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Treoir E-Bulletin   -  2014

 

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A Very Happy Christmas and New Year to all our Bulletin readers

 

BULLETIN – December 2014 

Budget 2015:
          -  Social Welfare
          -  Income Tax
Central Statistics Office:  Annual Report 2012
New Bill would give adopted persons the right to birth cert
Abortion:  The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act 2013
One Family:  Parenting Supports
Parents Plus

 


 

Budget 2015

SOCIAL WELFARE

Child Benefit
Child Benefit will increase by €5 to €135 per month for each child from January 2015. The Government has committed to increasing the monthly rate of Child Benefit by a further €5 for each child in 2016, provided that circumstances allow.

 

One-Parent Family Payment (OFP)
Under changes announced in Budget 2012 it was intended that the income  disregard for OFP would be reduced to €75 a week in 2015 and  €60 a week in 2016.  However, it was announced in November 2014 that the income disregard for OFP will not reduce in 2015 and the income disregard will remain at €90. This means that a person can earn up to €90 per week and qualify for the full OFP. Half of the remainder of the gross weekly earnings up to €425 is assessed as means.

 

Back to Work Family Dividend
Budget 2015 announced the Back to Work Family Dividend (BTWFD) scheme, which provides financial support to Jobseeker and One-Parent Family Payment recipients with children who end their claim to take up employment, increase their hours of employment or take up self-employment. If you qualify for the scheme, you will be entitled to a weekly payment for up to 2 years following the ending of your social welfare claim.

Under this arrangement a dividend worth €29.80 per week per child will be paid for each child (up to a limit of 4 children) for the first year in employment and half that amount (€14.90 per child) will be paid weekly for the second year.

While the BTWFD scheme will commence in April 2015, applications will be accepted from January 5th 2015 but first payments will not be made until April when the legislation for the scheme will be in place. All eligible claims will be backdated where the date of application is between January and April 2015.

The Back to Work Family Dividend will be paid in addition to any entitlement the family may have under the Family Income Supplement (FIS) scheme and will not affect the level of the FIS payment.

Information on the BTWFD is available from Social Welfare Intreo Centres and local social welfare offices.  Application forms will be available to download from www.welfare.ie.

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INCOME TAX

Tax Bands
The standard rate band for income tax for 2015 increases by €1,000 from €32,800 to €33,800 for single individuals. It increases from €36,800 to €37,800 for those qualifying for Single Person Child Carer Tax Credit.

Tax Rates
The standard rate of income tax remains at 20%.  The higher rate of income tax will be reduced from 41% to 40% from 2015.


Universal Social Charge (USC)
The rates and thresholds of the USC are changed. Incomes of €12,012 or less are exempt from USC. If an income exceeds this limit you will pay the relevant rate of USC on all your income.

Standard rates of USC in 2015

 €0                  to €12,012                      @ 1.5%

 €12,013         to €17,576                      @ 3.5%

€17,577          to €70,044                      @ 7%

€70,044          to €100,000                    @ 8%

PAYE income in excess of €100,000  @ 8%


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Central Statistics Office:  Annual Report 2012
There were 71,674 children born in Ireland during 2012, down 2,359 or 3.2% from 2011.  Just over 23.2% of births in 2012 were to mothers of non-Irish nationality.

The total number of births outside marriage/civil partnership in 2012 was 25,179. This corresponds to 35.1% of all births, 1.2 percentage points higher than 2011.  The highest percentage of births outside marriage/civil partnership occurred in Limerick City at 56.3 while the area with the lowest percentage was Galway County at 22.5%.  56% of births outside marriage were registered by cohabiting parents.

The percentage of births to teenage mothers remains the same as in 2011, with just 2.3% (1,616) of births to mothers under 20. Excluding 2011, it was 1963 since the percentage of births to mothers under 20 was this low.  From 1963 onwards the percentage continued to increase until it reached a peak in 1999 with 6.2% (3,314) of all births to mothers under 20. This percentage has continually decreased each year since then.  At the other end of the scale the number of mothers over 40 is on the increase. In 2012 there were (4,007) 5.6% of births to mothers over the age of forty.


New Bill would give adopted persons the right to birth cert
A new Bill produced by Senator Averil Power and drafted by Dr. Fergus Ryan, law lecturer at Maynooth University, would, if enacted, allow adopted persons to have a right to their original birth cert listing their original name and their birth parents’ names.  In addition, adoptees and natural parents could choose whether they are happy to have their contact details shared with each other.  However, parents would still have a right to prevent the release of their contact details.  Dr. Ryan said that the legislation aims to balance the adoptee’s right to identity with a natural parent’s right to privacy. Ms Power (Fianna Fáil) said that for too long adopted people have been robbed of their identities and denied basic information about themselves and their parents that others take for granted.
The Irish Times 4/11/2014


Abortion:  The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act 2013
In December 2010, the European Court of Human Rights found that the Irish State was in breach of the Convention on Human Rights, following a case taken by three Irish women known as ‘A’ ‘B’ and ‘C’.  At a recent meeting in Strasbourg the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers made a decision to close the case against Ireland, stating the government had introduced new abortion legislation through the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act.  The Court found Ireland had rectified the violation of the Human Rights convention that had been found.
The Irish Times 4/12/2014
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One Family:  Parenting Supports
One Family, an organisation working with one-parent families, has expanded its parenting services and is now providing parent mentoring, parenting classes and mediated parenting plans outside Dublin.
More info here: http://www.onefamily.ie/how-we-can-help-you/how-we-support-families/parenting-supports/.

They also offer professional development training on their new manual for those working with one-parent families.
More info here: http://www.onefamily.ie/education-training/for-professionals/positive-parenting-training/

Contact One Family on 01 662 9212 for further information.

 
Parents Plus
Parents Plus develop educational materials for parents and children and provide support to professionals working with children and families in the community.  They are hosting a number of facilitator training sessions in 2015, including:

  • Working Things Out Programme, Thursday and Friday 8th and  9th January 2015
  • Parents Plus Adolescents Programme, Monday and Tuesday 19th and 20th January 2015
  • Parents Plus Early Years Programme, Monday-Wednesday 23rd- 25th March 2015

 For a full list of training sessions, details and booking form see - www.parentsplus.ie/training

 

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* * *

 

 

TREOIR BULLETIN:  June - October 2014 

 

1.  Budget 2015:Widening the Gap between Rich and Poor
2.  Family Relationships Bill 2014
3.  Watch Them Grow: Unmarried – cohabitant and solo parenthood in Ireland
4.  Central Statistics Office:  Births Outside marriage for 1st Quarter 2014
5.  Decrease in the Number of Women Giving Irish Addresses at Abortion Clinics in 2013
6.  Natural father fails in bid for sole custody
7.  High Court ruling on a father’s right to rent allowance
8.  Changes to After-school Childcare
9.  Compulsory Birth Registration
10.  Parenting Plans
11.  Mother and Baby Homes
12.  Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC)
13.  New Irish Families:  A Profile of Second Generation Children and their Families
14.  Children of Immigrants and their Families
15.  Seminar on The Family Leave Bill
16.  The School and the Family Today:  ‘Good Practice Guidelines’
17.  Legal Aid Board:  Annual Conference (June 2014)
18.  Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times
19.  The Charities Regulatory Authority (CRA)
20.  €15 fee for Freedom of Information requests to be abolished
21.  goodcharity.ie
22.  Northside Community Law Centre has changed its name!
23.  a good news story  -  District Courts will not be closed!
24.  whatsupmum

 

1.  Budget 2015:  Widening the Gap between Rich and Poor

Treoir welcomes many of the changes in October’s Budget, including the increase in Child Benefit, partial reinstatement of the Christmas Bonus, the raising of the threshold for paying USC, income tax relief on water charges and the allocation of €2.2 billion for social housing.  However, Treoir believes that not enough has been done in Budget 2015 to ensure that lone parents, who are being activated when their youngest child reaches 7, are supported to gain appropriate training to enable them to become job ready.   A more recent announcement was made by the Department of Social Protection that its intention to cut the earnings disregard for lone parents from €90 per week to €75 in 2015 and to €60 by 2016, which we saw as being contrary to the policy of activation, has now been reversed and it will remain indefinitely at the current rate of €90.

Treoir is disappointed that measures were not taken to tackle the childcare crisis that working parents face and which affect solo parents disproportionately. Childcare subsidies for solo parents seeking to further their education or actively seeking work would have helped. Some subsidised schemes exist but the promised Swedish model is a long way off.

The abolition of the One Parent Family Tax Credit in the previous budget had a detrimental effect on non-resident parents’ (mainly fathers) ability to pay maintenance for their children and Treoir is extremely disappointed that the tax credit has not been reinstated in this budget, showing that the government, yet again, has failed to recognise the importance of promoting shared parenting.

We hope to produce a Bulletin in December giving more details on Budget 2015 and the changes that will take effect in 2015.

 

2.  Family Relationships Bill 2014

In a previous Bulletin we reported on the publication of the General Scheme of a Children and Family Relationships Bill 2014 and we made our submission to the Department of Justice on this Scheme.  A revised Heads of Bill was published in September which includes many changes including removal of sections relating to surrogacy. The new Bill states that an unmarried father who is cohabiting with the mother for a year will acquire guardianship rights to his child automatically. What has changed from before is that the year must include three months after the birth of the child.  As welcome as the provision granting automatic guardianship rights for those fathers satisfying the requisite period of time is, this does not change anything for all those very committed fathers who wish to be actively involved in the lives of their children but may have never cohabited with the mother.  For them acquiring joint guardianship rights will not be any easier than at present. 

Again in our submission we called for the setting up of a Central Register for Statutory Declarations.  This is something Treoir has been campaigning for for many years.  The Child Care Act 1997 introduced the facility whereby a father could obtain his guardianship rights by signing a statutory declaration with the mother where she is in agreement and thus avoiding a court procedure.  Since then there have been thousands of Declarations signed by unmarried parents that have not been registered in any central location. Should a father lose that Declaration he has no proof of his guardianship. This is most unsatisfactory – it is akin to losing a marriage certificate and having no facility to acquire a copy.  We receive many calls from fathers who have mislaid their Declarations and cannot now prove that they are guardians.  

The setting up of a Central Register will become even more relevant if this Bill is enacted as it contains provisions whereby guardianship rights can be acquired by others including step-parents, civil partners and those acting in loco-parentis. These rights will be called guardianship rights but will in fact not give most of the rights of full guardianship.   For example, these guardians cannot:

  • decide the child’s place of residence
  • make decisions about the child’s education, including extra-curricular social activities
  • make decisions regarding the child’s religious, spiritual and cultural upbringing
  • consent to medical, dental and other health-related treatment for the child

We believe that these rights should not be called guardianship rights.  With this two-tiered system of guardianship it is even more imperative that a Central Register for Guardianship be set up.  The availability of a Central Register for Guardianship would give some clarity to adoption services, schools, garda, passport office, the Abduction Authority and those involved in health services etc.

Treoir and other members of the Childrens Rights Alliance are actively working to influence change and to deal with anomalies in this largely very welcome Bill.

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3.  Watch Them Grow: Unmarried – cohabitant and solo parenthood in Ireland

In September ‘Watch Them Grow’ a significant research study by Dr. Owen Corrigan, commissioned by TREOIR and funded by the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme, was launched.  The author Dr Owen Corrigan, Dr. Ruth Barrington and Senator Jillian vanTurnhout all made interesting presentations based on the findings of this research.  The report gives us a greater understanding of the lives of children in different family types in Ireland. The research was undertaken using the Growing Up in Ireland study data, a major longitudinal study of children which commenced in 2006.  The longitudinal study involved the collecting of information on 11,134 children and their parents when the children were nine months old and three years old.

The aim of the research was to investigate differences in outcomes for unmarried-cohabitant, solo & married parents in the areas of childcare, parents’ health and parenting, child health and wellbeing, and work and welfare. The main finding was that outcomes for children at age three are similar on many indicators across these areas irrespective of their family type – married, cohabiting or solo parent. Where children are doing well in married families they tend to be doing well in other types of family also. However solo parents face a range of difficulties and challenges that can impact negatively on their children.   Solo parents faced particular income challenges with one in two solo parent families classified as at risk of poverty compared with just 1 in 4 families overall.

“We see no differences between family types in a range of areas”, noted author of the report Dr Owen Corrigan. “Parents from all family types engage in learning activities and games with their infants to the same degree; there are no differences in the behavioural difficulties of children from unmarried-cohabitant as opposed to married parent families. Childcare difficulties impact on all types of family. Differences in these areas and in approaches to, say, negative parenting styles or bad dietary habits are generally explained by differences in income, education and other factors, but not family type per se.”

 A core principle of Treoir is that children have a right to know and be cared for by both parents.  Two out of three children in the study were in contact with their non-resident father at age three. However, 54% of non-resident fathers made no financial contribution towards the upkeep of their child. “It is essential that the barriers to shared parenting are removed and non-resident fathers are encouraged and facilitated to be involved in their children’s lives”, said Treoir CEO Margaret Dromey. “Some policy decisions such as the removal of tax credit for non-main carers, mainly fathers, impact negatively on maintenance payments and the current family legislation inhibits involvement of fathers. The government should re-examine these decisions in order to encourage more participation by fathers in their children’s lives.”

The Key Findings can be downloaded here under six separate headings:

1 : Marital Status, Family Transitions and Solo Parents, including non resident fathers

2 : Childcare

3 : Parents’ Health and Parenting
4 : Child Health and Wellbeing

5 : Work and Welfare

6 : Crisis Pregnancy

Download the full report here.

 

4.  Central Statistics Office:  Births Outside marriage for 1st Quarter 2014

In quarter 1 2014 there were 11,260 (63.6%) births registered as within marriage and 8 of which were within civil partnerships. 

There were 6,439 births registered as outside marriage/civil partnership accounting for 36.4% of all births in quarter 1 2014.  Of these

  • 8% were registered by non-nationals. 
  • 57% were registered by cohabiting parents. 
  • 4% were registered by teen parents. 
  • The highest percentage of births outside marriage/civil partnership was in Limerick City at 56.5% and the lowest was in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown with 24.9%. 

 

5.  Decrease in the Number of Women Giving Irish Addresses at Abortion Clinics in 2013

Figures issued by the UK Department of Health show that there has been a further decrease in the number of women giving Irish addresses at abortion clinics.  According to the UK Department of Health figures, the number of women giving Irish addresses at abortion clinics has decreased from 6,673 in 2001 to 3,679 in 2013, a decline of 45%.  This equates to a decrease in the abortion rate from 7.5 per 1000 women to 3.8 in 2013.

 

 

LEGAL

6.  Natural father fails in bid for sole custody

A biological father who applied for sole custody of his child following the death of the child’s mother has lost his application at the Dublin Circuit Family Court. Judge Catherine Murphy ruled sole custody should instead be granted to the deceased mother’s partner, with access for the biological father of 10 nights a month.  The mother’s express wish had been that the child would remain living with her partner, Judge Murphy said, and after her death, a court appointed both men and the child’s maternal grandmother as guardians to the child.  Judge Murphy noted the mother’s partner was “closely and actively involved” with the child and a “deep and real bond” existed between them.  The judge said the natural father had argued in court about his rights under the Constitution and the absence of rights of the mother’s partner. He had taken “a proprietary approach”, she said, and was more focused on his rights and entitlements than on what was in the best interests of the child.  The Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, which states “the welfare of the infant as the first and paramount consideration” applied in the case, Judge Murphy said.
(The Irish Times 1/8/2014)

 

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7.  High Court ruling on a father’s right to rent allowance

On the 31st October The Irish Times reported on a High Court ruling whereby the Department of Social Protection must reconsider a decision to grant only single person’s rent allowance to a separated father of four.  This could have significant implications for parents in similar situations.

In a ruling, Ms Justice Marie Baker found that the Department’s decision-making process when assessing the man’s application was flawed. She found, given the joint custody arrangements, the children could not be viewed as living primarily with one parent, or having one “primary” carer, as the Department’s deciding officer had found. The needs of the children were more complex, had been assessed by their parents as involving joint custody, and could not be met in one location only, she said.

The man’s solicitor, Moya de Paor, said “The judgment raises significant issues in relation to fathers’ rights as custodians of their children and, in particular, children’s rights to the care and support of their father.”

In an article in our October/December Bulletin 2013 we reported on a similar ruling made by the Equality Tribunal whereby the Tribunal found that the Department of Social Protection’s Community Welfare Service had discriminated against an unmarried separated father of two.  His request for a rent supplement payment for a one-parent family with two children was rejected as his ex-partner received a similar allowance for the same children, despite the fact that they stayed with him on a regular basis. The tribunal also ordered the Department of Social Protection to carry out a review of its policies and procedures on rent supplement payments, particularly in relation to how separated and unmarried fathers are treated.
Read Decision in full here

 

8.  Changes to After-school Childcare

As of July 2014 the Department of Social Protection has made changes to both the After–School Child Care (ASCC) programme and the Community Employment Childcare programme.

Under the ASCC programme qualifying parents will now pay €3 per day, maximum €15 per week, towards the cost of childcare and there will be a free after-school pick-up service available. The ASCC has been expanded to include those on an employment programme. It should be noted that this programme can only be availed of for 52 weeks in total.  Treoir intends to discuss this with the Department and if you have any views please forward them through our ‘contact’ button and/or on ‘facebook’.

The Community Employment Childcare programme, which replaces the CE Childcare Education and Training Support, has now been expanded to include parents with children aged up to 13 years of age at primary school.

To find out about eligibility and for further details of the changes made to both these programmes see here.

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9.  Compulsory Birth Registration

The Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014 which was commenced in Dail Eireann in October will when enacted make it compulsory for unmarried parents to register the father's name in the Birth Register.  Certain exceptions will apply, namely where the father is unknown, his whereabouts are unknown or it is not in the best interests of the safety of the child. Treoir very much welcomes this Bill as one of Treoir’s core principles is that a child has a right to an identity.  The Tánaiste said “The right of the child to know who both their parents are is a very important right.  In recognising this right the Bill is giving every child a greater sense of identity”.

Note:  Many parents mistakenly believe that where a father’s name is on his child’s birth certificate this gives him legal rights to his child.  This is not so.  Many mothers also mistakenly believe that if the father’s name is registered this will affect their entitlement to One Parent Family Payment.  This is also not so.

Treoir hosted an information session outlining the provisions of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014 for its Council and Members on November 12th.   Presentations were made by Fidelma Cotter – Assistant Principal and Simonetta Ryan - Assistant Secretary, of the Department of Social Protection.

 

10.  Parenting Plans

The Children and Families Act 2014 has instituted extensive family law reforms in the UK.  The government's aim is to restore confidence in the family court system and to reduce court applications by encouraging alternate methods of dispute resolution.  Parents are being encouraged by the Courts to come to an agreement, rather than letting the court decide for them and to recognise the need to develop a cooperative parenting relationship going forward. For many, the first and most helpful step will be to start a Parenting Plan. These aim to help parents work out the best possible arrangements for their children and to try and ensure that these Plans are clear, consistent and reliable. It is likely that the court will expect parents to have started a Parenting Plan if an application is made.

Cafcass, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, is the voice of children in the family courts in the UK and helps to ensure that children’s welfare is put first during proceedings.  It works to help children and young people who are going through care or adoption proceedings, or whose parents have separated and are unable to agree about future arrangements for their children.

Cafcass has produced an example of a parenting plan - see herewww.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parenting-plan - and view its website for further useful information.

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11.  Mother and Baby Homes

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly T.D., announced in July that Judge Yvonne Murphy had agreed to chair the Commission of Investigation into matters related to mother and baby homes.  In her previous role Judge Murphy was Chair of the Report by the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin.  Minister Reilly said: “The Government may give consideration to the appointment of further members to the Commission but I believe Judge Murphy’s agreement to undertake the role of Chair of the Commission is a very positive development in the process to establish an effective and independent investigation.”

At the same time the Minister announced the publication of the report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Mother and Baby Homes.  The Report is the product of the work of the Inter-Departmental Group, established in early June, to assist the Government in scoping the examination of the issue of Mother and Baby Homes. 

 

12.  Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC)

The Eurydice Key Data on Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe 2014 report, published jointly with Eurostat, combines statistical data and qualitative information to describe the structure, organisation and funding of early childhood education and care systems. It analyses issues which are important for the development of quality services identified through European policy co-operation, such as access, governance, quality assurance, affordability, professionalisation of staff, leadership, parental involvement and measures to support disadvantaged children. It aims to provide insights into what constitutes high quality early childhood education and care through internationally comparable

indicators. This report covers 32 countries and 37 education systems.

In relation to Ireland some of the facts recorded in this report show that :

  • The numbers in Ireland aged under-six make up just under 10% of the population, lower only than the figure in Turkey. 
  • Of all Irish homes in which those children aged five or younger live, one in five has nobody working. This is the highest jobless rate for households with under-sixes in the EU and almost double the 11% average across 28 nations. The commission report says that living in a household affected by unemployment may not only place a child at risk of poverty or social exclusion, but also at risk of educational disadvantage.
  • Ireland has the highest monthly fees for childcare and pre-school.

Most countries identify disadvantaged groups based on socio economic, cultural and/or linguistic criteria.  Some countries apply all three types of criteria. Family status (e.g. children living with only one parent or with foster parents) may also be taken into account, but this is less common.

View report.

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13.  New Irish Families:  A Profile of Second Generation Children and their Families

This report by Dr. Antje Roder of Trinity College uses data from the Longitudinal Study of Children in Ireland. The report was funded and is part of the Irish Research Council’s ‘New Irish Families’ research project.  It is intended that this report will help towards providing a better understanding of increasingly diverse families and to contribute to effective policy making in this area.

Since the Irish economic boom Ireland has become a much more diverse society in terms of nationality, ethnicity and religion, and as a result, numbers of children born in Ireland to immigrant parents are rising.  This report analyses a group of ‘second generation’ children with a focus on the diversity of family types, their parents’ socio-economic profile and housing situation and goes on to look at childcare and return to work.  An OECD report published in 2009 estimated that only about 1% of children of school going age in Ireland were children of migrants who were born in the country.  By 2012 the statistics show that one-in-four (24%) children born in Ireland had a ‘non-Irish’ mother.  Amongst most migrant groups, the proportion of lone parents was shown to be lower than in Irish households, with the exception of Africans.  Mothers born in Africa are not only more likely to be lone parents, but also to have more than one child to care for by themselves. The report states that while it has been argued that cultural differences in family practices contribute to this, it is also possible that family reunification policies play a part.

Read report

 

14.  Children of Immigrants and their Families

A growing number of migrants are seeking and securing Irish citizenship, according to a new report published in July.  The annual Integration Monitoring Report by the ESRI and Integration Ireland showed that between 2005 and the end of 2012, almost one-third of European Economic Association (EEA) citizens who moved here secured citizenship.  That represents almost 54,700 people, and in 2012 alone some 20,200 non-EEA adults acquired Irish citizenship.

The section of this report ‘Children of Immigrants and their Families’ uses data from the Growing Up In Ireland Longitudinal Study and is based on a sample of almost 10,000 three year olds in 2011.  A significant proportion of these children, around 15%, have immigrant mothers.

The chart below presents basic information on the family the child is living in, i.e. whether the child lives with one or two parents, and whether the child has any siblings. It shows that while most three year olds are living in a family with two parents and at least one other child, there is also variation by country group in terms of family structure.

Family Type of 3 year olds by Family Grouping 2011

The report sets out key trends, based on an EU-wide framework, in such areas as employment, education, social inclusion and active citizenship, to allow for assessing the integration of broad non-Irish groups in Ireland. It is suggested that such information be strongly considered by policymakers when designing general policies that also affect migrants. 

Download Integration Report here. 

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15.  Seminar on The Family Leave Bill

The Department of Justice is currently drafting a Family Leave Bill, which is expected to consolidate access to various forms of statutory leave into a single piece of legislation.  In advance of the publication of this new Bill, The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, National Women’s Council of Ireland and Start Strong held a seminar to discuss the future of family leave, including parental leave, maternity leave and paternity leave, breastfeeding supports and work-life balance policies. The seminar was addressed by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD with keynote speaker Peter Moss, Emeritus Professor of Early Childhood Provision, Institute of Education, University of London.  

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said that fathers should have the right to two weeks of paid leave following the birth of their child.  At present fathers have no right to paid or unpaid paternity leave.  However, much of the public sector and some private sector employers provide fathers with up to two weeks of paid leave following the birth of a child. Ms Fitzgerald also supported proposals to allow for the sharing of leave by mothers and fathers, subject to certain conditions. Ms Fitzgerald said men should be given the chance to play a more active role in caring for their children. It is unclear whether both proposals – paid paternity leave and shared maternity/paternity leave – will feature in the new Bill. 

Prof Peter Moss from the University of London said policymakers needed to reflect on what kind of leave Irish society wanted for families and what the rationale behind these measures should be.  He suggested that Ireland could consolidate all existing leave – including parental leave – and follow the Icelandic “birth leave” model, which provides equal entitlement to leave for both parents.It has five months of maternity leave, five months of paternity leave and two months of shared leave. The parent receives about 80 per cent of their income during leave, subject to certain conditions.  (Irish Times 30/9/2014)
  

16.  The School and the Family Today:  ‘Good Practice Guidelines’

The purpose of this new publication is to provide Home School Liaison Teachers & Schools with a best practice approach on policies regarding children living with parents married and unmarried, children of separated parents, same-sex parents, non-biological parents and children in care. Home School Community Liaison Teacher Ann-Maire Waddock, produced this publication with support form the South Inner City HSCLs, Carol Finlay from Dublin City Council, GLEN, the HSE, other community members and with support and guidance from Margot Doherty of Treoir.

Download guidelines here.


 

17.  Legal Aid Board:  Annual Conference (June 2014)

Free Legal Advice Centre director general Noeline Blackwell speaking at the annual conference of the Legal Aid Board said the Board’s “totally rigid means test” for the granting of free legal aid in civil cases compared with the State’s more favourable “discretionary” policy in criminal cases was a key human rights issue potentially having “grave consequences for a person’s welfare or livelihood”.

In her address Ms Blackwell said there was a “total lack of any system at all” for legal representation at tribunals, where people can have decisions made against them that “affect their welfare and livelihood in the most fundamental ways” such as social welfare appeals tribunals or employment appeals tribunals.

Legal Aid Board chairwoman Muriel Walls also referred to the difficulty of accessing legal aid, and highlighted the “different language” used by lawyers as an obstacle in legal proceedings.  “It is about time that we used plain English and that we organised the court documents in a simple way,” she said.

(Irish Times 30/6/2014)

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18.  Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times
Speaking in the House of the Oireachtas, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton while acknowledging that appeals against welfare decisions have increased dramatically said that “There are no plans at this point to further increase the number of appeals officers in the Social Welfare Appeals Office. A new operating model has been introduced in the appeals office and a major programme of process redesign and modernisation is also underway”.

In her parliamentary response, she said “that the number of appeals lodged had more than doubled from 15,000 after the recession first bit in 2009 to 32,777 last year.  People challenging decisions currently have to wait more than 29 weeks for an oral hearing and 22 weeks for a summary decision, but this is down from 52 weeks for an oral hearing and 25 weeks for a summary decision in 2011.

There have been a significant increase in the number of appeals finalised in the appeals office from 17,787 in 2009 to 38,421 in 2013. An additional 5,863 appeals were finalised in 2013 compared to 2012”.

 

19.  The Charities Regulatory Authority (CRA)

The Charities Regulatory Authority (CRA) is Ireland's national statutory regulatory agency for charitable organisations.  The CRA was established on the 16th of October 2014 under the terms of the Charities Act 2009.  It is an independent agency of the Department of Justice and Equality. The following applies:

-  If your charity was granted a charitable tax exemption number by the Revenue Commissioners before the 16th of October 2014 and has a valid CHY number, it will be automatically registered with the CRA.

-  If your charity was established before the 16th of October 2014 but doesn’t have a valid CHY number from Revenue you will need to apply to the CRA to have your charity registered.

-  If your charity is established after 16 October 2014 you must apply to the CRA to be registered in the Register of Charities.  

To find out more about the functions of the Charities Regulatory Authority and to register your charity visit www.charitiesregulatoryauthority.ie

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20.  €15 fee for Freedom of Information requests to be abolished

Brendan Howlin, The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has announced the abolishment of the €15 fee for Freedom of Information requests.

Mr Howlin recently stated that "the €15 application fee will be abolished for all FOI requests and the Search, Retrieval and Copying fees will only apply where the preparation time for a request exceeds 5 hours. In other words, the vast majority of FOI requests will now be free of charge".

 

21.  www.goodcharity.ie  This website launched 30/10/2014 was developed by a number of organisations with a view to enhancing the debate around charities in Ireland and to provide accurate information around how charities work.

 

22.  Northside Community Law Centre has changed its name!
The Northside Community Law Centre currently provides free legal information, as well as advocacy and support for law reform campaigns at national level.  Its service has expanded to include a free mediation service, Mediation Northside, and a second community law centre in Limerick.   To more accurately reflect the expanded range of services it offers it has adopted a new name for the organisation: Community Law & Mediation.  See communitylawandmediation.ie

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23.  a good news story  -  District Courts will not be closed!

After extensive consultation, the Courts Service has abandoned plans to close four major courts in the Dublin area.  District Courts in Dun Laoghaire, Tallaght, Balbriggan and Swords had faced closure. 



24.
  A new smartphone maternity app — whatsupmum — is being targeted at pregnant women in Ireland to help them navigate the world of pregnancy, nappies and newborns.  Professor Michael Turner, director of the HSE’s obstetrics and gynaecology programme, welcomed the new app.  He said: “The goal of the project is to provide pregnant women and new parents with expert advice from top healthcare professionals in an easy format.”  

For more information go to www.whatsupmum.ie 
(Irish Examiner 16/6/2014)

 

 

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TREOIR BULLETIN January – May 2014


1.  Treoir Annual General Meeting 2014
2.  Treoir's Information Pack 2014
3.  Mother and Baby Homes
4.  One Parent Family Tax Credit
5.  Changes to the One-Parent Family Payment
6.  Children First Bill 2014
7.  General Scheme of a Children and Family Relationships Bill 2014
8.  Unmarried Fathers
9.  Child to be given vaccinations against the wishes of the mother
10.  Cross Boarder Disputes / International Parental Child Abduction
11.  Separating parents and their children
12.  Family Law Research  -  Judicial Separation and Divorce in the Circuit Court in Ireland
13.  Parenting Supports in Limerick
14.  Annual Reports of Marriages, Births and Deaths from 1864 to 2000 inclusive - A snapshot
15. 
New Social Housing for Cork
16.  skillstowork
17.  The Book Rental Scheme
18.  Free Travel to Community & Voluntary Groups
19.  A Portrait of Ireland’s Non-Profit Sector
20.  Charities Regulatory Authority

 


1.  Treoir Annual General Meeting 2014
Treoir’s AGM was held on Wednesday 21st May 2014.  There were two very informative and valuable presentations made on the day.  The first speaker was Elizabeth Canavan, Assistant Secretary, Department of Children and Youth Affairs who outlined the measures for protecting children in the Children First Bill.  Treoir has been advocating for clarity about reporting underage non-abusive sexual activity for many years.   The second speaker, Justice Catherine McGuinness spoke about the Children and Family Relationships Bill 2014.  During the course of her presentation Justice McGuinness called for the initiation of a Central Register for Guardianship Agreements and while welcoming the Bill lamented the fact that the Bill continues to use the old terms ‘guardianship’, ‘custody’ and ‘access’ in the context of children.  “These terms give rise to confusion and uncertainty and should be replaced by the terms ‘parental responsibility’, ‘day-to-day care’ and ‘contact’”, she said. 
Margaret Dromey, CEO of Treoir, welcomed the fact that the Children and Family Relationships Bill provides for persons other than biological parents to acquire guardianship rights in respect of children in certain circumstances.  “It is particularly important for step-parents and grandparents who might be full-time carers of children but have no legal recognition or rights”, she said.
Read Treoir’s Annual Report

 

2.  Treoir's Information Pack 2014

To get a free copy of the 2014 edition of Treoir’s 'Information Pack for Unmarried Parents’ call us on 01-6700120 or email info@treoir.ie . You can also order multiple copies for your organisation (donations towards postage are always welcome!).

The Pack is full of up-to-date information on legal issues, money matters and lots, lots more.

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3.  Mother and Baby Homes

The treatment of unmarried mothers and their children in Mother and Baby homes, while hugely disturbing, cannot be blamed solely on those running the homes. Institutions provided refuge, albeit in a harsh environment, while families, politicians, the church and society as a whole failed these mothers and their children.  
In l976 when Treoir, formerly the Federation of Services for Unmarried Parents and their Children, was founded, the legal status of children born outside of marriage was “illegitimate” and unmarried fathers did not have any legal recognition except for the purpose of “affiliation and maintenance”. 

In the early days of the organisation the Information Service was used extensively by single pregnant women who were desperately in need of accommodation during their pregnancy as they could not remain at home. Often they did not have the means to support themselves in rented accommodation and generally could not cope with the stigma of being single and pregnant or an unmarried mother. Mother and Baby Homes, Family Placement and travelling to England to give birth were the options for these mothers. 

For more, read Margaret Dromey's article -  ‘Unmarried Parents – The Story So Far’


4.  One Parent Family Tax Credit

In our last Bulletin we reported that the One Parent Family Tax Credit which was available to both lone parents where they are sharing the care of their child(ren) had been abolished and replaced by the Single Person Child Carer Tax Credit available to the primary carer of the child only. As expected the Treoir Information Service has received numerous calls from fathers telling us about the detrimental effect this change is having on their finances with many of them losing up to €50.00 per week of their income. We are now receiving calls from mothers who are having their child maintenance payments reduced as a result of this change.  This change to the tax credit thus has a direct effect on children.

The only concession achieved by lobbying to-date is that where the main carer is not working she/he may assign the Single Person Child Carer Tax Credit to the other parent, provided that parent has the child in their care for at least 100 days per year. Treoir will continue to work to have this change

over-turned and would welcome any feedback you have in relation to how this change is affecting you or your clients. Send feedback to info@treoir.ie

See below for more information on how the new Single Person Child Carer

Tax Credit works.

http://www.revenue.ie/en/tax/it/credits/single-person-child-carer-credit.html

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5.  Changes to the One-Parent Family Payment

From the 3rd July 2014 the age limits of the youngest child for receipt of the One-Parent Family Payment will reduce to 16, 10 and 7 years respectively, depending on the date that the customer first commenced on the OFP scheme.

These changes were announced in Budget 2012.  This means that some people will no longer qualify for the payment.  Recipients that will be affected should have received letters from the Department of Social Protection in May of this year.  These letters give information in relation to the date of termination of payment and will outline options under other schemes and supports which may be available. More information and advice about options can be obtained at  local Intreo centres, social welfare local offices or Citizens Information Centres.

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6.  Children First Bill 2014

Treoir very much welcomes the long awaited Children First Bill, which was published in April this year. There has been a lack of clarity about obligations to report cases of consensual sexual activity between young people under the age of consent. We welcome the fact that this Bill clarifies the position as follows:

“A mandated person shall not be required to make a report to the Child and Family Agency where a child aged 15 years or more but less than 17 years is engaged in sexual activity with a person who is not more than 2 years older than the child and where the mandated person knows or believes that there is no material difference in capacity or maturity between the two parties, and where the child has made known his or her view that a report should not be made to the Child and Family Agency and where the mandated person relied upon that view.”

Treoir will engage with its members to develop a comprehensive response to the Bill.

Read the Bill here.

 

 

7.  General Scheme of a Children and Family Relationships Bill 2014
Following the publication of the General Scheme of a Children and Family Relationships Bill 2014 by the former Minister for Justice Mr. Alan Shatter, Treoir made its written and oral submissions to the Oireachtas in February this year.  In the main, Treoir very much welcomed this groundbreaking Bill which if implemented, would modernise family and child law to cater for the growing number of families whose needs are not adequately addressed in current law.  Following the many submissions and presentations made in relation to the Bill the Joint Committee of Justice, Defence and Equality has issued a report that attempts to summarise and set in context the points made.  Many of Treoir’s recommendations have been included in this report.

The Bill itself is very complex and contains a significant number of provisions for families. If enacted, it will allow civil partners, step-parents, cohabitants and those who are providing day-to-day care for children (such as grandparents) to apply for guardianship or custody of a child. It provides for the assignment of parentage in Artificial Human Reproduction (AHR) and surrogacy. It also contains provisions relating to guardians ad litem, substitute guardians, interim custody and access orders amongst others.


There is a provision in the Bill whereby an unmarried father who is cohabiting for a year or more with the mother before the birth of the baby will acquire guardianship rights to his child automatically, and this provision is very welcome. However, we know from calls to our national specialist information service that there are many unmarried fathers who are not in cohabiting relationships with the mothers of their children, who are very committed fathers and who wish to be actively involved in the lives of their children. There is no provision in the Bill for acquiring joint guardianship rights more easily that at present for these fathers.

Treoir hopes that the new Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald TD will progress this Bill. Whether or not the Bill is enacted a Central Register for all guardianship declarations must be established. Treoir has been campaigning for many years to have a Central Register for statutory declarations of joint guardianship.  The Child Care Act 1997 introduced the facility whereby a father could obtain his guardianship rights by signing a statutory declaration with the mother where she is in agreement and thus avoiding a court procedure.  Since then there have been thousands of declarations signed by unmarried parents that have not been registered in any central location. Should a father lose that declaration he has no proof of his guardianship. This is most unsatisfactory – it is akin to losing a marriage certificate and having no facility to acquire a copy.

See the Bill here

See Treoir’s submission on the Bill

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8.  Unmarried Fathers

In January of this year a very tragic case occurred in a Dublin maternity hospital whereby a very ill baby boy was born to a young mother who died shortly after giving birth. As the parents were not married to each other only the mother was the automatic guardian of the baby.  The father therefore had no right to make any major decisions regarding his baby.  This case highlights the lack of rights afforded to unmarried fathers. 

As a result of this case we received a number of calls from worried unmarried pregnant women.  If an unmarried pregnant woman is concerned she could make a Will appointing the father, or another appropriate person (for example a grandmother) as a Testamentary Guardian. This person would then have the right to make decisions regarding the welfare of the child in the event of the mother’s death.  Normally you must be 18 years old, or married, in order to make a will. However, a mother under 18 can make a will if it is to appoint a Testamentary Guardian for her child.

For more information see the article by Margot Doherty, Assistant Chief Executive of Treoir in www.thejournal.ie

9.  Child to be given vaccinations against the wishes of the mother

This dispute between two unmarried parents, both guardians, went all the way to the Supreme Court. The father in this case wanted his child to have the MMR vaccinations against the wishes of the mother. Mr. Justice John MacMenamin said that the mother’s claim of an effective "veto" over vaccination would, if upheld, set at naught the father's rights and status as his son's legal guardian appointed by a court. The mother also had no veto on grounds of the constitutional protection afforded to a "family" because such protection is based on the family "as established by marriage".

The courts were not required to give way to the wishes of either married or unmarried parents and the welfare of the child is their "first and paramount consideration" he said.  It was decided that the child should receive the MMR vaccinations.



10.  Cross Boarder Disputes / International Parental Child Abduction

The European Commission is currently conducting a public consultation on the application of the current rules that apply in cross-border disputes. This follows the publication of a report published by the Commission, which highlights legal problems that international couples still face across Europe. When families separate, cross-border judicial cooperation is necessary to give children a secure legal environment to maintain relations with a parent or guardian who may live in another Member State. The report published today underlines the fact that more needs to be done to help international families find legal clarity in situations such as which court is competent.

Submissions are being accepted up until the 18th July 2014. Click here to read report and/or make a submission. http://ec.europa.eu/justice/newsroom/civil/news/150414_en.htm

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11.  Separating parents and their children

Treoir attended the launch on 3rd February 2014 of two informative and useful films for separating parents and their children. The Ombudsman for Children’s Office and the Courts Service have worked together to develop these two short films about key aspects of family law proceedings in the District Court, and possible alternatives to Court, in particular family mediation.  Read more.

View films here:

It is worth noting that Treoir’s publication ‘Taking the Stand’ is full of useful information about representing yourself in court and exploring alternatives to court procedures. The publication is available from the Treoir website, www.treoir.ie. Download here



12.  Family Law Research  -  Judicial Separation and Divorce in the Circuit Court in Ireland

Researcher Roisin O’Shea carried out research from a four-year study, approved by the Department of Justice and funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC).  The study involved almost 1,100 cases. Although this report focuses on married parents it does give a good insight into how the courts deal with family law matters in relation to access, custody and child maintenance issues. The researcher was shocked by the incredibly small uptake of mediation, just 8 cases, as an alternative to litigation. Mediation was misunderstood as a reconciliation process, and some mediated agreements were criticised by judges as being poorly written and incapable of legal enforcement. Ms. O’Shea said that “evidence based reform is really necessary” and that “we must now go beyond the traditional role of the court and develop a family justice system that effectively and meaningfully contributes to the cost-effective and timely resolution of family disputes, and is primarily designed to meet the needs of the users of that support system. Going to court should be the option of last resort, not the port of first call.”

Here are some of the findings of the report:

  • The poorest outcomes were for men, followed by non-national lay litigants and 22% of all litigants were self-representing (lay litigants).
  • In 95% of the cases observed the primary carer was the mother.
  • The types of access orders made ensure that primary carers become the pre- dominant parent, with very limited time allocated to the non-resident parent.
  • In no case was the primary carer sanctioned for persistent breach of court access orders. All of the judges interviewed acknowledged that persistent breaches of court ordered access was a chronic problem, but did not believe that attachment and committal was an appropriate sanction where the primary carer was the mother.
  • One percent of children resided with both parents under 50/50 parenting arrangements. "Joint custody" in the Circuit Court appeared to be merely an acknowledgement that both parents have obligations to provide for their children, it did not mean shared parenting relating to the day-to-day care of children.
  • In no case were the views of any child heard directly by a judge; the views of the child were expressed through the primary carer or through court ordered expert reports where there were allegations of abuse. No mechanism currently exists for the views of a child to be heard by the court, where that child wishes for their views to be considered.
  • Where child maintenance was agreed or ordered by the court, €100 per child per week was set in 43% of the cases, in almost 1/3 of the cases it was set at € 50 per child per week. Child maintenance orders were frequently made by the court where the husband was in receipt of State benefits only.  The court, in the main, prioritised the legal and moral obligation on the paying parent to financially provide for their child/children, making orders that effectively brought paying fathers below subsistence level, and took no account of their financial ability to exercise “access” in terms of any transport costs and providing for the child/children during those periods.
  • Judges received no training specific to family law cases, particularly the emotional and psychological dynamics of relationship break-downs, or any training to assist the court in hearing the voice of the child. Most of the judges interviewed indicated an intense dislike for the emotional context of family law cases, and found disputes over the arrangements for children to be extremely difficult, and sometimes distasteful.
  • Eighteen Section 47 reports were reviewed in court, and four were ordered by the court. It was clear that there were no guidelines available to the court or the practitioners, as to what a Section 47 should entail or indeed the required qualifications of the ‘expert’ who would carry out such an investigation.
  • There was a problem with delays in accessing the court. Over-burdened lists, multiple adjournments and short hearings were found on all eight Circuits. The pressure of the list promoted inadequately short hearings and intense pressure to settle.

Download Headline Findings

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13.  Parenting Supports in Limerick

Two new sources of support for parents living in Limerick city – Parenting Limerick and Barnardos Homemaker Family Support Service were launched in February this year as part of a programme by Limerick City Children’s Services Committee to strengthen Parenting Support based on the findings of a report “How Are Our Kids?: Experiences and Needs of Children and Families in Limerick City with a Particular Emphasis on Limerick’s Regeneration Areas” (2012). One of the key findings of that report was “a broad consensus that working with parents was an effective way of optimising outcomes for children and young people and that parental involvement in supporting young people through the education system was essential for success.” Parenting Limerick is a network of organisations that provide parenting and family support in Limerick. Parents can connect with Parenting Limerick through the Facebook page www.facebook.com/ParentingLimerick.

Barnardos Homemaker Family Support Service is a home-based service for parents who are struggling to cope with the demands of daily life. Parents can contact Barnardos directly about the service on 061-493588. Referrals are also accepted from professionals with the consent of the parents.



14.  Annual Reports of Marriages, Births and Deaths from 1864 to 2000 inclusive - A snapshot

In April this year the Central Statistics Office for the first time released a series of reports on marriages, births and deaths from 1864 to 2001 on their website. Annual reports for the years 2001 - 2011 are already available.

Some of the trends include:

1864
there were 5,180 births or 3.8% of all births that were stated as being “illegitimate”.
1922
there were 1,520 or 2.6% of births that were stated as being “illegitimate”
1964
there were 1,292 of births outside of marriage or 2.0% of all live births.
2011
the number of births outside of marriage/civil partnerships represented over one-third or 33.9% (25,091) of all live births.

Overall the marriage rate per 1,000 of the population has remained remarkably consistent since 1864 when it was 4.8. The rate was also 4.8 in 1922 while rising to 5.7 in 1964 and decreasing to 4.3 in 2011.

See www.cso.ie for more.

 

15.  New Social Housing for Cork

A €68m house building programme which was announced by Jan O’Sullivan, the housing minister, in March is enabling the development of two local authority housing projects to be built in Cork City.

As part of a 5m investment these projects will see the construction of a €3.9m 23-unit local authority housing project at Gerald Griffin St and Burke’s Ave, and a €1.2m eight-unit project at Shandon St and John Philpott Curran St.

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16.skillstowork.ie The Department of Social Protection has launched this new online tool that allows both jobseekers and employers to access information on the full range of options available to them. Visitors to the website step through a series of simple questions which direct them to the most appropriate option for their situation. In particular the Skills to Work campaign promotes five initiatives run by the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Social Protection: Springboard, Momentum, Skillnets, JobBridge and JobsPlus.

17.  The Book Rental Scheme is being extended to all primary schools Education Minister Ruairi Quinn announced in April this year that the book rental scheme was being extended to all primary schools. To read more about textbook-rental-schemes see www.education.ie

18.  Iarnród Éireann Offers Free Travel to Community & Voluntary Groups

Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail in June launched the 2014 programme for The Journey’s on Us, an initiative to support organisations and groups in the voluntary, community, sporting and charity sector.  The company has invited all community, voluntary, sporting and charity groups to apply for the 100 group travel trips available. Entry forms are available at all Ianród Éireann stations or online at www.irishrail.ie/journeys. Entry forms can be filled out online, emailed to journeys@irishrail.ie or by post to Corporate Communications, Iarnród Éireann, Connolly Station, Dublin 1. The closing date for receipt of entries is Monday 14 July, at 16.30hrs.

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19.  A Portrait of Ireland’s Non-Profit Sector

This report was published in 2014 by The Wheel in partnership with Crowe Howarth. The Wheel commissioned the research on which this report is based to address the dearth of detailed information available on the nature of activity in the non-profit sector and the challenges faced by organisations in sustaining their missions in the economic downturn. It is hoped that the findings will tell us a great deal more about the sector and will aid decision makers to design policies and strategies that will help the non-profit sector to thrive and fulfil its role in Ireland’s social and economic recovery.

Read the report here.



20.  Charities Regulatory Authority

In March of this year the then Minister for Justice Alan Shatter announced

the appointment of Ms Ní Dhubhghaill as the first Chief Executive of the new Charities Regulatory Authority. Ms Ní Dhubhghaill has to date headed the Department of Justice Charities Regulation Unit. This was followed in April by the appointment of Conor Woods as Chairperson and 15 ordinary members. The Charities Regulatory Authority will be an independent regulator for charities. It will have powers under the Charities Act to introduce measures to improve the accountability and transparency of the charity sector.

Follow Treoir on Facebook and Twitter.

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