I thank Deputies for their comments. I have referred the Donegal case to the HSE group responsible for the review of serious incidents to carry out a review of the circumstances there. I hope to have a report from the group in the near future. Certainly, we must understand precisely what happened, if other interventions could have been made and we must analyse exactly the role of the various agencies and people involved.
I take the point about the priority child protection legislation should have. I assure the House that child protection legislation is a high priority for the Government, as evidenced by the establishment of the Department. It is a sign that we intend to put these issues at the heart of Government. I have already given a commitment to the House that the wording of the referendum will be available in the autumn term and that we will then proceed with the Bill and the required legislation to ensure that we can hold a referendum in the new year.
I thank Deputies for their contribution during the passage of this important Bill. The main objective of the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2009 is to safeguard the best interests of children in need of special care. The processes enshrined in the Bill will support the achievement of this outcome. Special care is a last resort but it is an important part of child care and it meets the express needs of the small number of children in need of such care when other forms of residential or community care are considered to be unsuitable. This is a small group of children but we must have high standards and be vigilant with regard to the experience of these children. This type of care involves complex constitutional matters and it is appropriate that it should continue to be presented to and determined by the High Court. This approach will allow for a consistent, well-managed structure, presentation and consideration of applications for special care orders.
One unique aspect of the Bill includes specific provisions for when a child may be in need of special care services and may be charged or convicted of a criminal offence. The provisions clarify when the HSE may apply for a special care order or continue to care for a child under such an order. In summary, where a child is in need of special care, the HSE is in a position to apply to the High Court to allow it to provide that care to the child. In addition, the care requirements of the child who is the subject of a special care order will be kept under the supervision of the High Court. This is very important. The High Court will carry out a review of each four week period for which a special care order has effect. There is careful monitoring of the use of these special care orders, as there should be.
I thank Deputies for their contributions and comments on the priority which child care and child protection and welfare legislation should receive. I look forward to their support when we present the legislation.