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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 141-161
 Header Item Children's Strategy
 Header Item Child Care Services Provision
 Header Item Child Protection
 Header Item Youth Services Provision
 Header Item Youth Services Provision
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item Children and Family Services
 Header Item Illegal Adoptions
 Header Item Child Protection Services
 Header Item Foster Care Provision
 Header Item Children and Family Services
 Header Item Child Death Review Group Report
 Header Item Cross-Border Projects
 Header Item Child Abuse

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 799 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 141-161

Children's Strategy

 141. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if the cross-departmental consultations on the proposed new children and young people's policy framework have concluded as anticipated by end of March, 2013; if the analysis of the public consultation is nearing completion; her now anticipated time-frame for the publication of the new policy framework; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [17275/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My Department is developing a new strategy for children and young people. It will build on Our Children - Their Lives, Ireland’s first children’s strategy which was published in 2000 and it will cover the 5-year period from 2013 to 2018.

  In keeping with my Department’s responsibilities for children and young people, the new Children and Young People’s Policy Framework is being developed in a holistic way which will comprehend the continuum of the life-course from infancy through to early and middle childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. It will be the overarching Framework under which policy and services for children and young people will be developed and implemented in the State.

  In relation to the analysis of the public consultation carried out in 2012, the responses to this are being analysed at present, and an interim analysis was delivered to my Department last month, and a final report is expected by the end of this month. This analysis will inform the final draft of the Framework, in conjunction with other consultations, such as the Children and Young People's consultation carried out in 2011 and consultations with organisations represented on the National Children's Advisory Committee (NCAC).

  Consultations with other Government Departments are ongoing and they are expected to be completed in the coming month, around the same time as the above processes, allowing the Framework to be drafted in the context of the most complete consultation practicable.

  I anticipate that the final draft of the Framework will be presented to Government for approval by the middle of this year.

Child Care Services Provision

 142. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will report on the progress made towards the introduction of a statutory right to after care for all young adults leaving the care system who seek and require continuing support; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [17265/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Deputy will be aware that I am currently examining options, in association with the Attorney General, to strengthen legislation regarding the provision of aftercare. I have recently held round-table discussions with HSE, service providers, advocates and the voluntary sector in relation to the recent improvements in aftercare service delivery and the proposed legislative change. My officials have met with their counterparts in Northern Ireland to discuss the nature and impact of the strengthening of aftercare legislatively in Northern Ireland and issues to do with service provision. The Deputy will be aware that I had previously indicated that I would ideally like to bring forward legislative amendments in the legislation to establish the Child and Family Agency, and this remains my focus.

The HSE Children and Family Services has developed a National Policy and Procedures Document which sets out eligibility, assessment and service available to young people on reaching 18 years and a National Implementation Group has been established to oversee the progress and challenges in improving services and outcomes for young people leaving care. The Group is comprised of representatives of funded services providers such as Focus Ireland and other advocacy organisations, as well as representatives of foster carers and other groups. They have found an increasingly systematic approach across the country to young people around age sixteen being identified through the care planning review process and a standardised aftercare planning template. This approach is helping the early identification of young people with special needs, such as learning disabilities, and has led to good examples of inter-agency working. There have also been some improvements in the data available although more work is required in this area and in rolling out fully standardised financial allowances.

The HSE's annual spend on aftercare in 2012 was €17 million. There are currently 45 dedicated aftercare workers in the HSE additionally the HSE commissions aftercare services, residential and support in the community, from Focus Ireland, Don Bosco and Cross Care across the country. The HSE have advised me that approximately 500 young people reach the age of 18 in care every year, with 412 young people in care reaching their 18th birthday in 2012.

At the end of December 2012: 639 young people over the age of 18 years were supported financially to remain living with their foster carers. These young people did not have to face the transition of leaving their foster carers at age 18 and for many, in addition to having access to an after care worker, they received their key support from their foster carers. 110 young people were living in supported living arrangements and had an aftercare key worker. There were 384 young people over 21 receiving some aspect of aftercare support the remaining 1073 were between 18 and 21. 599 of the total number were in full time education and a further 656 were in some form of education and training.

Given the particular difficulties of some young people in areas of mental health and disability, the aftercare policy has a strong multi-agency dimension. the Aftercare Implementation Group is developing protocols with Social Inclusion, Disability Services, Mental Health Services and Primary Care and the Department of the Environment regarding housing to support this approach A protocol has been signed with the Irish Youth Justice Service which covers joint working arrangements for young people in Detention Schools.

Clearly, there have been improvements in the delivery of an aftercare service but more work remains to be done. My officials will continue to engage with the HSE to ensure that the service is addressing the needs of these vulnerable young people and the information provided will inform the policy development being undertaken to underpin aftercare in legislation.

  Question No. 143 answered with Question No. 137.

  Question No. 144 answered with Question No. 130.

  Question No. 145 answered with Question No. 138.

Child Protection

 146. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the action she has taken to date to address ongoing concerns regarding child protection and welfare for children living in the direct provision system, as highlighted by the 2012 Irish Refugee Council report State sanctioned child poverty and exclusion; if she is working with the Department of Justice and Equality to review the existing child protection safeguards in direct provision centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [17308/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald In the first instance, I would like to clarify that the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) is a functional unit of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), a division of the Department of Justice and Equality. RIA is charged with providing accommodation and ancillary services to asylum seekers, that is, adults and their children, under the Direct Provision system while their applications for asylum are processed. I am advised that Direct Provision centres are monitored three times a year, twice by Department of Justice staff and once by an external company.

The revised Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children was published in July, 2011. The Guidance deals with the recognition, reporting and management of child welfare and safety concerns. It sets out a number of key messages relating to the duty to protect children and support their welfare. The scope of Children First extends beyond the reporting of suspected neglect, abuse and welfare concerns. It emphasises the importance of multi disciplinary, inter-agency working in the management of such concerns. Key to this is the sharing of information between agencies and disciplines in the best interests of children and the need for full co-operation to ensure better outcomes.

The HSE has advised me that concerns about the welfare, safety or well-being of a children in Direct Provision are reported to the HSE Children and Family Services, in line with Children First. Referrals include welfare concerns such as a parent being hospitalised, parental illness, a child being left unsupervised by an adult or mental health concerns regarding the parent, while a smaller number would relate to child protection concerns.

There is a specific unit within RIA -the Child and Family Services Unit - whose role is to manage, deliver, co-ordinate, monitor and plan all matters relating to child and family services for all asylum seekers residing in the direct provision system. This unit also links, where necessary, directly with an Garda Síochána.

I would like to assure the Deputy that I have had ongoing contact with my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Law Reform and that senior officials within my Department have been engaging with the HSE, all to ensure that children who residing in Direct Provision are afforded the same levels of welfare and protection that their counterparts in the wider community are afforded.

Youth Services Provision

 147. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the basis for the budgetary cuts to youth services; and if she will provide an undertaking to minimise the impact of these on front-line services, and to protect services in the most disadvantaged areas. [16020/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Youth Affairs Unit of my Department provides a range of funding schemes, programmes and supports to the youth sector. Funding of some €53.173m is available in 2013 to support the provision of youth services and programmes to young people throughout the country including those from disadvantaged communities. Targeted supports for disadvantaged, marginalised and at risk young people are provided through the Special Projects for Youth Scheme, the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund Rounds 1 and 2 and Local Drugs Task Force Projects. These funding schemes support national and local youth work provision to some 400,000 young people and involve approximately 1,400 paid staff and 40,000 volunteers working in youth work services and communities throughout the country.

The savings required under the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure in respect of 2013 amounted to €5.393m which equated to almost a 10% reduction on 2012 funding available for the provision of youth services. Having regard to the savings requirements identified in the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure my Department has tried to ensure that, in the determination process for the allocations, the front line youth services, particularly those for the most vulnerable young people are protected as far as is possible from the impact of any necessary reductions in funding.

My Department has tried to be as equitable as possible in achieving these savings. In considering how best to manage within the reduced budgets available, organisations are being asked to consider the scope for reducing administration costs and overheads, if this is at all possible, in order to maintain the front line youth services for young people. I have met with many youth organisations and groups to try and see how we can work together to minimise the impact of these necessary savings.

A comprehensive Value for Money and Policy Review of youth funding has been commenced in my Department and this report is expected later this year. It is anticipated that this report will inform the provision of funding for youth programmes/services going into the future.

In addition my Department is developing a new youth policy framework for publication later this year. The new youth policy framework will aim to enhance the provision of youth services and activities and it will, inter alia, promote co-ordination between government departments and youth sector organisations with a view to maximising the effectiveness of the State funding available to support services for young people in future years.

  Question No. 148 answered with Question No. 131.

Youth Services Provision

 149. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald her proposals over the next three years for the provision of support services for the youth with particular reference to the need to address such issues as cyber or other forms of bullying and intimidation; if she has received any submissions in this regard; if she expects to be in a position to set out primary guidelines; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17259/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Funding of €53.173m, including €1.75 for a new capital funding programme, has been provided to my Department in 2013 for the provision of youth services and programmes to young people throughout the country through a number of schemes.

  These schemes include the Youth Service Grant Scheme, the Special Projects for Youth Scheme, the Young People’s Facilities and Services Fund Rounds 1 and 2, Local Drug Task Force projects and certain other provisions including the Local Youth Club Grant Scheme and Youth Information Centres. This funding supports the delivery of a range of youth work programmes and services for all young people, including those from disadvantaged communities, by the voluntary youth sector. There are some 1,400 youth work staff in 477 projects and over 40,000 volunteers involved in the provision of services and activities for young people.

Each year over 380,000 young people participate in youth services which provide youth work and non formal learning in its many programmes and activities; recreational, sporting, learning, volunteering and personal development. These programmes offer young people opportunities to acquire new competences and skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, resilience, motivation, creativity and leadership. These are core and transferable life skills; the 21st   century skills that are so important to equip young people for the challenges in today’s world.

  There is a growing recognition in Ireland and across Europe of the significance of youth work in promoting young people’s development, health and well-being, enhancing their participation in education, training and employment and the potential youth work has, as part of wider strategies to respond to the challenges that arise.

  The role of research and consultations with youth sector interests and the young people themselves are central elements in my Department’s approach to the formulation of the youth policy services that are responsive to young peoples needs.   My Department has commissioned a review of international best practice in the field of youth work to advance our understanding of the impact of youth services in the lives of children and young people. The study will inform a new Youth Policy Framework which is planned by my Department for later this year. The findings of the Growing Up In Ireland Study of my Department and other studies including EU studies have been significant in relation to providing information about children and young peoples experience of bullying and its impact on them.

  The Action Plan on Bullying - produced by cross-sectoral working group on which my Department and the youth services were represented, contains a range of evidence based actions to support parents, young people, schools and community interests, in tackling this issue which can have a serious impact on young people. My Department will work closely with the Department of Education and Skills on the implementation of the Action Plan in supporting initiatives to raise awareness about the problem and implementing identified actions to tackle prejudice and promote a safer environment for our young people. The Youth Clubs funded by my Department are an important outlet for children and young people in this context. Their activities can help to build self esteem, increase confidence and strengthen friendships so that young people are better equipped to counter bullying behaviour.

The Youth Affairs Unit of my Department also provides funding towards the administration of the National Youth Health Programme  . This programme is a partnership between my Department, the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) and the Health Service Executive. Funding of some €88,000 was provided to support the programme in 2012 by my Department.

The aim of the programme is to provide a broad-based, flexible health promotion / education support and training service to youth organisations and to all those working with young people in out-of-school settings. The programme has sought to develop the capacity of the sector and organisations to advocate on issues that affect young people and develop evidenced based resources and training to support that work. The advantage of this training is evident in the fact that Youth Work often acts as the first point of contact and referral in the interface with other youth-related services spanning the realms of care, health and welfare. In addition to mental health promotion in general, the programme delivers other training courses to Youth Workers on Mindfulness, Defusing Anger, Responding to Challenging Behaviours, Recognising and Managing Psychosis and Anti Bullying. The Programme has published a manual on best practice in Youth Mental Health Promotion; Good Habits of Mind and another manual on Bullying:   Lets Beat Bullying.

  My Department also provides funding to support the organisation Belong To under the Youth Service Grant Scheme. BeLonG To Youth Service is a national organisation for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) young people (age 14-23) in Ireland. They provide direct youth work services to LGBT young people across Ireland by providing spaces where LGBT young people can meet each other, get involved in activities and see that their identities and selves are valuable and important. To help change negative societal attitudes to LGBT training is given to teachers, youth-workers and other professionals who work with young people. They also run awareness campaigns in schools and youth services, and work with government departments, politicians and HGO’s to ensure that LGBT young people are heard, so that positive social change occurs.

  BeLonG To has a well developed advocacy programme that promotes positive recognition of LGBT young people, with a strong emphasis on ending homophobic bullying. It has also supported and commissioned research projects in partnership with the Children’s Research Centre, the Anti-Bullying Centre, the National Drugs Strategy Team and the National Office for Suicide Prevention. In 2010 Guidelines on tackling homophobic bullying in youth services were developed by BeLong To. Youth Affairs Unit gave a one-off grant of €15,000 to fund this.

Proposed Legislation

 150. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the position regarding her preparations for the presentation to the Dáil of the adoption amendment legislation arising from the successful passage of the Children's Rights Referendum; the additional areas she is planning to include; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17266/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The General Scheme and Heads of Bill of the proposed Adoption (Amendment) Bill was published in September 2012 in conjunction with the publication of the referendum proposal to inform the public of proposed changes to adoption law envisaged if the Constitutional amendment was approved.

The Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children was established in 2007 to examine the proposals to introduce a Constitutional Amendment on Children and to make recommendations as appropriate. The Final Report of the Joint Committee recommended, in relation to adoption, that legislation should be introduced to provide for the adoption of any child, whether from a marital or non marital family, where the parents of that child have failed in their responsibility to that child for such a period of time as may be prescribed by law, and where adoption is considered to be in the best interests of the child. The Report also recommended that provision be made by law for the voluntary placement for adoption and the adoption of any child.

The Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2013 proposes to make important changes to adoption law to provide the option of adoption for a child who has been placed in long term foster care because his or her parents are unable to provide, or resume, care for that child. The provisions of the proposed Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2013 will amend the Adoption Act 2010 to provide for the non-voluntary adoption of a child where his or her parents have failed in their duty towards that child. The draft Bill will change the criteria, applicable under section 54 of the 2010 Act, under which the High Court may authorise the making of an adoption order without parental consent, in the case of a child who is in the care of prospective adopters and where that child’s parents have failed in their parental duty to the child. The proposed legislation is not intended to provide that a child, who has contact with and a strong beneficial relationship with his or her birth parents and wider family, may be adopted unless that child's parents have voluntarily placed the child for adoption and have consented to the adoption order being made in respect of the child.

The draft Bill will also provide for the voluntary placement for adoption of any child irrespective of the marital status of his or her parents. In the case of a child of married parents, both parents must place the child for adoption and before doing so, will be counselled and given information in accordance with the provisions of section 14 of the Adoption Act 2010.

It is my intention to bring the Adoption (Amendment) Bill 2013 before the Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as possible. In addition to the provisions included in the draft Bill, my Department is separately examining further possible changes to the Adoption Act 2010.

Children and Family Services

 151. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the extent to which she has identified the full scope and extent of the responsibilities of her Department including the budgetary requirements over the next three years; the degree to which she has identified any shortcomings in the system in regard to the well-being and protection of children including early warning systems and the provision of stress-testing of the services to ensure an adequacy of response to meet the challenges of the modern era; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17258/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My Department was set up to drive the delivery of key commitments in relation to children and young people. The Department was established in June 2011 with a mandate to put in place a unified framework of policy, legislation and provision across Government in respect of children and young people.

The responsibilities of my Department encompass a wide range of policy and service activity, both direct and indirect, for children and young people in Ireland. It has a complex mandate, comprised of a number of separate, but interrelated strands including: the direct provision of a range of universal and targeted services; ensuring high-quality arrangements are in place for focused interventions dealing with child welfare and protection, family support, adoption, school attendance and reducing youth crime; the harmonisation of policy and provision across Government and with a wide range of stakeholders to improve outcomes for children, young people and families.

As outlined in my Department's Statement of Strategy, in order to achieve its goals, my Department works in close partnership with other Government departments, statutory agencies and non-governmental organisations on a range of cross-cutting issues in relation to both policy and provision as they relate to children and young people. The scope of this collaboration includes, but is not limited to, the following: Department of Education and Skills (e.g. early childhood education, numeracy/literacy and skills development); Department of Justice and Equality (e.g. crime prevention, community sanctions, detention, diversion and equality); Department of Health (e.g. disability; health promotion, including nutrition and drugs policy); Health Service Executive (e.g. child welfare and protection, care and social services); Department of Social Protection (e.g. social inclusion, income support and the activation agenda); Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (e.g. employment creation and youth entrepreneurship); Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (e.g. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and Council of Europe measures); Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (e.g. initiatives involving sustainable development and communities).

Funding requirements and how resources should be prioritised and allocated across each area of Government spending are generally considered as part of the annual estimates cycle and budgetary process. It would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time on any future decisions that may be taken by Government on the expenditure allocations for programmes and services falling within the Vote of my Department. However, my objective will be to realise funding allocations that reflect expenditure policy priorities and that sufficient resources are directed towards those areas of greatest impact on children and young people.

The commitment to establish a new Child and Family Agency is at the heart of the Government's reform of child and family services. The new Agency will assume responsibility for Children and Family Services, currently provided by the HSE, and the Family Support Agency. It will have a workforce of approximately 4,000 staff, and a combined existing budget of over €590 million. The Agency will be headed by Gordon Jeyes, as the Chief Executive designate, who will be supported by a senior management team.

In order to achieve genuine improvements for children and families, the Agency will have a broader focus than child protection. Prevention, early intervention, family support and therapeutic & care interventions are all key to the provision of integrated multidisciplinary services for children and families based on identified need.

It is my intention that the new Agency will address the persistent issues which have been raised regarding the standardisation of services, communication, coordination and sharing of risk assessment, management and treatment for many of the children and families with the most complex needs. At the same time, the Agency will have a role in supporting families - providing less complex, less intrusive and less expensive responses which have a preventive function.

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

Illegal Adoptions

 152. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will adopt a similar approach as that of the Australian government in apologising and acknowledging the people who were illegally adopted in that State. [17248/13]

 155. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the steps she will take to vindicate the right to an identity for citizens illegally adopted here. [17249/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 152 and 155 together.

The issue in Ireland of illegal adoptions relates to illegal registrations, i.e. children who were given at birth to other individuals who registered these children as their own and who are now unable to access personal records and information. I have met with individuals who have found themselves in these circumstance and I acknowledge and empathise with the dilemma that these individuals are addressing.

Efforts have been made by the Adoption Authority of Ireland and the HSE, within their legal remit, to facilitate the investigations that these individuals are undertaking in endeavouring to establish medical and/or identifying information about themselves. Further efforts are required to move beyond that and endeavour to trace birth parents, children and or siblings who are affected by this issue.

In consultation with the AAI and the HSE, my Department is examining legislative and administrative options in relation to accessing records which may exist. I am also examining provisions in this regard in the forthcoming Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill. I have recently received further legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General in regard to complex legal and constitutional issues which have arisen during the course of drafting the Heads of Bill. These issues are currently under consideration in my Department.

When the former Adoption Board launched the National Adoption Contact Preference Register in 2005, provision was made for persons, who were party to the illegal registration of a child, to register an interest in the Register for possible future contact with another party sometime in the future. Fundamental to the success of the NCPR is that any persons with information in this regard contact the Information and Tracing Unit of the AAI. The Adoption Act 1952 provided a legal basis for adoption in Ireland and for the establishment of the Adoption Board thereby bringing order to what had been the ad hoc arrangements which had previously existed in lieu of formal adoption procedures. That Act was replaced by the Adoption Act 2010. All adoptions in Ireland since 1952 have been carried out in line with this legislation.

Child Protection Services

 153. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the position regarding the review of child protection practices across all Catholic Church dioceses; the numbers and names of those completed; the number and names of those under way; when she expects that the remaining reviews will get under way; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [17282/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Two separate review processes are being undertaken in respect of child protection practices in the Catholic Church in Ireland. The HSE is involved in a two-phase audit exercise. The report of phase 1, covering safeguarding arrangements in twenty-four Catholic dioceses, was published in October, 2012. The second phase involves a review of safeguarding practice in respect of approximately 140 Religious Congregations/Orders. This element, which ran parallel with the diocesan audit, is taking longer to complete due to the high number of Congregations involved.

  Separately the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) is also working through a review process involving the dioceses and Religious Congregations. To date reports on ten dioceses and three Congregations have been published.

  The publication of the HSE diocesan audit report represented the culmination of a long process of engagement between the HSE and the diocesan authorities, to establish the position with regard to the Catholic Church in terms of the safeguarding of children and on responding to allegations of child sexual abuse against members of the clergy. I welcomed the audit's finding that there has been a marked improvement in Church child protection practices in recent years, in particular since the Church’s new ‘Safeguarding Children’ standards were introduced in 2009. It is also encouraging that the HSE found that the practice of responding to immediate risk to children was found to be generally good and is given priority within the dioceses. The audit found that prompt action has been taken by Bishops to remove priests from ministry where allegations have been made.

  While the audit highlighted recent improvements, it is clear that the focus must remain on addressing the need for ongoing improvements; in particular in those Dioceses identified by the audit as requiring further work. The report identified particular difficulties in categorising retrospective allegations with accuracy in terms of the time taken to report the allegations to the civil authorities. There were significant delays in reporting allegations to the civil authorities in the case of some of the dioceses. Also, in some instances dioceses had stated in their audit returns that they had reported all allegations promptly, but the HSE found that this was not the case.

The HSE audit recommended that the State “apply its resources to intervene and work with all dioceses in a systemic way to address the shortcomings outlined” and “to achieve closer monitoring by the State of dioceses”. In this context I had previously requested that the HSE's Children and Family Services engage on an ongoing basis with the NBSCCC on this issue. The purpose of this engagement is to ensure that the Church has in place all necessary structures and practices to safeguard children in line with the Children First National Guidance and the Church’s own guidelines. This engagement will continue to be prioritised within the new Child and Family Support Agency, with a particular focus on dioceses where shortfalls have been identified. Ensuring compliance with Children First   will be a key priority for the new Agency.

  The continuation by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church of its own review process into remaining dioceses and Religious Congregations, together with the HSE’s review of the Congregations, will provide further transparency in relation to current safeguarding arrangements within the Catholic Church. While there have been very notable improvements compared to historic practices that were entirely unacceptable, there is no room for complacency, as evidenced by the concerns I expressed about the outcome of the NBSCCC review of three Religious Congregations, published in September, 2012. For further details on its published reports and review plans I would direct the Deputy to the NBSCCC website -

  I have stressed to both the HSE and the NBSCCC the importance of bringing both review processes to conclusion as speedily as possible, so as to provide a complete picture of child protection practices and compliance by the Catholic Church.

Foster Care Provision

 154. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the steps she is taking to address the deficiencies highlighted by the Health Information and Quality Authority regarding the fostering service in the Dublin North West area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17268/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald HIQA undertakes inspection of foster care services against the National Standards for Foster Care, under Section 69 of the Child Care Act 1991. The purpose of foster care inspections is to review compliance with regulations and standards to support safe quality care for children placed in foster care. HIQA's inspection methodology includes interviewing HSE managers and social workers, a sample of children, carers and birth parents and review a range of files, including complaints.

Foster care services in HSE Dublin North West Area have been inspected by HIQA on three occasions since September 2009, the most recent of which took place in October 2012. Some progress was noted particularly in the area of foster carer assessment, approval and training with all general foster carers approved and significant improvements in the area of relative foster carers. Some 96 % of children in foster care had been visited by a social worker within the preceding six months.

An important finding in this inspection report is that many foster carers were providing high quality care and children's needs were being met. Foster carers were committed and child centred in their approach. They saw themselves as advocates on behalf of the child and availed of every opportunity to promote the child's best interests to achieve better outcomes.

Notwithstanding progress that has been achieved, I was concerned to note that inspectors found that some deficits identified previously had not been rectified. Inspectors found that there were inadequacies in systems to assess risk and to investigate and take timely action in response to concerns. File keeping, data collection and analysis were also found to be lacking.

The inspection also found that sufficient foster carers have not been recruited within the area and this has provided difficulties in making local placements and matching children with particular needs with the most suitable carers. Recruitment of foster carers is of concern more generally and it is intended to conduct a national recruitment campaign in the coming months.

An Action Plan to address the weaknesses identified was prepared by HIQA. In order to ensure that the Action Plan is fully implemented, I have requested that the HSE set up a high level oversight process to be lead by the Head of Quality Assurance to ensure implementation of all the HIQA recommendations. This group is now established and included Dr Valarie O’Brien of UCD who has researched extensively in the area foster care. The group will report to me on progress on a monthly basis. Recently, I met with Mr Gordon Jeyes Chief Executive Designated of the Child and Family Support Agency to review the actions underway to address the critical issues identified.

  Question No. 155 answered with Question No. 152.

  Question No. 156 answered with Question No. 137.

Children and Family Services

 157. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the number of social workers who have received and who are currently receiving, child and adolescent mental health training; her plans to extend this training to all social workers dealing with children and young adults; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17286/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald In the HSE social workers receive training from Children and Families Services Trainers through a variety of standardised training programmes and complementary training modules that are delivered on the basis of locally identified need. Child and Adolescent Mental health issues are delivered on the basis of locally identified need. Child and Adult Mental health issues are complex and can be present in a variety of ways and therefore there are a variety of programmes that address the following issues: Attention disorders; Depression; Anxiety disorders; Oppositional defiant behaviour, aggression, anti social behaviour; Eating disorders; Psychotic disorders including schizophrenia, manic depressive disorder, or drug-induced psychosis; Deliberate self harm; Substance misuse; Autism spectrum disorders; Developmental disorders delay in acquiring certain skills such as speech, and social development.

All social workers receive preparation in mental health issues during their third level training. There are a variety of modules that deal with different aspects of mental health in the various pre-qualification courses including attachment theory, child and adolescent development, counselling skills, and addiction. Social workers also access mental health training from other parts of the HSE such as the National Suicide Prevention Office e.g. Assist Training in mental health and suicide prevention.

Additionally, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) employ social workers as part of mental health team's service provided to children and adolescents at risk.

In preparation for the establishment of the Child and Family Support Agency; a comprehensive Continuous Development Strategy is being prepared. The strategy is based on carrying out systematic Training Needs Analysis and ensuring that priority training needs for the CFSA staff are addressed in a consistent manner. Mental health training is a high priority for this group and the implementation of the CPD strategy will ensure that there is training available to all social workers in this area.

The Deputy may be aware that the Health and Social Care Professionals Act, 2005 provides for the establishment of a Social Workers Registration Board (CORU) which was appointed in 2010. One of the functions of the SWRB is to set and enforce standards of education and training for the purposes of registration. These standards were developed in consultation with relevant stakeholders including employers, professional bodies, education and public representatives.

The Act makes provision for the approval of education and training programmes and the monitoring of continuing suitability of education and training programmes.

The system of statutory regulation is designed to ensure professional conduct and the maintenance of high standards of professional education and training among social workers, regardless of whether they work in the public or private sector or are self employed.

The object of the Social Work Registration Board is to protect the public by fostering high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence among social work registrants.

The registration requirements will include a Continual Professional Development element and my officials will regularly liaise with CORU regarding emerging needs and priorities in this regard.

Child Death Review Group Report

 158. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald the action she has taken following on from the report of the Independent Child Death Review Group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17289/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I indicated when I published the report of the Independent Child Death Review Group (ICDRG) that I welcome the findings and recommendations of this report, and that I accept fully the need for action in the areas identified.

  At an operational level the HSE has developed an implementation plan which responds to each of the recommendations in the Review Report. This plan identifies persons with key responsibility for actions, timelines for those actions and a review of the current position. The plan will be reviewed at intervals until all the actions are completed. With regard to progress on implementation there have been a number of key developments including substantive improvements in social work case allocation and case planning.

  The necessary actions are being implemented in the context of the Government’s reform programme for children’s services, the most radical reform of child welfare and protection services ever undertaken in the State. The integrated delivery of these reforms will ensure that responses to many of the ICDRG recommendations will be mainstreamed into the work programme of the new Child and Family Support Agency.

  At a broader policy and legislative level, detailed work is also underway to implement the ICDRG recommendations as follows:

  Legislative Reform - In order to support the rights of children generally, and particularly those who require the intervention of child welfare and protection services, the Constitutional referendum on children was held in November 2012. Issues related to the in camera rule and child care court proceedings have also been subject to legislation. The Child Care Act 1991 (Section 29(7) Regulations were made in November 2012 facilitating the public reporting of child care court proceedings by researchers. These regulations have facilitated an independent project under Dr Carol Coulter which is carrying out research, for publication, on child care hearings in the courts. The Government has recently published the Court Bill 2013 to directly address issues related to the in camera rule. The draft Heads of the Children First Bill were considered by the Oireachtas Committee on Health & Children and the report of the Committee is being considered by my Department in the development of these legislative proposals. Consideration is also being given to strengthening legislation regarding the provision of aftercare. I recently met with experts and representatives of organisations working with young people in care to discuss the approach.

Organisational Reform - The Child and Family Agency will be an essential vehicle for ensuring the ethos of quality and accountability called for by the ICDRG is strongly reflected in children’s services.

  Operational Reform - A central feature of the new Agency will be a new Service Delivery Framework which will prioritise serious child protection referrals while providing for development of new ‘Local Area Pathways’ which will involve a greater use of community-based services to address child and family welfare concerns in a timely & effective manner. Significant work has taken place in relation to this service redesign.    A group has been established in the HSE to work with the Irish Youth Justice Service on the needs of the most vulnerable youths, in line with the needs highlighted in the Child Deaths Report. Work is progressing on development of a National Child Care Information System to comprehensively address issues of record keeping and data management. The procurement process is now at contract stage. Two out-of-hours pilot projects in Donegal and Cork were commenced and independently evaluated. The HSE has reviewed the Evaluation Report and prepared a business case for a National Out of Hours Social Work Service. The HSE is in discussion with relevant staff representative associations.

  Workforce Development - this Government completed the recruitment of 260 additional social workers proposed in the Ryan Report Implementation Plan. Over 1,400 social workers are employed in Children and Family Support Services and the introduction of 260 additional social workers represents a significant strengthening of the workforce. Arrangements for the induction, training and supervision of these staff have been put in place. Support for all staff includes the introduction of national guidance, such as Child Protection and Welfare Practice Handbook, and supervision of the implementation of this guidance.

  Oversight - Last July, I launched the first-ever HIQA ‘National Standards on Protection and Welfare of Children’. HIQA recently announced the commencement of inspections of child protection services, in line with new standards. 10 cases identified in the ICDRG report have been referred for independent review under Dr. Helen Buckley. One of these reviews has already been completed. Specific work is proceeding in relation to the Review Group’s recommendations regarding mechanisms for the independent review of child deaths. It is necessary to ensure that any such arrangements are developed in a manner that is fully consistent with the major organisational reforms currently in train including the transfer of child protection services from the HSE to the CFSA and the recent expansion of HIQA’s inspection regime to cover all child protection services. My Department has also consulted with colleagues in the North in order to share learning from the respective approaches to child death review. I trust these details illustrate the seriousness with which the ICDRG report is being advanced. Finally, my Department has also used the detailed research undertaken in the report to highlight more general policy issues across Government, including for example discussions on the preparation of a National Substance Misuse Strategy, which is expected to be considered by Government shortly.

Cross-Border Projects

 159. Deputy Joe McHugh Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will update Dáil Éireann on her Department's engagements with Northern Ireland agencies in developing youth cross-border and cross-community relationships. [17247/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Youth Affairs Unit of my Department supports the delivery of a range of youth work programmes and services for all young people, including those from disadvantaged communities, by the voluntary youth sector. Funding of €53.173m has been provided to my Department for the provision of youth services in 2013.

Funding is provided by my Department to a number of programmes which involve cross-border exchanges for young people. One such programme is Causeway which is a Youth Exchange Programme established in 1998, following the Good Friday Agreement, between Ireland and UK for the East/West and North/South exchange of young people between the ages of 13 and 25, with particular regard given to those from disadvantaged backgrounds. All exchanges must include one Irish partner and at least one other partner either from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. Léargas-the Exchange Bureau is the administering agency for Causeway in Ireland.

The Causeway programme aims to strengthen and improve relationships between young people, and those that who work with them, on the islands of Britain and Ireland. Causeway projects provide a valuable avenue for young people to explore their perceptions of identity and to deal with issues of tolerance and diversity.

The Management Committee of Causeway includes representatives from my Department, the Department of Education Northern Ireland, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Youth Council of Northern Ireland together with Léargas, the administering body.

Funding is also provided by my Department to Co-operation Ireland which was founded in 1979. Its objective was to promote peace in a new and practical way. Originally called Co-operation North, its aim is to promote cross-border relations. Co-operation Ireland develops programmes which enable people from communities North and South to participate in cross-border and cross community programmes. The funding provided by my Department has supported cross-border exchange projects for young people

In addition my Department provides funding for The President's Award - Gaisce which is the National Challenge Award from the President of Ireland to the young people of Ireland (15 to 25 years of age). Gaisce is a member of the International Award Association which comprises 121 countries world wide. The purpose of the Award is to encourage young people to set and achieve a demanding challenge for themselves in a non-competitive environment. The Award is conducted through schools, youth clubs and youth organisations and with the assistance and support of many other state and non-state sector bodies.

Members of youth groups in Belfast who wish to avail of Gaisce the President’s Award may register with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Northern Ireland for the Joint Award Programme. On completion of the programme they can choose to have the Gaisce Award presented. In 2011 231 Awards were presented in Northern Ireland.

My Department is also a member of the North South Education and Training Standards Committee for Youth Work (NSETS) which was launched in January 2006 by the then Minister for Education for Northern Ireland and the Minister of State for Youth Affairs in the Republic.

The decision to establish NSETS was to create a framework for the endorsement of Youth Work education and training that would ensure and support best practice and facilitate professional mobility and exchange both on a north/south and east/west basis.

The role of NSETS committee to date has been to assess all aspects of the quality of training for professional youth and community work offered by Higher Education Institutions in Ireland and professionally endorse the programmes submitted to it.

My Department provides funding towards the secretariat of NSETS which is currently carried out by Youth Council of Northern Ireland. This allocation also covers travel and subsistence for members of the Southern representation.

  Question No. 160 answered with Question No. 125.

Child Abuse

 161. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald when the audit of serious neglect cases will be published; the reason for the delay in its publication; if she is concerned that the audit report which was produced on foot of a specific recommendation of a public inquiry has not yet been published two years after it has been completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17261/13]

 1090. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald when the audit produced on foot of the recommendations in the report on the Roscommon Child Care Case will be published; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16017/13]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 161 and 1090 together.

The report of the child neglect audit, which is a composite report including the findings from the Roscommon area, will be published shortly. I will contact the Deputy directly when the details are confirmed. The report is a composite work covering three audits in Roscommon, Waterford and Dublin. A decision was taken within the HSE to produce this composite report as the best means of disseminating the learning from the three projects. The report will be based on a sample of 30 cases examined from each of the three areas subject to audit.

The decision to publish a composite report, along with the time taken by the HSE to ensure that all of the recommendations are being actioned were factors in determining the publication date of the report.

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