I presume the Minister and his officials are convinced that the definition which is given here will include all relevant health services, or all relevant services that could be regarded as a health service. If somebody raises an element that is not included in it, will the Bill be amended before it is finally passed in the Seanad?
I am puzzled.
For example, if someone decides there is something which could be technically or legally referred to as a health service and it is not included here, or if it is an expansion of what is here, a question could be raised if the health board says it is not a health service. I presume this would mean the Bill would have to be amended to include it specifically and that is why there is a broad definition here, which will bring every service on board.
That is right. The effect of the amendment will enable the Minister for Health to establish bodies under the Act to perform functions in, or in relation to, the provision of personal social services. The current definition of health service in the Act is a traditional medical orientation. This has prevented the establishment under the Act of the performance of functions in relation to personal social services. The revised definition is designed to overcome this problem. The new wording, for example, will enable me or my successor to establish the national council for the elderly and the national validation body, which regulates the qualifications of social workers as corporate bodies. They are at present attached, for accountability purposes, to the National Social Services Board, which has recently been transferred to the Department of Social Welfare.
The Department of Health is now effectively the Department of Health and social services, even though we have not changed the title. Much of the activity and publicity in relation to health and the area of children is a social services rather than a health issue. We need to widen the definition to ensure we can do what we want in this area.
Would this allow the Minister to create a position such as a children's ombudsman?
I understand that Minister of State, Austin Currie is giving serious consideration to that proposal at the moment.
Would it relate to this area or do such powers exist already?
He could establish a children's ombudsman, by simply appointing someone to that function. If that were done ultimately, if not initially, it would have to be on a statutory basis to allow the person to act. It would require separate legislation if it were to be put on a statutory basis.