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 Header Item Child Development (Continued)
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2013: Message from Select Committee

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 802 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald] In many ways, some of the best descriptions we have seen about the experience of Irish children have been in the recent State of the Nation’s Children report, which gives us very valuable information about the quality of Irish children's experiences. There are some very good stories there about Irish childhood. In addition, the vulnerabilities of certain children are highlighted in that report, as they are in the longitudinal studies now emerging. I repeat that it is very important that we now have our own Irish research telling us about Irish children, that more money has gone into Irish research and that we are not dependent on international research.

We are lucky in Ireland to have generally positive parent-child relationships. The State of the Nation's Children report found that 82% of children aged between ten and 17 reported that they find it easy to talk to their mothers when something is bothering them and that an increasing number speak to their fathers as well. A further report last year from Dr. Elizabeth Nixon based on Growing Up in Ireland data focused on how families matter for children's social and emotional well-being and highlighted again just how instrumental parents are in their children's development. We all know this intuitively but we now have the research that really goes into detail on parental relationships with children and how important they are for children's learning and social and emotional well-being.

Good parenting is critical for children's outcomes, which is why the area of family support is so important and will continue to be important in the new Child and Family Support Agency. Clearly, support to teenage parents is very important as well and this comes under the National Education Welfare Board, which will work with the family resource centres in the new agency.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I must ask the Minister to conclude.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I will conclude by saying that I believe the new agency presents us with an opportunity to consolidate and develop effective, evidence-based parenting and family supports.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I call on Deputies Ó Caoláin and Troy as we are running short on time.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin One cannot overstate the importance of this particular area. We prepare young people for all sorts of responsibilities in life through the education system but there is very little focus on or preparation for the responsibilities of parenting, which is a huge responsibility and arguably even more important than many other considerations currently occupying top positions. We need a two-pronged approach to this reflected in the education system, particularly through second level. The role and responsibilities of parenting should an integral part of the preparation for life.

There is also the question of those who are already parents. There can be no over employment of reminders along the way because the challenges of parenting, particularly in those early years, are huge. There was a dependence heretofore in large measure on generational supports in traditional Irish families that are not always available. I am sure I am not the only Deputy aware of cases of people literally trying to cope alone, which is a terrible situation to be in. The difficult situations that present themselves are not reflective of a lack of natural love, nurture and wish for stability. More people are having great difficulties in these times than at any previous time.

Consideration should be given to supports in the form of a booklet for national distribution. This is a significant area. All research shows that these crucial years have a critical influence on later life for young people. There is no end of opportunities that could be employed for reminders and supporters along the way. By reminders, I mean re-stating what many of us might think to be obvious but which is not always so if one is coping in very difficult circumstances.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I will be very brief. When Barack Obama, who is arguably the most powerful man in the world, was re-elected to the White House, he sent out a tweet about how the most difficult and rewarding job of all was being a father. When one looks at it in that context, it is very important that we put in the necessary supports to support people who are doing the most difficult and rewarding job of all, namely, parenting.

I welcome the fact that the Minister has acknowledged that when the new child and family support agency comes on stream, there will be an evidence-based approach in terms of putting in structures to support parenting. In my constituency of Longford-Westmeath, one finds Triple P - the Positive Parenting Programme, which is a very positive development of which the Minister is aware. That programme is being expanded to Laois and Offaly in the coming year. There are schemes out there but we want to ensure the best schemes and a more uniform approach are used because at the moment, a more diverse approach is used depending on what part of the country one lives in. The new child and family support agency should be charged with ensuring that we have the best possible scheme in place to support our parents who are doing the most difficult and rewarding job of all.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald There is a huge range of parenting programmes that are in very big demand around the country. Significant numbers of Irish parents are availing of supports out there be they through family resource centres, local voluntary groups or counselling services. We have research about what models of intervention work and that research is coming on stream more and more. For example, we know that public health nurses are doing really effective work with young, lone parents in supporting their parenting and that those interventions have really worked. Public health nurses throughout the country are a significant resource. That is one aspect of the work that is being done.

The new area-based approach to child poverty gives us an opportunity to build in supports for the most vulnerable families about which Deputy Ó Caoláin spoke. Certainly building in parenting programmes to that work and area-based poverty initiatives will be very important. There is a significant range of work ongoing. It is important to say again that for the vast majority of Irish children, Irish childhood and parenting have changed beyond recognition in terms of greater sensitivity to the needs of children, listening to the views of children and putting the best interests of the child at the centre of considerations. That is the reality for most Irish children. We have identified more vulnerable children in the State of the Nation's Children reports. They can be immigrant children, Traveller children and children exposed to poverty. For those children, these kinds of extra supports to parents can make all the difference to the quality of their lives. I agree with Deputy Troy that we need to examine the various programmes to ensure we are supplying the kind of programmes that we know are effective and work well. The Triple P programme is one example. In other countries, they have taken a range of these programmes and decided that certain programmes will get Government support and we should do the same here. They would be the ones that have proved to be effective in supporting parents.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.

Estimates for Public Services 2013: Message from Select Committee

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Select Sub-Committee on the Department of the Taoiseach has completed its consideration of Votes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 for the year ending 31 December 2013.

  The Dáil adjourned at 5.50 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 14 May 2013.

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