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Written Answers - Child Care Services

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 765 No. 3

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 445.  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 available to her Department the necessary resources to identify and protect children at risk; the extent of the positive effect of her office in respect of such children in the current year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24326/12]

 450.  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 is satisfied regarding the adequacy of legislation, support and alert services to prevent all forms of child abuse including sexual abuse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24332/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Question Nos. 445 and 450 together.

The HSE has statutory responsibility for the provision of child welfare and protection services. My Department is working closely with the HSE to ensure that the priorities set out in the 2012 National Service Plan are implemented where they relate to children and family services. The Government has made additional budgeting provision of €19m for child welfare and protection services compared to the funding made available last year. This compares to a reduction of €14m which was made in the HSE’s 2011 National Service Plan. The additional funding made available for 2012 provides further impetus to the comprehensive reform of service delivery which is underway and which is aimed at generating the best possible outcomes for vulnerable children and families.

The creation of a dedicated Department of Children and Youth Affairs was a commitment in the Programme for Government and sent out a very positive message in terms of how seriously the provision of children and family services is viewed by Government. As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs I have, in conjunction with the HSE’s National Director, Gordon Jeyes, set an ambitious programme of work, one which is designed to significantly strengthen the policy, legislative and practice framework in which we operate. Our shared goal is the delivery of appropriate, effective and consistent services, notwithstanding the very challenging and demanding circumstances in which these services are delivered. As part of this work significant structural and legislative changes are under way. This includes the establishment of the new Child and Family Support Agency with dedicated responsibility for the delivery of child welfare and protection services, separate from the HSE and reporting directly to my Department through its Chief Executive. The Government’s reform programme for these services also includes the external inspection of child protection services by HIQA. Draft standards to be inspected against have been published by HIQA and following consultation on these standards, inspections are scheduled to commence later this year.

[479]The Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children provides greater clarity and guidance for individuals and organisations in identifying and responding appropriately to child abuse and neglect. The revised Guidance stresses that the responsibility for child protection lies across all organisations and, whilst the HSE and the Garda have particular roles in assessment and prosecution of allegations, working across sectors is essential to good outcomes. The HSE subsequently launched its Child Protection and Welfare Practice Handbook, a practice-based publication aimed primarily at social workers, although it may be informative to others working in child protection.


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