advise in relation to
Ukrainian bank accounts. Please enquire with the Irish Central Bank at
enquiries@centralbank.ie

Q.10 How do I open a bank account in Ireland?
A.10 You can open a bank account with one of the main Irish banks or with An Post (post
office) if you are resident in the EU/Ireland and over 18 years old. You will be required to
provide at least one document as proof of identity and another document as proof as
address. Proof of identity can be either your passport or your Ukrainian Identity Card. A
proof of residence document letter will be provided by the Centre Manager of your IPAS
Accommodation Centre on request. For those not residing in IPAS accommodation, please
enquire with your bank of choice what would be acceptable as proof of residence.

Q.11 I am a member of the Public. What can I do to assist Ukrainian refugees?
A.11 Please find all information on assisting Ukrainians at the Irish Red Cross register of
pledges: https://registerofpledges.redcross.ie or call 01642 4600.

Q.12 I am a member of the public that speaks Ukrainian. Can I assist as a translator?
A.12 Please leave your name and contact details with IPAS at the ipasinbox@equality.gov.ie
and we will contact you if we require your assistance.

Q.13 Do I have to quarantine in any IPAS accommodation Centres?
A.13 There is no longer any quarantine requirement for new arrivals to any IPAS
accommodation.

Q.14 Can I work in Ireland when I arrive and what financial supports will be available to me while I look for work?
A.14 Under the Temporary Protection Directive, displaced Ukrainians have the right to work
and to receive social welfare payments in Ireland. You need a PPS number to do so, which can
be organised for you once you arrive in Ireland. Details on social welfare from DSP here:
https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/abf3e-social-welfare-supports-for-ukrainian-citizensarriving-in-ireland-under-the-temporary-protection-directive/

Q.15 What assistance & supports can I receive when sourcing my own accommodation?
A.15 Under the Temporary Protection Directive, displaced Ukrainians have the right to receive
a social welfare support payment. You need a PPS number to do so, which can be organised for you once you arrive in Ireland. Details on social welfare from DSP here:

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/abf3e-social-welfare-supports-for-ukrainian-citizensarriving-in-ireland-under-the-temporary-protection-directive/

Q.16 Can I bring my family pet into Ireland from Ukraine?

A.16 When travelling to an EU country or Northern Ireland, your pet needs:
 a microchip
 a valid rabies vaccination
 an animal health certificate, or a valid pet passport that’s accepted in the countryyou’re travelling to
 tapeworm treatment for dogs if you’re travelling directly to Finland, Ireland, NorthernIreland, Norway or Malta
(These requirements also apply to assistance dogs).

Some useful Contacts

 Irish Red Cross: https://registerofpledges.redcross.ie or call 01642 4600.
 International Protection Office Phone: +353 1 602 8000 Email: info@ipo.gov.ie

 Citizens Information: 0818 074 000 9am – 8pm
 Health Service Executive HSE: http://www.hse.ie or via phone on 00 353 1 240 8787
 Department of Social Protection: http://www.gov.ie/DSP/Ukraine
 Embassy of Ukraine: 16 Elgin Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. D04 NY31
Phone 00353 (0) 1 668 5189.

Town Centre First policy to empower Fingal’s communities to revitalise and regenerate their town.

Fingal Greens have welcomed today’s (4th February) launch of the Town Centre First policy. The Green Party has long advocated for a ‘Town Centre First’ approach to support local communities to bring life and vibrancy into towns across the country

Councillor Karen Power said;

“With the launch of this policy today, the Greens in government are delivering on a key Programme for Government commitment to develop a Town Centre First policy, modelled on the scheme developed by the Scottish Government, and informed by the Town Centre Living Initiative pilot project.

“This policy sets out a number of ways in which local communities will be empowered to come up with their own plans to bring life back to their towns. What we’ll see is structures being established and supported at local level, with funding to be provided by central government.

“I’m delighted to see that a Town Regeneration Officer will be appointed to Fingal to help train and support a ‘Town Team’, made up of local stakeholders such as residents, businesses and community groups, to develop a ‘Town Centre First plan for towns like Skerries and Balbriggan, and to know that our local authority staff will be on hand to support this work.

A Town Centre First approach revitalises and regenerates towns by bringing vacant and derelict buildings back into use and creating new opportunities for unused lands that will encourage more people to live and work within our rural towns and villages. In addition to quality housing and job opportunities, this approach also ensures that good transport links, safe and accessible public spaces, and climate resilience is at the heart of how we plan our towns.

Councillor Ian Carey said;

“This approach gives the people of Swords an opportunity to shape the future of our town, and to influence decision making on things like heritage, our public realm, how we plan the town going forward, how we tackle issues like vacancy and dereliction. From a Green perspective, this also empowers the community to put climate action, sustainable mobility, and regeneration of our public and green spaces at the heart of our Town Centres First plan.”

“The ‘one-stop-shop approach in Local Authorities will make it easy for businesses and residents to access supports for building adaptations and renovations, and much like Tidy Towns, the awards programme for Town Teams will really help to incentivise people to get on board.”

Speaking at the Moate launch of the Town Centre First policy, Green Party Minister of State with responsibility for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD stated;

“I’m delighted to launch the Town Centre First policy today with Minister Humphreys and Minister Burke. This is an important step towards empowering our communities to create towns and villages we want to live in and be proud of. Architecturally, culturally and socially, the Irish town is unique in European terms. For far too long, we have turned our backs on this important heritage.”

ENDS

Fingal Development Plan

The very apt words of Fingal’s engagement campaign “It’s good to plan ahead. It’s better to talk first” have nicely rounded up the first stage in the consultation process for the new Development Plan for the county. The Development Plan sets out the vision for how Fingal should develop over the life of the Plan while ensuring compliance with national and regional policy.  The Development Plan presents an opportunity for the general public to shape Fingal for the future and ‘have your say’ when it comes to important issues such as housing, economic development, community and heritage.

Following the Strategic Issues Paper, a Chief Executive’s Pre-Draft Consultation Report was prepared and Elected Reps were given the opportunity to submit motions on the seven key themes:

  1. People & Place
  2. Climate Action
  3. Connectivity & Movement
  4. Employment Economy & Dublin Airport
  5. Cultural Heritage
  6. Green Infrastructure & Natural Heritage
  7. Infrastructure & Utilities

Submission

Cllr Power and Minister O’Brien

The first round of public consultation submissions and the supporting documents can be viewed here. Minister Joe O’Brien and I prepared a submission which can be viewed here.

Next Steps

We are currently in Phase 3 and the next steps are outlined in the image below:

Next steps

The submissions from Phase 3 consultation are considered when the Chief Executive, AnnMarie Farrelly, publishes her report. This report contains four parts.

  1. An introduction to the report
  2. Summary of submissions from several key bodies (Office of the planning regulator, Eastern Midland Regional Assembly and the National Transport Authority) & the CE’s response to them
  3. Summary from all submissions, and her response & recommendations
  4. Chief Executives recommendations

Green Party Work

The five Green Councillors on Fingal County Council coordinated the drafting of 139 motions so as not to duplicate too much. A more or less complete set of our motions is available here on my colleague, Cllr David Healy’s website. David has gone above and beyond in helping the group understand the process. Consideration of the pre-draft report and motions will start on 30th August and the meetings of all considerations will be webcast here. So tune in and check it out and feel free to contact me at karen.power@cllrs.fingal.ie if you have any questions about the process or issues you would like considered.