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Written Answers - Child Protection

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 765 No. 3

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 452.  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 steps she has taken and continues to take to ensure the protection of children from sex offenders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24334/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald There are a range of legislative and policy provisions in place to protect children from sex offenders. A number of these, such as the Sex Offenders Register and the forthcoming National Vetting Bureau Bill, fall within the remit of the Minister for Justice and Equality.

As regards the Children and Family Services of the Health Service Executive, under the Child Care Act 1991 an assessment of risk will be carried out by child protection social workers in all instances where concerns around sexual or potential sexual abuse are raised. Based on the outcome of such an assessment, appropriate measures will be put in place to ensure that children are protected from any such individual or group. The HSE is also represented on the national committee of an inter-departmental project aimed at the management of high risk sexual offenders in the Community.

The Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children, which I published in 2011, provides clarity and guidance for individuals and organisations in identifying and responding appropriately to child abuse and neglect. It also sets out what organisations that care for or work with children should do to ensure they are safe whilst in the care of the organisation. The Government has committed, as a priority, to the introduction of legislation to underpin Children First and the Heads of the Bill have been prepared and submitted to the Committee for Health and Children for their consideration.

While draft heads of the Bill have been prepared, they will only be finalised once the Committee has concluded its deliberations. Under the proposed legislation organisations will be charged with ensuring that children are safe while receiving services. This will be done by statutory underpinning of vetting, general recruitment practices, training of staff in Children First and reporting concerns of abuse both within the organisation and abuse that may be occurring elsewhere.

In addition, vetting of staff working with children is in place and being expanded across a range of sectors in advance of the forthcoming legislation being advanced by my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality.

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