Wednesday, 19 November 2014
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
Child Protection Services
21. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the degree to which his Department remains in touch with the various child support agencies with a view to early and strategic intervention in cases of a potential threat to the well-being of children in situations where the extent of vulnerability may lead to depression and/or self-harm; the extent to which structures are in place to monitor such situations on an ongoing basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43961/14]
There is a wide range of child support services available through both the statutory and non statutory sectors. These include services provided through Government Departments, other state agencies and an extensive network of non governmental organisations. In the area of child welfare and protection services we now have, with the establishment this year of the Child and Family Agency, the necessary structure to ensure the provision of a more responsive and integrated service to children and young people at risk. The Agency, in discharging its functions, is placing a strong emphasis on prevention, early intervention, family support, therapeutic and care interventions, all of which are key to the provision of integrated, multi-disciplinary services for vulnerable children and families.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services services are currently being provided by arrangement with the Health Service Executive.
The Child and Family Agency and the HSE have in place both a Memorandum of Understanding and a Joint Protocol to underpin the provision of these services for children. The purpose of the Memorandum of Understanding and the Joint Protocol is to set out arrangements for collaborative working by the Agencies in order to ensure the provision of efficient, effective and proportionate services for children and families across the full range of health and social care services. The arrangements also specify a pathway and associated responsibilities for children and families where their care needs cross the Child and Family Agency and the HSE.
Both agreements are subject to regular monitoring and review to ensure that they are working effectively in the best interests of children and families. Additionally, the Agency and the HSE are working to finalise a service level agreement to underpin the provision of psychology services by the HSE. This will determine the quantum of service needed to meet the Agency’s requirements in this area, and will operate as an interim arrangement pending the Agency providing the service directly.
Separately, my Department chairs an Inter Departmental Group on the implementation of Children First. This group works to ensure that all bodies working with children, including those with particular vulnerabilities, are aware of their responsibilities with regard to the welfare and protection of children and are provided with the necessary training and guidance to support them in this work.
My Department has a range of systems in place to ensure it is informed of risk to children and the measures put in place to minimise these risks. Monthly, quarterly and annual reports are received from the Child and Family Agency in respect of its functions, including detailed reporting on key performance indicators. Officials frequently meet with the Agency to review areas in need of improvement. There are also protocols in place for the Agency to inform the Minister and the Department of specific issues where risk is identified and to ensure that a robust management response is put in place.