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 Header Item Children's Rights Referendum (Continued)
 Header Item Child and Family Support Agency Establishment

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin] I hope we will arrive at a space where the Referendum Commission is seen as the independent voice for the dissemination of that independent view to the wider public, and anything else that has the imprimatur of Government is seen to be in competition with the role of the Referendum Commission. Better that the component parts of Government - today it is Fine Gael and Labour but it could be any combination of voices - should get it right and know exactly what we can do in the future.

  We are all disappointed that there was not a greater turnout for the referendum. There is a range of reasons for that being the case. Is there a question in the Minister's mind or in any of the assessments since that confusion was contributed to by the second information document? I just pose the question.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My reply to that question has to be that there is a hearing in the High Court. To give further comment would not be the right thing to do. I recognise the importance of that case and of not making any comments that might prejudice its outcome.

Child and Family Support Agency Establishment

 62. Deputy Seamus Healy Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her policy for the continuation of family resource centres into the future having regard to the establishment of the Child and Family Support Agency; if she will confirm the continuation and extension of the delivery of community based universal services and early intervention programmes as heretofore; if she will confirm that the ethos and culture of the Family Resource Programme will be maintained through the delivery of family supports in local communities through a community development approach; if she will confirm that the Family Resource Centre National Forum will have representation at board level within the new agency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56896/12]

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Government has approved the heads of the child and family support agency Bill and has also agreed to the priority drafting of this Bill. The necessary legislative and organisational preparations are being prioritised in order that the agency can be established early in 2013.   From its establishment the child and family support agency will have service responsibility for a range of services, including child welfare and protection services currently operated by the HSE, and domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services. The functions of the Family Support Agency and the National Educational Welfare Board will transfer into the child and family support agency upon its establishment.

  The Government's consideration of these matters was informed by the recommendations of the task force on the child and family support agency which I published in July of this year. The task force considered that the agency needs to be as broadly based as possible and should include a range of prevention, early intervention, family support and therapeutic care interventions.

  It is my intention that the agency will have a role in supporting families and communities. It will have the benefit in this role of 106 family resource centres which have been developed with funding from the Family Support Agency. I have seen repeatedly at first hand the work of the family resource centres. I assure the Deputy that the new agency will build on the excellent work undertaken by the Family Support Agency over the past decade and that a community-based approach will form an integral part of the new child and family support agency. I have said this repeatedly and we are absolutely committed. The child protection services cannot work properly if we do not have this base of community work and family support. I have said to the workers in the family resource centres that the ethos and the criteria by which they do their work will be maintained in the new agency.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House

  The composition of the board of the child and family support agency is under consideration. While the composition of the board will reflect the component organisations which are being amalgamated into the child and family support agency, the criteria for board membership will be focused on ensuring board members have the requisite mix of experience and competencies needed to steer such a large organisation providing a diverse range of personal services.

  The new agency and the wider transformation of children's services represents the largest and most ambitious areas of public sector of reform embarked upon by this Government.

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy I thank the Minister for her reply. As the Minister said, there are 106 of these centres throughout the country, three of them in my own constituency. They are Millennium Family Resource Centre in Glengoole, Spafield Family Resource Centre in Cashel and Three Drives Family Resource Centre in Tipperary town. They do tremendous work with scarce resources and are providing essential front-line services in deprived communities affected by austerity, poverty and exclusion. Families challenged by poverty are particularly targeted in the centres. They deal with early intervention and prevention if at all possible and provide a range of services.

My reason for asking the question was to seek the Minister's reassurance, which she has given, and to ask her, in the context of the establishment of the child and family support agency, to confirm the continuation of these centres and their central role in the new agency, to confirm her support for the centres and for continued proper and adequate funding for them, and also to seek an assurance that the centres will have a nominee on the board of the new agency.

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