I am firmly committed to the transformation of Ireland's child protection and welfare services and to the establishment of a new child and family support agency. The necessary legislation is being prepared by my Department as a priority. It is anticipated the Bill will be published and enacted in the course of this session. It is my intention that the child and family support agency will assume statutory responsibility for services for children and families in January 2013. The final report of the task force that I established to advise on the necessary transition programme to establish a child and family support agency made recommendations on a number of key issues, including the range of services which, in the opinion of the task force, should fall within the remit of the new agency. These recommendations are being given detailed consideration by me and my Department in preparation for the establishment of the new agency.
The new agency, which will assume responsibility for children and family services that are currently provided by the HSE and the Family Support Agency, will be a dedicated agency with a sole focus. It will have approximately 4,000 staff and a combined existing budget of over €590 million. The agency will be headed by Mr. Gordon Jeyes, as the chief executive designate, who will be supported by a senior management team. The recruitment of this team is at an advanced stage. This is at the heart of our programme of reform of child and family services. The establishment of a single agency, underpinned by legislation and incorporating key child and family services, will provide a focus for the major reforms that are already under way under the national director for children and families, Mr. Jeyes. This reform programme contains a number of critical elements, including the continued and urgent implementation of a comprehensive change programme to improve the quality and consistency of these services. I have spoken on a number of occasions in this House about the lack of consistency in approach when families throughout the country look for services.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The reform programme also provides for the introduction of legislation to place Children First on a statutory basis; the establishment for the first time of a dedicated budget for children and family services in order to bring transparency and accountability to the use of resources to meet national priorities; the transition of existing HSE child protection and welfare and services into the new agency, the merger of the existing Family Support Agency with a budget of over €26 million into the child and family support agency and the consideration of the potential for further rationalisation of services for children under the new agency. At the heart of the new agency will be a new service delivery framework, which will differentiate between child welfare and protection cases so that family and child welfare concerns can be responded to by new multi-agency, community-based models for early intervention and family support. The new agency will represent the practical application of a new approach towards proportionate service responses, an approach which is central to the constitutional amendment on child protection which will be put before the people on 10 November.