The Child and Family Agency, Tusla, is to receive more than €8 million from charitable foundation Atlantic Philanthropies for an early intervention and prevention programme.

The agency's Chairperson Norah Gibbons called the €8.3m grant a "once in a generation opportunity to change how the services here do child protection and family support".

Tusla's chief operations manager Fred McBride said the three-year programme’s primary aim is to stop problems getting worse or to stop them arising in the first place.

He said parenting supports will be delivered by a range of statutory and non-statutory agencies working in cooperation.

Mr McBride said 26 new posts will be created, 24 of which Tusla has committed to maintaining after the initial three years to ensure the programme's long-term continuation.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly said this morning that the programme marked a significant step in moving towards a stronger focus on prevention and early intervention instead of crisis management.

Ms Gibbons said the initiative will create space to develop and embed a new way of working without taking resources from existing services to children and young people at risk.

Atlantic Philanthropies was founded by reclusive billionaire Charles 'Chuck' Feeney and it has worked with educational institutions, health and elderly care bodies.

It has also campaigned for equals rights around the world.