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Fitzgerald, Frances

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Family Resource Centres

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Family Resource Centres

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Senator


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Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald)

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Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald)

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Frances Fitzgerald

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Snippet Contents:

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. He can certainly reassure the local family resource centres, on whose behalf he raised the issue, that their future will not be compromised and will be supported under the new agency. The programme for Government commits to a series of reforms in the provision of children and family services. A key part of this reform agenda is a new child and family support agency, which will be established next year.
The Government has recently approved the heads of the child and family support agency Bill and has agreed to the priority drafting of the Bill. The preparations are being prioritised so that the agency can be established in 2013. From the beginning that agency will have 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. This is the first time we will have a dedicated agency with its sole focus on all these issues, separated from the HSE.
The decision we have taken has been informed by the work of the task force which met all of last year and published its report in July of this year. I agree with the task force recommendations that the agency should be as broadly based as possible and should include a range of prevention, early intervention, family support and therapeutic care interventions. The work of the agency will include a particular focus on the provision of those services which help prevent problems arising for a family. It will identify problems and provide supports at an early stage, and assist children and families in managing serious problems requiring interventions beyond its own resources.
It is my intention therefore, that the agency will have a strong role in supporting families and communities. The 106 family resource centres throughout the country, including those the Deputy mentioned, will play a strong role. Responsibility for the current programme operated by the Family Support Agency will transfer to the child and family support agency upon its establishment. It will build on the excellent work the resource centres have undertaken with families and communities throughout the country. I have seen many of them at first hand and seen the work they have done. The Deputy mentioned the range of 50 activities in the resource centres in his area. I fully support that work and want to see it continuing in the new agency alongside its child protection work. They are two sides of the same coin and both are very important.
Regarding funding, the Family Support Agency, like many other State bodies, has been asked to make savings across all the programmes it administers. It is required to achieve savings of 5% per annum over the years from 2012 to 2014 on the costs of the family resource centre programme. This is tough on the centres but the cut is less than others have been asked to take in the current climate in order to get our finances right. The Family Support Agency has written to family resource centres advising them of the reduction in funding and the need to plan for this change. I am aware of the challenges the reduction in funding raises for the family resource centres on which increasing numbers of people rely. However, the Family Support Agency has not stipulated how centres should apply the revised level of funding. They have been asked, for example, to focus on the scope for greater efficiency and for a reduction in the administration and overhead costs associated with the day-to-day running of the centres, with the objective of supporting as far as possible, the services the centres provide to families and groups at local level.
The Family Support Agency and the family resource centre programme will form an integral part of the new agency that will come into being next year. Supporting families at all stages of their lives, particularly during more difficult times, is at the core of the work of family resource centres and this complements the priorities of both my Department and the new agency.
The new agency and the wider transformation of children's services represent one of the largest and most ambitious areas of public sector of reform embarked upon by the Government. Its establishment will bring a dedicated focus to child protection, family support and other key children's services for the first time in the history of the State and is long overdue. In time it will contribute to the transformation of essential services for families and communities.