Thursday, 21 October 2021
Child and Family Agency (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage (Resumed)
I am glad to have an opportunity to speak on this important Bill.
From my experience dealing with welfare issues in respect of children, there are one or two things to note, one of which is continuity. Continuity is hugely important to the child. Children are at a very formative age and, particularly if they have had disturbances in the past, are very conscious of who they are dealing with and become very quickly alert to what the attitude is and where they are and where they are going. They therefore need reassurance. They also need continuity in respect of whatever treatment they get, whether it is psychological treatment, attention of a particular kind or education. It needs to be consistent. A psychologist once explained to me that in a child's life six months could be a very long time, the equivalent of four or five years to an adult. I think that is why when we look at it from that point of view we realise more than ever that the important things to the child are continuity, confidence in the system and recognition that the system is on the child's side and will help and support him or her and that there will be a voice to give advice and a listening, sympathetic ear in order that the child will know where he or she is going and have some idea as to what to expect in the future. One of things I have noticed over the years is that simple follow-up action, whatever that action may be and whatever is required, must be continuous and seamless and there to access through the least effort because, again, we are dealing with the welfare of a child. In some cases there may well be reticence within the home or the institution or whatever the case may be and the child may then be at a crossroads. If one thing is certain, it must be that when children have confidence that somebody is on their side, they can go forward in the clear knowledge that not everybody dislikes them and, if they have particular problems, they will get help with them. They need reassurance, and that reassurance is hugely important when it comes to making progress. Fundamental to that progress are continuity and support.
The last point I will make is about any delay. Deputy Bacik referred to this earlier in the context of Covid. Anything that interrupts the stream of the system of assistance or support or whatever else will cause a problem for the child unless that reassurance comes through again. It is important we recognise that this Bill is an improvement and will produce that continuity and ensure that that theme continues. This will happen at a time when the child is in a learning mode. There is no sense in having one part of the child's treatment in one Department and another part of the child's treatment in a different Department. It does not make for good administration, confidence or the best possible assistance to the child. It is hugely important, as we proceed from here, that the issues that might have arisen or that have arisen in the past in respect of seamlessness are addressed and, as a result of that, that the welfare of children in general will benefit. As public representatives, we come across the issues that arise fairly regularly. We may say two or three cases at a given time does not seem a lot, but to the individual households and the individual children who are affected and find themselves in those situations they are huge lifelong issues that may never go away. The manner in which their situations are treated at that time is of critical importance. I believe this Bill is the right decision and goes in the right direction and I am happy to support it. If I had other things to say, I would be only too willing to say them. I support the Bill entirely.