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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 28 Nov 2001

Vol. 545 No. 2

Family Support Agency Bill, 2001: Report Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
In page 5, line 10, after "matters" to insert "and in this regard to co-operate with other public authorities in providing information to assist persons in balancing their work and family responsibilities".
–(Minister for Social, Community and
Family Affairs).

The amendment allows the family support agency to provide information and co-operate with other public authorities to assist persons in balancing their work and family responsibilities. It is important this comes within the remit of the agency and I am glad the Minister has brought forward this amendment. We have a poor record in supporting families in trying to balance work and family responsibilities. When comparisons are made it becomes clear that other European countries have been way ahead of us in providing supportive child care and more family friendly work policies. I note the amendment allows the family support agency co-operate with other public authorities. The Equality Authority is one group I would like to see it linking with, and perhaps some initiatives could result from them working together.

The current arrangements are not without their difficulties. We have a combination of career breaks, part-time work, maternity leave, parental leave and carers' leave and there is a need for streamlining and for more information to be given to people. I believe the agency will provide a very good facility for supporting families in that regard. In relation to maternity protection legislation, many employees are running into difficulties. Female employees returning to work are not given their "old" job back but many employers are offering what purports to be suitable alternative employment which, in many cases, is not suitable alternative employment. Such employees believe they are being discriminated against arising from the fact that they took maternity leave. I presume a case of that nature would go to the Equality Authority or the Labour Court but a situation could arise where an individual or a couple needing help in relation to other issues would turn up at a family support agency seeking advice and support. It is important to have that provided for in the terms of reference.

There is another area of difficulty in relation to nurses who want permanent part-time positions and, although there is an agreement to allow that, they are finding it difficult to get the relevant authority to support that option. There is a real role for the agency in examining this issue, becoming well informed on it and working with the other authorities, as provided for in the Minister's amendment, such as the Equality Authority, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the employer bodies and the trade unions in order to get information to people on best practice in relation to family friendly policies and the various options. I welcome the inclusion of this in the terms of reference of the agency. We are still at a relatively early stage in relation to this important area, despite much discussion on it, and we are not particularly generous in providing flexible supports. The economic boom has helped and there has been some advance in recent times. However, from the statistics which Deputy Broughan quoted earlier on what is actually available, there is still quite a gap between what is available and what we would like to have available. I hope the Family Support Agency will play a strong role in that regard. I realise it is not really a primary task but, given the importance of this issue, it will certainly emerge in the work of the agency as a key issue.

Last week, in England, there was a very interesting ruling from the courts on the issue of whether employees have to do shift work where they are trying to combine work and family life. The decision was that the employers did not have the right to require the employee to do shift work. This would be seen as almost revolutionary in this country but it may well be indicative of how things will develop here and that employers will have to be more flexible. Irish employers fought against paid parental leave although practically every other country in Europe has introduced some form of paid parental leave. Very limited maternity leave arrangements have been accepted in this country and I welcome the recent changes which the Minister has made in that regard. The previous situation displayed a rather mean approach to supporting women and their partners in combining work and family life. Great credit is due to the many families who struggled to achieve that under difficult circumstances. I hope the agency will come forward with recommendations in this regard, drawing on the experience it will gain from working with families.

I have nothing further to say in terms of the amendment which I have brought forward. We will ask the agency to co-operate with other public authorities, including the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and all the other bodies I listed earlier. I recommend that the Deputies accept amendment No. 1.

I still consider amendment No. 2 a stronger amendment in providing for an advocacy role for the agency in relation to family friendly work practices. It should be campaigning in alliance with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, IBEC and other interested organisations. However, the Minister has come part of the way to meet us in this regard and perhaps it can be revisited at another time in the context of workers' rights legislation or in the context of reviewing the performance of the agency when its strategic plans have been developed. On that basis, I withdraw my amendment and I thank the Minister for his amendment No. 1.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 2 not moved.

Amendment No. 3 arises out of committee proceedings and is consequential on amendment No. 5. They may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 5, to delete lines 11 to 13 and substitute the following:

"(e) to support, promote and develop those projects in the Family and Community Services Resource Centres programme which elect to transfer to the Agency,".

These amendments and some similar amendments in the name of Deputy Fitzgerald are at the core of the problem – perhaps the only major problem the Opposition has had with this Bill. The family affairs unit is widely respected by community workers and those who work with families. When this Bill was first mooted, there was grave concern among a significant number of existing family resource centres whose primary function, as they saw it, related to social inclusion measures rather than the family mediation service. Against that background, many of the agencies concerned – the Community Action Network, the Resource Centre Forum, the regional and specialist support agencies and the community development national representatives – felt that the Minister did not engage in sufficiently wide consultation.

In his Second Stage speech, the Minister said he engaged in a wide series of family fora at which 1,000 people attended. Deputy Fitzgerald and I attended those fora. Some of the older family resource centres, in particular, were concerned about a lack of consultation as to how the new Family Support Agency would operate. I had many presentations in that regard from family resource centres around the country who felt that, to some extent, they were being put in a corner by the Minister and that, irrespective of whether they wanted to transfer to the agency, they had to do so. That is the essence of amendment No. 3. With regard to amendment No. 5, many of those centres felt it would be more appropriate for them, while working closely with the agency, to continue independently under the community development support project programme of the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs. That is the nub of the problem.

One of the key points to emerge from our consultations was that there has been an absence of an open and transparent consultation process with the key stakeholders of the CDSPS, including the national advisory committee, the community development projects, the family resource centre, core funded groups and regional and specialist support agencies, and that this has serious implications for the future operation of these programmes.

It is felt the strategic planning process which takes place nationally in this area will be undermined by the way the Bill was brought forward. The first principle of community development is that one should consult the community concerned but this has not been undertaken sufficiently by the Minister. Without information, choice or consultation, structures such as family resource centres are being moved into the new agency. They should have the fundamental right of self selection.

The way in which the Minister made this decision is in stark contradiction to the Government's commitment to consultation and partnership with the community and voluntary sectors, as detailed in the NDP, PPF, NAPS, the NAPS submitted to Brussels and, above all, in the White Paper on voluntary activity which was discussed at length in the House last year. It was generally felt that the lack of consultation and the diktat approach of telling certain resource centres where they had to go are a potential erosion of the social inclusion commitments in the national development plan. It fundamentally weakens the process of community development nationally by the transfer of neighbourhood projects from the explicitly anti-poverty context of the CDSPS to the mediation and counselling context of the family support agency.

As I mentioned on Committee Stage, there are still concerns. The mediation service is a professional service. I pay tribute to my former colleague, the former Minister, Deputy Mervyn Taylor, who played a dynamic role in the early development – I acknowledge this Minister has continued that development – and expansion of the mediation service beyond the Dublin region when he was a Minister in both the partnership and rainbow Governments of the early 1990s. He deserves great credit for his role in this area. However, there were concerns that people without qualifications would have to be involved in the specialist and demanding role of family mediation. The key point was that people in the community social inclusion and development sector, an area with which I am familiar and in which I was heavily involved before being elected to this House, were fearful that their role would be subsumed into other areas. They feared the impact on communities such as the 25 RAPID communities which comprise many deprived rural and urban areas. The remit of centres in those areas was to run all kinds of projects to improve social life and development in those areas. They fear that those projects could be in danger.

The obvious way out is to allow a certain amount of self-determination to the community groups concerned, even as this Bill is going through the Houses, by giving them the freedom to continue with the work of social inclusion through the community development programme or to elect to join the new agency. I have commended the Minister and your party, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle on their emphasis—

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle does not have a party when he is in the Chair.

—on the development of the family unit and family support policies. However, that could be undermined to an extent by giving social inclusion projects less importance in the implementation of this Bill. In the Dublin region the parish family resource centres, with which I am closely involved, took social inclusion as their remit when they were established. I referred on Committee Stage to the many ways, including the breakfast clubs for children of low income backgrounds, the anti-joyriding campaign, the anti-drugs campaign and the drugs task force, they try to deal with the severe exclusion problems that face families in certain deprived areas of society.

I hope the Minister will reconsider these amendments and offer a degree of flexibility. It does not mean centres could not elect, at some stage in the future and following extra consultation, to opt to join the support agency. In the meantime, they would have the flexibility to see how the agency develops. One of the Department's interesting areas is the community support programme. There is surely potential for developing that in the future into the broader socio-economic areas relating to jobs and provision of economic activity. I hope the Minister will accept the amendments and give a little discretion to our colleagues throughout the country.

There was a detailed discussion of this on Committee Stage. The Minister told the committee that his officials were due to meet the family resource centres within a few days. If that meeting has been held, I hope some of the difficulties with the family resource centres were resolved.

It is undoubtedly true that the way the Minister went about the establishment of the new family support agency raised concerns among the family resource centres. There has been a huge amount of lobbying by resource centres, which is an expression of their concern about the structures of the agency. That is a shame because there is enormous potential in this agency for the family resource centres, the mediation services and the counselling services to work together. However, the family resource centres felt a real anxiety, which is reflected in the amendments, at the beginning of the process of establishing the family support agency. I hope that has been dealt with because it is important they have confidence in the new agency. The way it was initiated, the centres' feeling of being outside the process and the lack of consultation they say they experienced in relation to its establishment will not, I hope, stymie the work of the agency or the centres' contributions to it.

The Minister also reassured us on Committee Stage that the work of the family resource centres would continue and, hopefully, develop in the future but that the community development ethos, as it were, and the goal of social inclusion would continue under the agency. It might be reassuring if the Minister would spell out in more detail the type of model he envisages the agency working under and the way the different strands will be incorporated. It will be a complex undertaking to ensure the three different strands are equally well supported. Much will depend on the chief executive, the board and their terms of reference. It is not an easy task to run these three different types of service under one roof. It could potentially offer much support to communities but it will not be without its difficulties. That is what is reflected in the amendment and what was expressed by the family resource centres when they met us.

I hope these anxieties have been dealt with. It is important that the energy in the family resource centres is brought into the new agency and that the initial difficulties around the establishment of the agency do not restrict the enthusiasm, commitment and expertise of the centres from reaching its full potential in the new agency. The Minister felt he could not accept the amendments on Committee Stage. He believed he could not include them in legislation because some of the concepts, such as community development, were too vague. However, he did reassure both Members and the agencies concerned that the ethos and type of work in which the three differ ent groups have been involved will continue in the new agency.

If there is anything further the Minister would like to add following the meeting that he was going to have with the family resource centres, I would be interested in hearing it. I hope there has been progress and that there will be ongoing progress in relation to this.

I thank the Deputies for their remarks. In relation to these amendments I must say that I have a much more optimistic view of life than they might perhaps have in relation to this aspect.

We are total optimists.

Maybe that is just the way I am. I travelled the country with my officials and held family fora in at least eight different locations where over 1,000 people attended. All the issues in relation to the family policy area were thrashed out. All the partners in the voluntary community activity in the country were invited and most of them attended. The Family Mediation Service also attended to discuss the issues of family mediation. Deputy Broughan is quite correct when he says that the former Minister, Deputy Mervyn Taylor did a lot of work when he was there. There has been a dramatic change in the past four years – I do not mean in a political way but in a factual way. The Family Mediation Service had two centres, one in Dublin and one in Limerick, when I came to office; today there are 11 centres. The money for the mediation service has quadrupled in that four year period. We would have had another centre up and running in the north west but for the fact that there is no available qualified mediator in that area. We will be opening another mediation service in Blanchardstown.

In the area of marriage counselling, I can well remember when I came to office the amount of money that had been available for marriage counselling grants. It was in the region of £900,000 and had been stuck at that level for a number of years. It has increased exponentially over the last four years to somewhere over £4.5 million. Huge resources have been put into this area. We have even diverted some of the resources into the area of marriage preparation and into bereavement counselling. We have diverted some of the money that we had for counselling into the area of research. We indicated on Committee Stage the work that has been carried out in that respect.

The third component which is the one at issue in this amendment is the family resource centres. This Government promised that we would increase the numbers of family resource centres which had numbered about ten for the previous ten years since they were initiated by my predecessor, Deputy Woods, in 1990. Ten projects were up and running in 1997. We stated in our programme for Government that we would increase the numbers dramatically – up to 100 over the term of this Government. There are already 80 up and running and there are proposals for more.

We could have stood still – we could have had the family affairs unit dealing with these three areas and other areas to do with family policy as they arise. The view was – and I know the Deputies do not disagree with this – that we should have a separate, dedicated agency with expertise on the board that was not available to us in the Department, in order to further expand those three main core areas and to look at new areas of family policy. That is why we decided to set up the agency.

It was acknowledged in the discussions that it would be somewhat ludicrous to have a family support agency and at the same time have family resource centres outside the agency. It would not be possible. It was the strong view of Government that family resource centres would have to be included in the family support agency when it was established. The family resource centres could then go from strength to strength doing exactly what they have been doing. It is not correct for Deputy Broughan to say that they will change the focus or that the focus will be changed because of this change. Built into the legislation is an onus on the agency and on the family resource centres to continue in the role of examining social inclusion in the communities where they operate.

I made these points on Second and Committee Stages. Deputy Fitzgerald spoke about consultation and even since Committee Stage there has been a meeting with the support agencies. Support agencies are the network groups which assist the various family resource centres and community development projects. We had a meeting with the support agencies. I met the family resource centres staff at the launch of the forum in the Mansion House. The forum represents about 40 of the 80 resource centres. There is a logic – and I do not understand why people say otherwise – in having the resource centres as part of the support agencies. To allow one to elect to remain outside the family support agency would in my view lead to a dissipation of the core issues. If family resource centres were allowed to remain outside while some chose to stay in, ultimately the centres which chose to stay outside would not really have the core principle of what family resource centres are about – assisting families in the locality. That is not to say that they would not continue to have the whole idea of developing their local community. I cannot see the logic in what the Deputy is suggesting in this amendment – that they can elect to be one or the other. The family resource centres engage with the local communities; they work with the local communities particularly in the area of preservation of family relationships.

I can assure the Deputies that the position of the officials within my Department and I as Minister is that the family unit will continue, the Minister will still have responsibility in the area, the family resource centres when part of the support agency will not only continue to do their work as carried out over the years but they will be able to develop in a co-ordinated fashion with better expertise. I say that with due respect to the people in my Department over the years. I ask the Deputies not to take a negative view. I do not mean that as a criticism because I know they must accept the representations. I am somewhat surprised that people have such a negative view of what is being suggested. This is an extremely positive development that will assist family resource centres around the country. It was all right when there were only ten centres; there are now 80 and there will be at least 100 in due course. They need to be under the focus of the family support agency into the future.

The Minister makes a cogent argument but we still have the problem that there are a number of centres, many of which have professional workers, who are still concerned that the social inclusion function will not be sufficiently highlighted. Perhaps we can come back to it in a later amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 5, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

"(f) to support and develop Family Resource Centres according to principles of community development and to promote social inclusion,".

We have already gone into the detail of this and I will not repeat it. We are asking the Minister to write into the legislation that the work in which the family resource centres have been involved, such as community development and inclusion, will continue in the work of the new Family Support Agency. The Minister has said that will happen but the workers would prefer to see it written into the legislation in order to be reassured about it.

The Minister expressed surprise at what he perceives as the negative attitude of some people, but I incline more towards the view that they have concerns in regard to the priority that this work would get under the new agency. For whatever reason these concerns arose and have been expressed to many TDs in the House from a variety of resource centres throughout the country. There can be no doubt that this is a real issue for them.

The thinking behind this amendment is to put into the legislation that the work they have been involved in – community involvement and promoting social inclusion – will be continued by the work of the new agency. Despite the Celtic tiger and the progress that has been made, the question of social inclusion and increasing inequalities is a real one. These workers are very committed to tackling that issue and to bring forward local initiatives to deal with exclusion in local communities. They want to be reassured that they can continue to do that work under the umbrella of this new agency.

In some respects we are putting the same argument again. The fundamental element of this amendment is that we want to make it a core function of the agency that the family resource centres will be supported according to the principles of community development and to promote social inclusion.

In section 4 (2), the Minister states that the agency in performing the functions conferred on it shall have regard to Government policy, in particular social inclusion policy. The Minister mentions social inclusion but what we are proposing is a far stronger approach in regard to social inclusion by making it a raison d'être of the new agency. There is a world of difference between saying that a central element for the existence of the Family Support Agency is the issue of social inclusion and community development and saying that it is something that the new board and chair and chief executive will take into account.

It is closely linked to some of the major concerns that family resource centres have had in the past in regard to the provisions for research and information. I am aware that the Minister launched yesterday another report in the series from the family unit of his Department in regard to supporting parents, and I commend him on that. There has been a whole range of reports produced to date – I do not know how many there are in total – and it is fantastic work. It would be useful if we become as advanced a democracy as some of the Scandinavian democracies or some of the Benelux countries, for the Opposition to be given assistance in providing research to highlight the gaps in Government policy. I do not expect this Government ever to be so democratic as to allow that to happen.

Deputy Broughan could be over here yet and will have to eat his words.

In the next Government we will be there.

The information in reports that we have seen already such as that on grandparenthood is valuable. One of the biggest problems faced by family resource centres, in spite of having very good committees, is the dearth of information.

I was involved with a group in the Northside Centre for the Unemployed, and one of the first things we had to do was try to get some fundamental information in the parishes in which we operated as to the exact levels of unemployment, family income and so on. One of the big gaps in Government policy is in the area of justice, not just in social inclusion. It is unlikely that the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, will be listening to this but we do not have statistics on a spatial basis. We cannot say that such and such an area in the midlands, the northside or the south west deserves extra resources. The research has simply not been done and what exists has not been done in a spatial way.

I put it forward in regard to last year's budget that we need a great deal more research through the NAPS and by the Government itself on research into spatial disadvantage. We know where the areas are and we know the average incomes of certain parishes around the country are extremely low. We are aware that poverty has become endemic through a lack of economic development and yet we have not been able to take any fundamental action.

For those reasons there is huge scope for inserting into the functions of the Family Support Agency an absolute commitment to the principles of community development and the active development of social inclusion – not that it would be taken into account, but that it would be a core role.

It was for this reason that community activists, professionals and board members came to see us in this House. It was their concern that the brilliant work that has been done in recent decades – and accelerated through the partnership process in 1987 and onwards through four of five programmes – could be lost through slippage because it is not at the heart of the remit of the new Family Support Agency.

I am aware that the Combat Poverty Agency exists as well as others such as local partnership companies, Leader groups and local authority development companies, but from a family-oriented point of view we had a unique opportunity to make it a primary function of the Family Support Agency.

I appeal to the Minister to accept this amendment in my name and that of Deputy Fitzgerald and to insert it into the functions so there can be no doubt that social inclusion will be at the very heart of the work of this agency.

I support the amendment as presented by Deputies Fitzgerald and Broughan. I have been watching the debate on the monitor up to this point. The Minister presents a very definite line and offers reassurance to those who are involved in the family resource centres network that the vista before them is not one of which they should be afraid. I would like to reflect my support for the amendment while recognising it is imperative that the community development principles under which family resource centres operate continue to be the basis for their operations. As the Minister is well aware, and this has been referred to by other Deputies, there is a great concern, which is not contrived, that this should be reflected in the legislation. On Second Stage I put that and a number of other concerns to the Minister. I ask once more that this strengthened position sought under the amendment through the insertion of a new paragraph (f) be accepted as it will help relieve some of the concerns people have and recognise that FRCs fear the principles under which they have operated may be changed to a counselling and mediation focus.

I want to add my support. It is imperative that we maintain the current thrust of the FRC network. There are two family resource centres in my constituency, which is adjacent to the Minister's, and there are two in County Meath, giving a total of four in the north east region. Each has reflected its concerns to the relevant Oireachtas Members over the past number of months. In part, this is indicative of a recognition on their part and that of the wider community that there is a breakdown in the traditional support network provided by the extended family and the wider local community has a critical role to play.

As the Minister will be aware, this has been exemplified in the work the FRCs have undertaken. The role of the community focused FRCs has been critical in helping to fill a vacuum not only of advices and support but the many social needs of those in greatest need to combat their isolation and sense of marginalisation and all the terrible tragedies that can emanate from that. We are all too well aware of how that can play itself out in life's sorry story. I wish to add my voice in support of the amendment and urge the Minister to accept it.

I thank the Deputies for their contributions. Deputy Ó Caoláin mentioned that there were four FRCs in the north east, two in Meath and two in Monaghan. I cannot be accused of favouritism because there is none in Louth, which is a source of regret. Perhaps before the Government leaves office—

Louth has everything else.

Not at all. The Deputy did not read the statistics published by the CSO which have been disguised by the presence of Coca-Cola in the county. The Border region is one of the worst off in Ireland, unfortunately, and that has a great deal to do with the conflict on the island over the years.

I fully understand why FRCs have adopted a community development approach and I empathise with their desire to maintain that. It is my wish that that would be the case. There seems to be some misunderstanding as to whether FRCs will be forced to accommodate mediation and marriage counselling services. Nothing could be further from the truth and that is not envisaged in the legislation. It is probably not prohibited in the legislation but it could not happen, particularly in regard to mediation and marriage counselling. Professional bodies are involved in these areas which would not allow counselling or mediation to take place if those providing the services were not fully qualified. At the same time it might be possible for some of the larger FRCs to contract in these services and while that may well happen by not including or excluding these ser vices FRCs will be allowed to develop in their own way.

Similarly, the mediation service has a particular ethos. We are not limiting or confirming this ethos in the legislation or the principles under which the service operates because it would be impossible to define such principles or the professional ethic of mediators. The more that is provided for in the legislation in that respect, the greater the restrictions on the services. As a result of changes that have progressively been made over the past four years, bereavement and suicide counselling are provided along with marriage counselling and a research programme has been developed. If principles were laid down in the legislation in regard to counselling, more than 450 groups which have been in receipt of counselling grants generally could be restricted. Departmental officials could come along and inform different groups that they cannot offer certain services because it is not provided for under the principles laid down in the legislation.

I caution Members. They must accept that the issue of community development has been at the core of FRCs and it is not envisaged that that will change following the passage of the legislation. The legislation specifically refers to social inclusion and the agency must bear that in mind as it deals with resource centres from now on.

Amendment put.

Allen, Bernard.Barnes, Monica.Bell, Michael.Belton, Louis J.Boylan, Andrew.Bradford, Paul.Broughan, Thomas P.Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).Bruton, John.Bruton, Richard.Burke, Liam.Burke, Ulick.Carey, Donal.Clune, Deirdre.Connaughton, Paul.Coveney, Simon.Crawford, Seymour.Creed, Michael.Currie, Austin.D'Arcy, Michael.Deasy, Austin.Dukes, Alan.Durkan, Bernard.Enright, Thomas.Farrelly, John.Finucane, Michael.Fitzgerald, Frances.Flanagan, Charles.Gilmore, Éamon.Gormley, John.Hayes, Brian.Hayes, Tom.Higgins, Michael.

Hogan, Philip.Kenny, Enda.McCormack, Pádraic.McDowell, Derek.McGahon, Brendan.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Paul.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Jim.Mitchell, Olivia.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Owen, Nora.Penrose, William.Perry, John.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Sheehan, Patrick.Spring, Dick.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.Wall, Jack.

Níl

Ahern, Bertie.Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, David.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Blaney, Harry.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Matt.Brennan, Séamus.Briscoe, Ben.Browne, John (Wexford).Byrne, Hugh.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Collins, Michael.

Coughlan, Mary.Cullen, Martin.Daly, Brendan.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Noel.Dennehy, John.Doherty, Seán.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Fleming, Seán.Flood, Chris.Foley, Denis.Fox, Mildred.Gildea, Thomas.Hanafin, Mary.Harney, Mary. Haughey, Seán.

Níl–continued

Healy-Rae, Jackie.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kenneally, Brendan.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Séamus.Kitt, Michael P.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDaid, James.McGuinness, John J.Martin, Micheál.Molloy, Robert.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Ó Cuív, Éamon.

O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Hanlon, Rory.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Kennedy, Michael.O'Malley, Desmond.O'Rourke, Mary.Power, Seán.Roche, Dick.Ryan, Eoin.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Wade, Eddie.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Walsh, Joe.Wright, G. V.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Bradford and Stagg; Níl, Deputies S. Brennan and Power.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendment No. 5 not moved.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 5, to delete line 46 and substitute the following:

"(f2>c) family support counselling.".

I thought the Minister might come back to me on this amendment. I had suggested family support and family counselling.

I cannot accept this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 7 not moved.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 6, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

"(2) No action of the Agency under subsection (1) shall alter the existing criteria for the operation of a Family Resource Centre without the prior consent of the centre concerned.”.

I oppose the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 not moved.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 7, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

"(b) be prepared in full and open consultation with Family Resource Centres and other voluntary and community organisations which fall within the remit of the work of the Agency,”.

The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that in drawing up the strategic plan for the work of the family support agencies there will be full and open consultation with the various stakeholders, the family resource centres, family mediation services and the counselling services. This is to ensure the strategic plan gets the benefit of their experience and that they will be involved and form part of the discussions which lead to the final draft of the plan which will be adopted by the support agency.

We had a discussion earlier about the importance of local development, particularly in areas of deprivation, and the knowledge local professional workers and voluntary committees have. It is clearly important that in the strategic plan, there will be the fullest possible consultation particularly in light of our earlier discussion about there not having been any consultation.

As it is now half past five I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil this day: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill, Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed".

Question put and agreed to.

Could I make a very brief comment in relation to the Bill?

The Bill is completed and we must proceed with the Road Traffic Bill, 2001, Second Stage (Resumed). Deputy Olivia Mitchell was in possession and is sharing with Deputy Denis Naughten with 18 minutes remaining.

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