Dublin 1 January 2014
Today marks the first official day of the newly established Child and Family Agency. The Children’s Rights Alliance welcomes the entry into force of the new Agency - the centrepiece of Minister Frances Fitzgerald’s legislative agenda.
Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance Tanya Ward said, “The new Agency will completely reform the child protection and family support landscape in Ireland.
Anyone involved in child protection or welfare has known for years that the system is broken. Countless reports have pointed to a number of failings in a dysfunctional system; where cooperation between agencies is poor, responses to welfare concerns are too late and frontline services are struggling to cope”.
The new Agency will absorb the child protection and welfare services currently carried out by the HSE. It will also include the Family Support Agency, the National Education Welfare Board, Pre-School Inspection services and services relating to the psychological welfare of children and to domestic, sexual and gender based violence.
“We acknowledge the work of Minister Fitzgerald and her officials with this significant example of public sector reform to deal with a pressing problem”, Tanya Ward said. “We welcome, in particular, that two of the key principles of the United Nations on the Rights of the Child are enshrined into the law underpinning the new body; namely the ‘best interests of the child’ and the ‘voice of the child’.
Agency workers will be required to consider the best interests of the child when making certain decisions regarding him or her and there will be a legal requirement to listen to the views of the child regarding that decision. This is a positive development strengthening children’s rights in Irish law.
A number of issues remain to be ironed out, however, including the carry-over of a deficit from the HSE into the new agency. We are also concerned that social workers who are the backbone of the child protection system are not being replaced when they go on maternity leave, placing even greater pressure on an already stressed system. The recent Child Care Law Reporting Project also unearthed a considerable disparity when dealing with child welfare concerns nationwide.
The intention behind this Agency is to improve the lot of children and families in Ireland.
The Irish child protection system has been bedevilled for many years by inconsistent and inadequate services. Hopefully with this new Agency, we can leave this damaging legacy behind us”.