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Other Questions - Departmental Programmes

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 765 No. 3

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 95.  Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris  asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  the date on which she will publish her Department’s early years strategy. [23962/12]

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald My Department is developing a new children and young people’s policy framework to cover the period from 2012 to 2017. It will build on Our Children — Their Lives, Ireland’s first children’s strategy, which was published in 2000. This high-level policy framework will also facilitate the preparation of a number of more detailed strategies, including Ireland’s first ever national early years strategy. The early years strategy will be developed during 2012 and cover a range of issues affecting children in their first years of life, such as health, family support, learning and development and care and education, and it will identify the structures and policies needed to improve early year’s experience in Ireland.

I have appointed an expert advisory group comprising external experts from a range of specialties, including paediatrics, early childhood care and education, child protection and public health nursing, and it is now in place, chaired by Dr. Eilis Hennessy of UCD. The first meeting will be held shortly. A public consultation will shortly be commenced as part of the consultation on the overall children and young people’s policy framework. There will be further focused consultation with key stakeholders later this year with regard to early years, and I invite the Deputies to be involved in that consultation. I hope there will be a seminar later in the year on the development of the policy.

The new children and young people’s policy framework is being developed in a holistic way to comprehend the continuum from infancy, through early and middle childhood, to adolescence through to early adulthood. I intend that this will be the overarching framework under which policy and services for children and young people will be developed and implemented in the State. The policy framework will allow an opportunity to address emerging issues affecting children and young people, such as the impact of new technologies, media and consumerism. It also provides an important opportunity for cross-departmental collaboration to promote the well-being of children, which is essential to putting in place an holistic strategy that is required.

[243]Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

I am keen to ensure that the new policy framework will be informed by the views of children themselves as well the experience and expertise of a wide range of stakeholders in matters of interest to children and young people. The new policy framework will be informed by the results of a consultation, which I launched in 2011, in which almost 67,000 children and young people throughout the country participated, as well as the advice of the National Children’s Advisory Council, which comprises representatives of a range of organisations, both statutory and non-statutory, that work with children and young people. As stated, plans are being finalised in my Department for a further strand of public consultation to capture the views of a wide range of other stakeholders. It is envisaged that the consultation arrangement will be in place in the coming weeks.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin The first children’s strategy document, Our Children — Their Lives, was published in 2000. The Minister is aware that a significant number of intentions forming part of that strategy have not been realised over the intervening 12 years. Will the Minister give us a detailed outline of the areas that have not been addressed or addressed fully? Will she assure us that they will be given priority for consideration and inclusion in the new strategy that will be published shortly?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Of course, it makes absolute sense if we are forming a new strategy to review the old one, examine what has been implemented and consider outstanding issues. The new strategy will be more comprehensive, illustrated by the fact that there was not a focus on the early years which I am now establishing with the policy group; we will have a detailed strategy on those early years. We will examine the areas where there has been good success and where there is ongoing work to be done. I will revert to the Deputy.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin The report indicated “children will be provided with the financial supports necessary to eliminate child poverty”. We are all well aware of the reality in which we live today, and an end to child poverty has not come about for many children, as they face poverty in daily life experience. There are also measures relating to social exclusion, particularly the fact that many children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds will never realise their full potential. There is a need, in bringing forward a new strategy, to do all that is humanly possible to overcome the imbalance, giving every child a real chance in this society.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I was pleased the Government could give extra resources to my Department last year for child protection and to maintain the early years universal free pre-school year. An extra €19 million was provided so those services could be available to young children. That is a protective action for young people and we will continue it so that early years services can be protected.


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