SECTION 12

In today's meeting we are hoping to deal with sections 12, 13 and 14. We begin on section 12 with amendment No. 72 in the name of An tAire. Acceptance of this amendment involves the deletion of section 12 of the Bill.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. N. Treacy): On the last occasion we were dealing with amendment No. 81, section 15. I would suggest today, with your agreement, if we have sufficient time that we deal with it if we have concluded the other sections. Section 15, which we discussed the last day, will appear again in a new amendment No. 81. If we have the time I would be delighted to deal with it today.

NEW SECTION.

I move amendment No. 72:

In page 10, before section 12, to insert the following new section:

"12.—Subject to any direction given by a justice under section 11 (6) (a) (i), where a child is placed in the care of a health board under an emergency care order, the board shall as soon as possible inform or cause to be informed a parent having custody of him or a person actingin loco parentis unless that parent or person is aware of the making of the order.”

This is a technical amendment. The purpose of section 12 is to ensure that parents whose child is placed in care under an emergency care order are aware of the position. This amendment is required to take account of changes made in section 11 (6) following the acceptance of amendment No. 67 at our last meeting and to effect certain improvements in the drafting of the section. The main change is the insertion of a reference to a direction given by a justice under the new section 11 (6) (a) (i). Under that provision a justice who has made an emergency care order may give a direction that the address or location of the place where a child has been accommodated is not to be revealed by the health board to the parents or either of them if, for example, there is a fear that they will attempt to snatch the child. If a justice gives such a direction then under this provision here the health board need only tell the parents that the child has been taken into care but must not tell them where exactly the child has been accommodated.

The second change is that the health board will be required to notify a parent having custody rather than simply a parent. This change is partly consequential on the enactment of the Status of Children Act, 1987, and is also required to deal with cases where married parents are separated. One of the effects of the Status of Children Act is that the word "parent" automatically includes the natural father of a child whose parents are not married to each other, even if he is not living with the child and has no contact with him. Clearly it would not make sense to inform such a person that the child has been placed in care.

The amendment provides that the parent having custody which in such a case would be the mother would be informed. In the case of a married couple who had separated, if one of them had been awarded custody by the courts, the amendment provides that that parent would be the one to be notified. Where both parents have custody of the child, be they married or unmarried, the amendment means that the health board will fulfil its obligation by informing either one of them.

The third change is the insertion of the expression "unless that parent or person is aware of the making of the order". This relieves the health board of the obligation to notify parents in cases where they are already aware that an emergency care order has been made — for example, where they had been notified in advance that an order was being sought and had been in attendance in court when it was made. As I said at the outset, these are technical changes and I hope that the amendment will be supported by all sides.

Finally, I might just add that arising out of our discussions at the last meeting about the desirability of parents being advised as to their rights, etc., I intend to look at this section again before Report Stage to see if it can be extended to cover this area.

If you read the original section 12 which has been amended, and the change here, you will see that this is purely a technical change, in my view. The last day we discussed the information to be given to the parents or those having charge of the child, from whose custody he/she is being taken and how much information under this section is to be given to the parents. In amendment No. 82 I have specifically proposed that when it comes to informing the parents they would also be given reports of assessments, they would be told the reason the child was taken into custody, or the legal representatives would be advised of any video recordings or what ever the material might be. I want to know what "inform" means and how much information is to be given to the parents. Subject to that qualification, we will be supporting this technical change in amendment No. 72.

I too will be supporting them.

I have no objection to the Minister's amendment.

In response to Deputy Yates, as of now in this section what is proposed and what we are obliged to do is to inform the parents that the order is being made. We will be discussing the other information he asks about at amendments No. 82 onwards, when we will go into much more detail.

It does not preclude the type of things that I am talking about?

No. It makes in mandatory to give this minimum information, and later we will discuss what other information to give.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 12 deleted.