I am very pleased with the very positive attitude that people here have to the importance of research. I accept the points that have been made about the need for more and better research into child care. For that very reason this section was inserted in the Bill. I might point out that there is no specific power to undertake research in our existing legislation, so section 9 represents a very important development. I think it was Deputy Fennell who made that point.
We have the Act of 1908 which has no reference to research. We had the 1985 Children (Care and Protection) Bill published with absolutely no reference to research and the same situation again in 1987. Section 9 is specifically included to ensure that we will have very important research carried out.
The purpose of section 9 is to enable the Minister and the health boards to undertake research into child care and family support or to assist other persons in carrying out such research. Subsection (1) enables the Minister to conduct research into any matter related to the care and protection of children or to the provision of child care or family support services. It also empowers the Minister to assist other persons carrying out such research. Subsection (2) empowers the health board to carry out research into any matter related to their function under the Bill or to assist any other person to do so.
The type of research I have in mind here might include, for example, a detailed analysis of the factors in society and in individual families that give rise to children having to be taken into care, comparative studies of the relevant advantages and disadvantages for the child and the family of placement in foster care or residential care, follow-up studies of children who have been in care and so on. These are just some examples of possible research topics in the child care area. I am sure members of the Committee have many ideas of their own on these matters.
However, what Deputy Yates seems to be referring to in his amendment is not what I would term research at all. The type of assessment he mentions is, in my view, no more than the ongoing administrative or managerial review and assessment of services that is going on all the time at both health board and Department of Health level. We have already dealt with this type of assessment in section 6 which will require health boards to carry out reviews of the adequacy of the child care and family support services in their areas. Indeed, as the committee will recall, I accepted an amendment — No. 36 to section 6 — which will require these assessments to be carried out on an annual basis. I might also remind the Deputy that the Minister will have to be supplied with details of every such assessment.
With reference to a number of points that have been made, particularly by Deputy Higgins and other colleagues, the Department of Health have commissioned or assisted various research projects in the child care area in recent years. It was Deputy Barnes who mentioned that there should be a special research unit. For example, my Department co-operated with the ESRI in a major study on children in care. I might mention that this study was based on data collected by the Department's child care division as part of their annual children in care survey. At present, the Department are supporting a research project into aspects of child sexual abuse in the Eastern Health Board area. We are very committed to research. We want it enshrined in law. We see it as a very important vehicle in assessing and in having the best up-to-date information to ensure that we give the best possible level of service to children who need care.
In the circumstances of what I have said, I see no need for this amendment. I would be concerned that it might only serve to divert attention away from the type of detailed research projects I mentioned a moment ago.