Alliance Responds to Child and Family Agency Bill 2013 - The legal foundation for fixing a broken system

Published date: 
12 Jul 2013
Friday, 12 July 2013: For immediate release
Press Release
Alliance Responds to Child and Family Agency Bill 2013 – The legal foundation for fixing a broken system
The Children’s Rights Alliance welcomes today’s publication of the Child and Family Agency Bill 2013. The Bill provides for the establishment of a new Agency, bringing together the HSE Child and Family Services, the Family Support Agency, the National Education Welfare Board, and services relating to the psychological welfare of children, and to domestic, sexual and gender based violence. 
Maria Corbett, Acting Chief Executive of the Alliance, says: “This Bill is critically important. It provides the legal foundation stone upon which the Child and Family Agency will be built. We know our system is broken: this Bill must begin to fix this dysfunctional system. On a first reading we welcome many aspects of the Bill, but are concerned that it has not gone far enough to firmly ground the Agency in children’s rights.”
“The Bill requires that the Agency will “have regard to the best interests of the child in all matters” (Section 9(1)). While this provision is welcome, we believe it should go further so that the best interests be the paramount consideration in all aspects of the Agency’s work. This would better mirror the sentiments of the People of Ireland who passed a referendum last November enshrining the principle of the best interests of the child into our law.”
“Under the Bill the Agency is required to consult with children when planning and reviewing its services (Section 9(3)). Where its functions relate to two specific pieces of legislation (Child Care Act 1991 and Adoption Act 2010), it is required to hear and take into account the views of the child (Section 9(4)). But these provisions are not new, they already exist in law.”
“We believe the Bill does not go far enough. The Agency must listen to children on all matters affecting their lives. The child's right to have his or her views heard and taken on board must be clearly enshrined in the Bill. Within each damning report on child protection, the common thread was that the child’s views were invisible. This theme was central to the Children’s Referendum.”
“We will be examining the Bill closely over the coming week. We will be exploring how the functions can include a requirement to promote equality; how the focus on family support and early intervention can be strengthened; how to ensure strong co-operation between agencies and professionals; and how the Bill interacts with family law, in particular the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964.”
“The Agency has the potential to revolutionise the delivery of Ireland’s child and family services leading to better outcomes for children and their families. The Alliance acknowledges the work of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD and her departmental officials in producing this important legislation and we look forward to engaging in discussions on the Bill as it progresses through the Oireachtas.” 
For further information, please contact:
Emma McKinley, Communications and Development Manager
Tel: (01) 662 9400 / 087-7702845
Notes to Editor:
The Child and Family Agency Bill can be found here
Children’s Rights Alliance Briefing Note on the Child and Family Agency, June 2013, see
Children’s Rights Alliance Report Card 2013 (Section 5.1, pages 62-66) focuses on the new agency, see
The Alliance has established a working group of its members on the Child and Family Agency to support its work on this important issue
The Alliance held a symposium entitled ‘Embedding a Children’s Rights Approach into the new Child and Family Support Agency’ on 27 February 2013. You can view speakers here
Children's Rights Alliance