My Department is committed to ongoing engagement and consultation with stakeholders across the community and voluntary sectors, all of whom share our goal to improve outcomes for children and young people in Ireland, including those relating to their rights and well-being.
Communication and collaboration are intrinsic elements of my Department's Statement of Strategy, whose high level objectives include to “collaborate with stakeholders, including across Government, in monitoring and promoting the physical, emotional and economic well-being of children and young people and reducing inequalities.” It is essential that we continue to actively build on these important relationships, in recognition of the fact that such groups, bodies and organisations have much to offer in terms of their experience and the often specialist nature of their work.
It is not feasible to comprehensively set out all levels of engagement. However, recent examples include the co-hosting with the Children's Rights Alliance of a consultative forum to allow the State to complete the Third and Fourth Consolidated Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. My Department is currently providing funding to the Children’s Rights Alliance to assist that body in coordinating the "shadow" NGO Report to the United Nations. In preparing the Children First legislation, my Department consulted with key bodies including EPIC (Empowering People in Care), Barnardos and the ISPCC, whose contributions were very valuable in developing this complex Bill. A number of contributions were also considered in the context of the legislation establishing the Child and Family Agency.
There are a number of committees and advisory groups currently operating under the aegis of my Department. These include the National Children's Advisory Council, which acts in an independent advisory role to me as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and includes representatives of statutory agencies, the voluntary sector and parents. Its overarching role is to contribute to the development of a strong collaborative interface between statutory and non-statutory providers of children’s services. The Council assisted my Department in developing 'Better Outcomes: Brighter Futures: the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014 -2020', which was recently published.
I also wish to acknowledge the work of the National Youth Work Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from both the voluntary and statutory sectors with an interest and involvement in the administration and provision of youth work programmes and services. Its main role is to advise on and assist in the coordination of youth work policies, programmes and services, and to provide a forum to address and progress specific issues.
My Department will continue to emphasise the importance of regular contact and discussion with key stakeholders in relation to policy and services for children and young people. This includes ensuring that, where appropriate, representative bodies and organisations working with children and young people play a role in the formation of policy.