Following a Government decision on the Heads of Bill in November last, work on the drafting of the Child and Family Agency Bill has been progressing in conjunction with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and is at an advanced stage. As set out in the General Scheme, the Bill will largely focus on the technical task of bringing together the functions of the three “source” agencies (the HSE, the Family Support Agency and the National Educational Welfare Board). Particular care is required in respect of the disaggregation of the functions from the HSE to ensure that there are no unintended consequences (for either the Agency or the Directorates remaining within the HSE framework) in the separation of functions, either in legal terms, or in terms of the practical operation of day-to-day services for children and their families or HSE clients across the life cycle.
A key task in drafting the legislation will be to ensure that the Agency operates within a strong framework of public accountability. Other important features of the legislation relate to the need to create the correct platform for interagency arrangements, shared service arrangements and a robust process for the commissioning of services from a range of providers. In addition to creating a framework for the future, the Bill also has to take account of the transitional arrangements which will inevitably have to be prescribed. These are potentially complex against the backdrop of changing governance and structural arrangements in the context of the wider Health Reform programme. It is my intention to introduce the Child and Family Agency Bill to the Houses of the Oireachtas in this session.