Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Child Care Workers.

Liz O'Donnell

Question:

38 Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Health the investigations currently being made into the suitability of persons working with children in residential care centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [932/94]

Responsibility for ensuring the suitability of persons working with children in residential care centres is primarily a matter for the employing authority of the centre concerned.

However, in view of recent allegations of child sexual abuse in certain residential child care centres, I am taking steps to ensure greater vigilance in the selection of staff in these centres. A working group which includes representatives of my Department, health boards, Residential Managers' Association, Conference of Religious of Ireland and the Irish Association of Care Workers is reviewing the guidelines on recruitment of child care workers which were first issued by my Department in 1979. As part of this process, agreement has recently been reached with the Department of Justice and the Garda Síochána to introduce a formal system of Garda clearance for applicants for posts in the children's residential centres.

While this system will be an important useful addition to the selection procedures, it cannot, of itself, be a guarantee that unsuitable persons are prevented from working in residential child care. I urge all concerned with the recruitment of staff to be constantly vigilant in all aspects of the selection procedures to ensure the safety and protection of children in residential care.

When does the Minister intend to publish the report on the allegations of sexual abuse in Madonna House given that it is in the public interest to do so and that former employees of Madonna House are living under a cloud of suspicion in terms of their future employment prospects?

As foster care is now used in the main to accommodate children who formerly would have been placed in residential care will the Minister explain why 80 per cent of the current stock of foster parents — as indicated in a recent report — have never attended a review of the children in their care?

These are two separate issues. I have not yet received a report on Madonna House. I am anxious, in accordance with any report that has come to my attention since I became Minister for Health, to make it as public as possible. Obviously I will have to look at the contents of the report to ensure that it does not reflect on individuals against whom allegations were made but not proceeded with by the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as to ensure confidentiality — which is paramount — in the cases of the children concerned. With those caveats I am anxious that the core of the report, including the recommendations, will be a public document.

I am aware of the report on fostering the Deputy mentioned. The Department of Health requires some form of training for all foster parents and any gaps in the procedures in a certain health board area have been examined on foot of those findings——

It is not the Eastern Health Board, it is in the southern region.

The Deputy is correct, it is not the Eastern Health Board and I am determined that all health boards will comply to the same high standards and measures have already been put in place to ensure that.