Apologies have been received from Deputy Phelan. Before we begin, I request that members sit only in the permitted seats and in front of available microphones to ensure they are heard. This is important as not doing so causes serious problems for broadcast, editorial and sound staff. I remind those present to please maintain social distancing at all times during and following the meeting. Before we start, I invite those attending the meeting virtually to unmute their devices to allow the sound to feed into the committee room.
Our meeting today is to discuss consideration of the Ombudsman for Children report, entitled Unmet Needs, with the Minister of State at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy Anne Rabbitte, who has responsibility for disability. I welcome her to the committee. This is her first time to address the committee. She has been in her role for several months, but I wish to formally congratulate her on being appointed as Minister of State. I also extend a welcome to the officials accompanying the Minister of State, Ms Jenny Andersson, assistant principal officer, and Mr. Noel Byrne, special adviser to the Minister of State.
Before I invite the Minister of State to deliver her opening statement, I wish to advise her of the following in relation to parliamentary privilege. She is protected by absolute privilege in respect of the presentation she makes to the committee. That means that she has an absolute defence against any defamation action for anything she says at the meeting. However, she is expected not to abuse the privilege and it is my duty, as Chair, to ensure it is not abused. Therefore, if her statements are potentially defamatory to any identifiable person or entity, she will be directed to discontinue her remarks and it is imperative that she comply with any such direction.
The purpose of the meeting is to discuss with the Minister of State the issues identified in the report published in October 2020 by Dr. Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children, and entitled Unmet Needs. The report identified serious shortcomings in how assessments of needs of children are now conducted and the unacceptable waiting lists that face children who require an assessment of their needs. Before I invite the Minister of State to commence her opening statement, I wish to remind members that, when putting their questions to the Minister of State, they should adhere to the agenda item scheduled for this meeting, which is to examine the contents of the report by the Ombudsman for Children. I invite the Minister of State to deliver her opening statement, to be followed by a question and answer session with members.