Written Answers. - Child Care Act.
Minister for Health
the action, if any, he has taken to ensure that all the provisions of the Child Care Act, 1991, will be brought into effect immediately; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As the House will be aware, the central recommendation of the report of the Kilkenny incest investigation was that the necessary resources be made available to faciliate the implementation of all sections of the Child Care Act, 1991, and in particular Parts III to VI which deal with the taking of children into care, court proceedings and the powers and duties of health boards in relation to children in their care.
This recommendation was accepted by the Government as the single biggest contribution which could be made towards promoting the welfare of children and protecting those who are at risk. Over the last two years, additional resources totalling £20 million have been made available to develop child care services in preparation for the introduction of the Act. Among the developments approved were; the creation of over 370 new posts for the child care services around the country, including child psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and child care workers, the provision of additional hostel places for homeless children, the establishment of new family resource centres and community support projects to assist disadvantaged children, the expansion of the homemaker and home help services to help families in diffculty and the establishment of community mothers programmes in a number of boards, increased financial support to pre-school services in areas of social deprivation and the provision of additional places and the development of foster care and other alternative family placement services.
The policy agreement between the Government parties,A Government of Renewal, contains a commitment to the rapid implementation of the Child Care Act. The Government's determination to honour this commitment is reflected in the fact that the Health Estimate for 1995 includes provision for additional funding of £10 million for child care services. This will facilitate the commencement by the end of the year of Parts III, IV, V and VI which deal respectively with the protection of children in emergencies, care proceedings and the powers and duties of health boards in relation to children in their care. These provisions will greatly strengthen the powers of the courts, the health boards and the Garda to intervene effectively in relation to child abuse and neglect. As I have already indicated, the need for the early implementation of these key provisions was underlined in the Kilkenny incest report.
Extensive preparatory work is currently under way in my Department regarding the next phase of implementation. Two working groups were established to assist my Department in the preparation of initial drafts of new regulations relating to foster care and residential care. The foster care group has completed its task and the draft foster care regulations have been circulated to interested parties for their comments prior to being finalised. The residential care working group has produced draft guidelines on standards in children's residential centres which have also been circulated for comment to relevant interest groups.
As Minister of State with special responsibility for co-ordinating and implementing the Child Care Act, it is my firm intention that the legislation in its entirely will be brought into operation within the shortest timescale possible in line with the commitment contained inA Government of Renewal.