Seanad debates

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Registration of Births

12:00 pm

Photo of Marie SherlockMarie Sherlock (Labour) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House. At this point, there is a very real and serious problem with families being able to register the births of their newborn babies and get a birth certificate for that child. A child born in Cork today will have a birth registered in two to three days. If that same child was born in Dublin the wait for an appointment for registration would be weeks and in some cases months. I know of a child born four weeks ago and the date for the registration of the birth is 16 December. Waiting matters because families cannot access child benefit or the GP card. We know that in some instances it delays housing applications. I know of families that have had to pay for an infant baby to go to a GP because they do not have the free GP card. For low-income families or single parents having to pay for everything themselves or for families with a good income but paying exorbitant rents, the waiting matters because of the GP card, child benefit and other supports from the State.

There is a failure on the part of the HSE and the Department of Health to address the enormous backlog that exists in Dublin. There is an irony that if I had a baby today I could drive to Meath or Louth in two or three days' time and register the baby's birth but in Dublin I would be waiting for many weeks. Nobody should have to commute any number of miles, particularly after the birth of a baby, to get the baby registered. There is a very real question as to what the HSE is doing. I understand there is a backlog of between 500 to 600 applications for the registration of births that arose from the time when people could only apply online. We have the culmination of those applications online plus people waiting for an appointment. It is intolerable that in November parents and families are waiting.

This is not the totality of the problem. Trying to register the birth of a child is one thing; trying to get a birth certificate is another matter. When I came to these problems there was a strong whiff of the wild west about trying to purchase a birth certificate in this country. At present, people in Dublin are directed to order a birth certificate online. It is made clear there is no facility to order a birth certificate over the phone. The HSE website suggests there is no walk-in facility. Last week, I informed the Seanad that families had come to me who in desperation had rung the civil registration office and were told to put money in an envelope. They received the birth certificate within a few days. A family told me they needed a birth certificate to get the child baptised and the church directed them to the civil registration office in Kilkenny from where they received the certificate in a few days. Another family told me an official in the office told them there were 19,000 unread emails regarding applications for birth certificates.

Of most concern to me is that families told me they were able to purchase a birth certificate from third parties. This day four weeks ago, we engaged in an experiment of sorts whereby a family allowed me to purchase a birth certificate for a baby who was only a few weeks old. The mother went through the civil registration service on Lombard Street on the same day. I paid €46 and she paid €21.50. I received the baby's birth certificate within six days. She is still waiting four weeks later.There is something wrong with a system where families are forced to pay extra to get a birth certificate. If these third parties and companies are able to go to civil registration offices outside Dublin and purchase birth certificates at a profit to sell back to families, the question must be asked as to why is the HSE not doing something similar. Why is it not distributing the caseload that has built up in Dublin to other civil registration offices across the country? Not only does it make a mockery of the State, but it is unnecessarily forces parents to pay extra. It is also important to note that there is a risk, when people are handing their money over, that they may never see the birth certificate. One company, Births, Deaths and Marriages, which was taking up to €50 from people, went belly-up in the past number of weeks. People handed over the money and ended up with no birth certificate. I look forward to hearing the Minister of State's response.


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