Thursday, 6 May 2010
Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2009: Report and Final Stages
Ciarán Cannon (Fine Gael)
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 6, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:
"3.—The Minister shall within three months of the commencement of this Act, publish a report on the provision of secure care under this Act which shall include consideration of how such provision compares with best practice internationally.".
I welcome the Minister of State. This amendment has been submitted by Fine Gael because it believes the Bill gives us, as a nation, an opportunity to address meaningfully the shortcomings of our child care system. If the amendment is accepted, it will represent a strong signal from the Government of its intent to ensure the highest standards of care are achieved in all care facilities, particularly the secure care facilities to which this legislation pertains. My colleague, Senator Fitzgerald, pointed out during the Committee Stage debate that a stay in a secure unit should be a positive and therapeutic experience for a child, but, unfortunately, the opposite seems to be the case for many children. When I listened to a recent radio interview with Ms Louise Rafter, I was deeply saddened by her account of her experience in a secure unit. She described how, as a ten year old girl, she had been incarcerated in a bare-walled room that had a bed glued to the floor. She was left there for two weeks in pain and distress.
The amendment would require the Minister to give a commitment that within three months he or she would "publish a report on the provision of secure care under this Act". The Minister of State may consider the relevant period should be extended to six or 12 months. This proposal would ensure the experience of Ms Rafter and many others like her was never repeated.
A recently published HSE report, Inspiring Confidence in Children and Family Services: Putting Children First and Meaning It, concluded that when children were taken into care, factors such as the age of entry into care and the speed with which action was taken to rehabilitate or find long-term alternatives were critical. It was chilling to learn in the report that a child over the age of ten years who had been in care for more than one year was likely to remain in care for the rest of his or her childhood.
I welcome the Minister of State's response on Committee Stage when he indicated that he wanted to adhere to or surpass the very best international child care practice. The amendment proposes that he should commission a report to establish how our services stand up to scrutiny and compare with best international practice. If the Minister of State seeks to reject the amendment, I will wonder why that is the case. I look forward to hearing his response.