asked the Minister for Local Government and Public Health whether he proposes to introduce proposals for legislation to carry out the recommendation contained in paragraph 270 of the Report of the Commission on the Relief of the Sick and Destitute Poor, referring to the control of boarded-out children, and, if so, whether he can state when these proposals will be laid before the Dáil.
CEISTEANNA—QUESTIONS. ORAL ANSWERS. - CONTROL OF BOARDED-OUT CHILDREN.
This matter is under consideration, along with others, arising out of the Report of the Commission. Meanwhile, under existing law, Section 1 of the Children Act, 1908, requires persons who undertake the nursing of one or more children under the age of seven years to give notice in writing to the local authority within forty-eight hours from the reception of such infant. The penalty for non-compliance is imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding £25.
Is the Minister aware that this is a question of great urgency; that the Committee appointed by his own Department found that Part I. of the Children Act, 1908, provided very defective machinery, and that actually out of every three illegitimate children dealt with under this, one dies in the first year of its life? Will the Minister realise that this is a matter not merely of Departmental reorganisation, but one affecting the lives of innocent children, and will he give special consideration to this section of the Report?
Is the Minister also satisfied that the Act to which he has referred has been properly administered? Will the Minister take steps to see that, pending the taking of action on the Report of the Commission, the present law is properly administered and that these abuses which undoubtedly do exist will be remedied?
I realise that the matter is a very important one, and for a long time past the Department has recognised it as such. In January, 1926, and again in January, 1927, special circulars were sent from the Department to the authorities which have responsibility for looking after this matter urging better administration of their work in connection with this Act. In so far as the City of Dublin is concerned, where the problem is rather large, the Union Commissioners have been giving the greatest possible attention to this matter, and in so far as it is possible for the Department to impress greater activity on other local authorities, that is being done. The proposal in the Report is that a person who takes in an illegitimate child, either with reward or without reward, ought to be licensed before doing so. The situation to be dealt with is a very delicate one, and it requires very great consideration as to whether persons who take in these children without fee, say, ought to be licensed before doing so. But the matter is recognised by the Department as being important, and everything that under the present law can be done is being done. The present law is reasonably strict for dealing with cases of non-compliance with it. That does not mean that we are delaying unnecessarily in considering the recommendations of the Commission, or in taking any steps which we may decide to take after that consideration.
Has the Minister seen the resolution passed by the Rathdown Board of Guardians representing that their powers are inadequate to control this matter, and pointing out that over 300 children have been boarded out in their area within the last two years?
I cannot imagine that the Rathdown Board of Guardians cannot properly deal with the matter with the machinery they have at their disposal, if they apply it properly.