SECTION 3 (Resumed).

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 6, subsection (3), line 35, to delete "Health Acts, 1947 to 1985," and substitute "Health Acts, 1947 to 1986, and the Health (Amendment) Act, 1987,".

This is to correct a minor drafting error. The collective citation of the Health Acts contained in the Bill is incorrect. The purpose of this amendment is to insert the up to date collective citation for the Health Acts.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 3, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I would just make one point. Some of my amendments were ruled out of order on the grounds that they were a potential charge on the Exchequer — amendments Nos. 11, 12 and I think Deputy Howlin's amendment No. 13 were also ruled out of order. So it is in order to take this on the section.

All the previous reports on child care services did indicate that one of the problems and deficiencies in the service was a lack of integration between the different departments involved, and to think that this matter could be resolved by the health boards working alone was not the most desirable way to resolve the problem. I am referring to the Department of Education's role in the youth section, the teaching section — the primary and secondary services — and the school attendance officers. I am, referring to the Department of Justice and the juvenile justice system. In all these areas there is an interaction with children that are disadvantaged and I feel that if the health boards in isolation are to deal with this, it will not be a complete response on behalf of the Oireachtas in updating our law. To deal with this matter expeditiously, does the Minister have any proposals to involve representatives of other Departments, other than the Department of Health, in the operation of this Bill to work in conjunction with health boards to provide the optimum care for children at risk?

There was always liaison between the Department of Health and various other Departments pertaining to matters of common interest, whether it be children or whatever. This is standard practice throughout the country and there is co-operation between various Departments. Legally a particular Department has responsibility for certain matters, and obviously that is the Department which will make the decisions and implement the decisions taken by supreme bodies, like the courts. We see the health board as the ideal structure to look after the welfare of children in need of care.

The Department of Health has its own child care division. We see an opportunity there for the Oireachtas, the Legislature and the public at large, through their representatives, having a direct input and being in a position to question a Minister about the affairs of a health board, about decisions of a health board, and that information coming right through. While I appreciate what the Deputy says, that there is an involvement between various Departments — Education, Justice and Health — we have good liaison with them; there has been tremendous co-operation with the Department of Justice welfare services over the years and I am very confident that will be the situation in the future. I do not think it would serve the best interests of our children, the children of the nation, the children who need care, if we were to create another organisation or another layer of bureaucracy because no matter how it is managed, the legal responsibilities given to various Departments cannot be taken from them. Somebody has to be responsible for children's education. Somebody has to be responsible for the criminal law — the Department of Justice — and somebody has to be responsible for health. If we are to amalgamate them and put them into some new organisation or structure, I believe we will just be adding layers of bureaucracy, and at the end of the day we will not be giving the level of service our children need. It is important to be able to deliver that service directly from the top to the bottom, to the children who need it, as quickly as possible. That would be our paramount consideration.

I agree to disagree with the Minister. If one closely scrutinises the 1970 Kennedy report one will see it clearly requests that child care authorities be set up. However, I ask the Minister to give a commitment in relation to the child care advisory committees that are to be set up that there will be representatives of the Department of Education and the Department of Justice on those committees to ensure liaison.

I will give a commitment to consider what the Deputy says, or indeed what any member of the committee says. I hope to have the broadest possible representation on the committee — professional and other people working directly with children and young people. I hope that is the type of advisory committee that will be available to us. We will definitely take into account what is said here and will give it consideration Perhaps at Report Stage we might have some information on that.

I do not want to restate the argument I have made on so many occasions in relation to the overall co-ordinating child care authority that I sought — other members of this committee, other Members of the House and, indeed, many agencies outside the House sought — since the report of the Task Force on Child Care Services which was originally established by Deputy Brendan Corish when he was Minister for Health in the seventies. I am grieved that the Minister has not seen fit to include provision for this co-ordinating authority in the Bill, but I am not going to argue the case again. The case has been well made in the past.

In relation to the section, it is important that this legislation would be all-encompassing — I think that was the aim of all of us. We have not legislated in this area for 80 years, and it is a pity that there is not overall responsibility for the promotion of the welfare of children generally given to health boards rather than a sectional interest to promote the welfare of children at risk. I still believe the Minister feels it is the duty of health boards to promote the welfare of children on a general basis and not only those who were recognised by social workers or others as being vulnerable or at risk or have already come under some form of brutality at home.

Question put and agreed to.