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11/04/2015 12:00:00 AM


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Cullinane, David

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Bills

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Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2015

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Second Stage

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Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2015\Second Stage
Bills\Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2015\Second Stage

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Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2015

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Senator David Cullinane

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Senator David Cullinane

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David Cullinane

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Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2015
Bills
Snippet Contents:

I welcome the Minister back to the House. It was only a few weeks ago that he was here with another Bill that also received widespread support from this House. I am pleased to give my party's support to the Bill before us today. It has enjoyed support even though there are some aspects of it which we will seek to improve on Committee Stage.
The Bill is very welcome. In the past, I, as a public representative, have dealt with a number of children who were in State care and who left it when they turned 18. For some of those children - or adults, as they were at the time - the aftercare was good and for some the supports were not so good. Unfortunately, some of them got themselves into difficulties that they might not have got into if proper supports had been in place. I understand the issues and fully support what the Minister is trying to do with this Bill. Along with my party colleagues, I welcome the introduction of the Bill. Given the State's track record - this is not a criticism of the Government; I am just talking about the State historically - on the protection of vulnerable children and on dealing with the relevant issues, as I said in respect of the previous legislation the Minister introduced, we are learning a great deal. We are moving on. We are putting in place much better and stronger protections for children. That is very important and significant and the Minister should be commended for what he has done in this area. There are some shortfalls, which will need to be addressed on Committee Stage, but I see the Bill as a step forward.
Existing provisions set out in the aftercare programme have fallen short and have been at the discretion of many different parties for too long. Management and overseers who make decisions around the implementation of aftercare policies have at times been casual in many respects. The intention behind the Bill is seek to prevent this happening in the future by placing aftercare on a statutory basis. That is to be welcomed. The Bill should be used to tighten up the position in this area. Indeed, aftercare for children, especially the most vulnerable, is a top priority within the legislation.
People have referred to funding issues and some would have policy concerns in respect of Tusla, but in my view it has neglected its aftercare programmes and policies in particular since its inception and many vulnerable children have fallen through the cracks as a result. A clear and concise aftercare programme, which is child-led and provides a sense of ownership to the children in question, could go a long way towards providing these children with a stable foundation which, furthermore, would allow them to live an enjoyable and fruitful life. I welcome the addition of some practical and real-life situations in the form of allowing young people to engage with aftercare programmes after the age of 18 and in the context of their making the decision to re-engage with such programmes. From my experience, these young people tend to be cast aside. Hopefully, the Bill will limit that and be as inclusive as possible.
Amendments will be required to address some of the provisions in the Bill that need to be strengthened or to insert new provisions which we believe are necessary. The language used in the legislation indicates that although there is broad commitment to aftercare policies and the implementation of such policies, there is no wholehearted commitment to these policies in some areas. I would fear that a culture of passing the buck or making excuses could arise on the back of this. My party will be putting forward amendments on Committee Stage in order to hold the Government and Tusla to account and to ensure we have proper responsibility and allow for recourse in circumstances where neglect is found in the future. Sometimes people fall through the cracks. This may not be the responsibility of individuals within organisations but if the aftercare programmes and the policy are not right, that is what happens. It is good that we are addressing this issue now and I hope that we will deal with the shortcomings that were identified in the past at some point in the future.
I could say more but I will wait until Committee Stage to do so because I have given wholehearted support to this Bill and I welcome the Minister's commitment in respect of the matter to which it relates. He has done great work. It is fantastic that another Bill that strengthens the rights of vulnerable children and deals with how this State deals with situations where children are either victims of abuse or might be abused because of the lack of supports has been brought forward. We are talking about very vulnerable children. I welcome what the Minister has done in this area.