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Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2015

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Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2015

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Senator Feargal Quinn

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Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2015
Bills
Snippet Contents:

The Minister is very welcome and it is good to have him looking after this Bill. He has attended the House before and has shown his interest in this topic. I am loath to speak on this, particularly after Senator Moran and Senator van Turnhout who are such experts in this area. However, I have five children and 16 grandchildren and therefore I feel I know something about this area. We have not given enough attention to aftercare, so I am delighted that the Minister is doing something about it.
Last year, I was at a level crossing when the gates came down. Suddenly, a young man who was probably about 12 years of age collapsed in a panic on the ground inside the level crossing. Two of us jumped out of our cars, ran and were able to rescue him. We found out that he was in an aftercare home from which he had escaped through a window. When we went there and handed him over, they said he was in his room. In fact, however, he had got out the window and escaped. It is a reminder to me of how difficult a task aftercare is. This was not an 18 year old but somebody much younger. It is a reminder of the tasks the Minister faces
I am glad we are once more addressing the area of child care. The Bill focuses on the aftercare aspect to a strong extent and will introduce a statutory right to aftercare. We have seen the Government do a great deal of legislative work in this area. This Bill is another piece of a quite complicated jigsaw.
It is worth pointing out that the group entitled Empowering People in Care, EPIC, says it would like to see this Bill address the fact that there is no right to appeal the needs assessment for the aftercare plan carried out by Tusla. I would be pleased to hear the Minister's comments on that. It is a valid point. We are trying to create a system whereby the viewpoint of all is at the very least taken on board and given due consideration. Ideally, the child's viewpoint, no matter what that may be, should be taken into consideration and an appeal should be possible, as in other State bodies.
The new section 45B(5) as inserted by section 7 of the Bill reads: "The Child and Family Agency shall prepare an aftercare plan ... at least 6 months before he or she attains the age of 18 years, or ... within 3 months of that child having become an eligible child". There is some concern over the timeframe of six months before a young person turns 18. The EPIC group would like to see specific mention of the need for aftercare preparation to begin years before a person turns 18. I would like to hear the Minister's view on that. Planning is very important no matter what sort of business or service one does. I tend to agree that starting the plan at the earliest possible stage would be the ideal route. Perhaps that recommendation should be included in guidelines to foster this important emphasis on early drafting of the aftercare plan.
Will the Minister indicate whether Tusla has adequate funding? Senator Mooney was quite concerned about this when he mentioned it. Some concern has been expressed about this aspect, so I would like to hear what the Minister has to say about it.
Apart from that, however, this Bill is another positive step from the Government. I hope that such positive steps will continue to be implemented. I am delighted to see this Minister handling it. He is showing the effort and enthusiasm that will be needed to ensure the Bill becomes law.