Thursday, 6 May 2010
Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2009: Report and Final Stages
Barry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
I will address the specific issues raised by Senator Cannon. He is right in saying a stay in special care should be a positive and therapeutic intervention on behalf of a child. In the Health Information and Quality Authority's report on special care produced at the end of last year the authority broadly agreed that such outcomes were being achieved.
When one is having a debate of this nature, there is a danger that one will confuse special care orders and other care orders. In this legislation we are dealing with secure detention for a specific period of time, as ordered by the High Court. That should be distinguished from foster care, residential care and other forms of high support care.
The Senator mentioned the case of Ms Louise Rafter who, at the age of ten years, would have been too young for a special care order for secure care. I have met Ms Rafter who is a very eloquent spokesperson for children in care. There has been a shortage of young people who are willing to stand up for and on behalf of children. Ordinary kids have their parents or their schools to advocate on their behalf. We need to listen to what young children who are or have been in care have to say. Ms Rafter is a credit to others who had to avail of these services.
The Senator also mentioned the PA Consulting report which was commissioned by the HSE. It provides an honest appraisal of what is wrong and what needs to be done. It is part of the reform process, in which I have been involved since my appointment. I hope it will deliver results.
On amendment No. 1, last year the Children Acts Advisory Board commissioned an independent report on special care. The report will give us the information the amendment intends to elicit. Further research is being undertaken by Social Information Systems Limited, in addition to that of the steering group of the Children Acts Advisory Board. The HSE and the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs are represented in these endeavours. It is hoped a comprehensive report will be finalised and published in the coming weeks.
Section 8 of the Child Care Act 1991 requires the HSE to produce an annual review of the adequacy of all its services under the legislation. Such reviews are now published much more contemporaneously than they were before the last couple of years. I chair monthly meetings with the HSE, at which the issue of special care is reviewed. A specialist with responsibility for this area is in place and introducing changes. I do not believe, therefore, that the amendment is necessary, for the reasons I have outlined. I ask the Deputy to withdraw it.