Limerick-East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 and 128 together. In cases of alleged abuse, including sexual abuse, of children by any person, the primary role of health boards is the protection, welfare and support of the child victim as provided for under the Child Care Act, 1991. In relation to health board hospitals, health boards also have statutory powers under the Health Act, 1970 to deal with staff against whom allegations of misconduct or unfitness to hold office are made.
As sexual abuse is a criminal offence, the statutory power for dealing with allegations against perpetrators rests with the Garda Síochána. Procedures for dealing with the notification of suspected cases of child abuse between the health boards and the Garda were launched last year. My Department is currently carrying out a review of the arrangements in place to protect vulnerable clients and patients of the health services from abuse, not only arrangements in hospitals but in all other sectors of the service. Discussions have taken place with the main employers in the health services on the adequacy of existing arrangements and the need for further safeguards. Further discussions are planned with the professional bodies and staff associations. The aim of the review is to ensure that, as far as possible, abuse is prevented in the health and social services but that if it does occur, it is brought to light quickly, that the matter is fully addressed in accordance with agreed Protocols and that all necessary steps are taken to prevent a recurrence of the abuse.