Amendments Nos. 160aand 161a are cognate and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 160a:
In page 17, subsection (1), lines 12 and 13, to delete "section 21, 24 or 58 (7)" and substitute "Part II or IV".
These amendments are to correct minor drafting errors. Section 34 sets out transitional provisions in relation to children who are in care already when this part of the Bill is brought into operation. Subsection (1) provides that a child who is in care under a fit person order made under specified sections of the Children Act, 1908, will be deemed to be the subject of a care order under this Bill. Subsection (3) deals with the fairly remote possibility of a child having been committed to the care of someone other than a health board. In such cases the order will not be effected and the child may remain in that person's care. The need for these amendments stems from the fact that the sections listed in the present draft do not cover all the provisions under which children may have been placed in care, for example a child who may have been brought before the court under section 59. Rather than listing specific sections and subsections, I am advised that it would be better to refer to an order under Part II or Part IV of the 1908 Act. This is what is proposed here and I hope I can have your agreement.
I move amendment No. 161:
In page 17, subsection (1), line 15, after "board" to insert "for as long as he remains a child".
This is a technical amendment to improve the drafting of subsection (1). Subsection (1) is a transitional provision which deals with children who are in the care of health boards under fit person orders when this part of the Bill comes into force; under present legislation a fit person order expires when the child concerned attains the age of 16. In order that children who are already in care can benefit from the raising of the age limit for leaving care from 16 to 18 years, this subsection proposes that existing fit person orders will be deemed to be care orders so that the children involved can remain in care for as long as they remain children, that is until they reach 18 years of age or marry, whichever is the sooner. This is not entirely clear in the present draft. Hence this phrase has been inserted to clarify that any child who is in care under a fit person order when this Part comes into operation, may stay in the care of the health board for as long as he remains a child.
The current legislation in relation to fit person orders only covers a child until he is 16. Is that right? I support the amendment.
I move amendment No. 161a:
In page 17, subsection (3), lines 25 and 26, to delete "section 21, 24 or 58 (7)" and substitute "Part II or IV".
Deputy Yates to move substitute amendment No. 162 on the white sheet.
I move amendment No. 162:
In page 18, before section 35, but in Part V, to insert the following new section:
"35.—(1) Children who are subject to the provisions of this Act or parents of such children, may appeal decisions of Health Boards or voluntary organisations to the Minister where they are dissatisfied or where they feel injustice or ill treatment has taken place.
(2) On the investigation of an appeal under subsection (1) the Minister may issue such directions to the health board concerned as he deems appropriate in the circumstances of the case.".
What I am seeking to do here is to put in order what was out of order. In the original amendment No. 162 — which was out of order because it involved a charge on the Exchequer, — I sought to insert a Children's Complaints Board to which children could appeal the decisions of the health board or voluntary organisations where they are dissatisfied or felt they were ill treated or there was some injustice. What I am proposing in this new section 35 will be that the Department would set up an appeal mechanism. I feel this may be important. I would not like, in 20 years time to read in the diaries of some adult who had been in residential care that they were very unhappy, that they had been ill treated, or to read the personal traumas and tribulations of someone who felt they were greatly ill treated and had no redress. I am seeking to give them such redress so that they will not have to publish such diaries later. I hope the Committee will support that.
I hope when I am finished you will not have to publish diaries. First, the substitute amendment is a considerable improvement over the original amendment which I would have had to oppose on the grounds of the additional costs involved. As regards the substitute amendment the first thing I would have to say is that I have considerable sympathy with the contention that parents whose children are in care should be able to have any complaints or grievances they might have considered and any necessary remedial action taken. Indeed my Department have been having discussions with the health boards and with a new organisation called Parents with Children in Care with a view to developing such arrangements. If the Deputy is prepared to withdraw this amendment I would be happy to look at the whole question of complaints procedures on Report Stage.
I appreciate that intervention. It is useful. It did seem to be directed exclusively at parents but there are some older categories of children and, if an appeal mechanism is established, I would like to give mature children the opportunity to have their cases heard as well. I withdraw this proposed new section on that basis.
I second what Deputy Yates said with regard to children, particularly older children, having rights.
We will take that into account in our consideration of the situation.
That concludes the amendments to Part V of the Bill.