Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 12 Dec 1973

Vol. 269 No. 11

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Kennedy Report.


asked the Minister for Education the recommendations of the Kennedy Report that have been implemented; and the recommendations that remain to be implemented.


asked the Minister for Education if it is his intention to implement the recommendations of the Kennedy Report relating to (a) the introduction of a new children's charter (b) the abolition of the institutional system (c) the keeping of families together and (d) the proper training of staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 53 and 54 together.

The report of the Committee on Industrial and Reformatory Schools recommended that the terms "Industrial School and Reformatory" should be replaced respectively by the terms "Residential Home and Special School". These terms are now used by my Department except where use of the older terms is necessary for statutory reasons. I propose to use the new terms in this reply.

I should like to apologise that this answer is so long.

Measures taken since the issue of the report may be summarised as follows:

(1) As a result of the initiative of the Minister for Health, 40 additional posts as social worker have been created in the health boards since March last and the Minister has asked the boards to expand the home help service with special emphasis on families in stress situations. In addition, the welfare service of the Department of Justice is being very rapidly expanded from 20 officers last year to 46 this year and it is expected to have 70 by next year. These measures are helping to give effect to the first major recommendation of the report which was that "the whole aim of the child care system should be geared towards the prevention of family break-down and the problems consequent on it". The second part of this first recommendation urged that "admission of children to residential care should be considered only when there is no satisfactory alternative". It is of interest to note in this regard that the number of children in residential care in institutions under my Department has fallen from 2,565 in 1968 to 1,608 at the present time.

(2) The second major recommendation of the Kennedy Report urged the "institutions system of residential care should be abolished and be replaced by group homes". The first specially constructed group home was opened last October in Moate. Four other homes—in Drogheda, Cappoquin (2) and Limerick—Good Shepard—are under construction and plans are well advanced for a number of others. In addition, private houses have been purchased as residential homes in Rathdrum, Killarney, Kilkenny, Booterstown, Limerick, Good Shepard, and Sligo and existing buildings have been converted to the group home system in Waterford, Sunday's Well, Cork, Whitehall, Limerick, Mercy, Mallow, Lakelands and Dundalk. This recommendation also said that "children from one family and children of different ages and sex should be placed in such group homes". This is being done.

(3) A new special school on entirely modern lines has been built at Lusk, County Dublin, and will be ready for the reception of boys referred by the courts within the next few weeks. With the provision of this new school, St. Conleth's Reformatory, Daingean, has been closed, thus giving effect to the third major recommendation in the report.

(4) The fourth recommendation of the report asked that the remand home at Marlborough House be closed and replaced by a more suitable building. Marlborough House was closed in August, 1972.

(5) A new children's centre has been opened at Finglas, which includes a special school and a remand and assessment unit. The objective in these new types of special school is the rehabilitation of the children concerned through a programme of education, using the term in its very widest sense. The purpose of the remand and assessment centre is to ensure that no child is admitted to a special school without a full examination—medical, social, psychological and, if necessary, psychiatric.

(6) The fifth recommendation in the report was to the effect that the staff in the institutions should be fully-trained. In pursuance of this aim, a one-year residential course in child care has been in operation in Kilkenny since 1971. Intensive in-service courses are at present in operation in Golden-bridge in Dublin and in Waterford and my Department is actively examining the further training needs of residential staff.

(7) The grants system for residential homes now enables children in care to be paid for by the State while they complete their education up to third level if required. This gives effect to the intention in the sixth recommendation that "all children in residential care should be educated to the ultimate of their capacities". The children in residential homes attend ordinary local schools and special education is provided as appropriate. As regards the special schools, I have already indicated that a special intensive education programme is in existence.

(8) The Kennedy Report, in its seventh major recommendation, stated that "after care ... should form an integral part of the child care system".

In the case of the residential homes, the homes themselves increasingly maintain contact with the young people who have been in residence. Special after-care hostels have been provided in homes in Dublin and Cork. I expect the health authorities, social work services, to which I have already referred, to participate in this work. In the case of the special schools, the welfare service of the Department of Justice, to which I have also already referred, is providing an after-care service closely integrated with the schools.

(9) the eighth, ninth, tenth and twelfth major recommendations urged, respectively, that administrative responsibility for child care be transferred to the Department of Health, that there should be a new, up-dated Children Act, that the age of criminal responsibility be raised to 12 years and that an independent advisory body with statutory powers be set up. These four recommendations require new legislation and interdepartmental consultations are at present being actively pursued with a view to tackling the issues in question.

(10) The eleventh major recommendation was to the effect that the special schools and residential homes should be paid on a budget system rather than by capitation grant.

In making this recommendation the committee of inquiry was concerned to ensure that the financial support to the schools and homes was sufficient to cover all costs connected with the maintenance of the children. The new special schools at Finglas and Lusk are, in fact, being paid in this way and a similar arrangement will be introduced in other special schools according as modernisation plans are completed. While a budgetary system has not been introduced in any of the residential homes, the need to ensure that they have an adequate income has been met by increases in the capitation grant. This grant has been increased by 300 per cent over the past five years. In addition, extra grants have been made to a large number of homes for works involving the maintenance, renovation or modernisation of the buildings.

(11) The final major recommendation of the report was a plea for continuous research in this field. As I stated in the Seanad recently, I have asked officers of my Department to prepare a list of subjects on which research is necessary with a view to taking action on this recommendation.

Arising out of the Parliamentary Secretary's very long reply, may I ask if any additional recommendations have been implemented other than those which were implemented before I left office?

I should like to say that the previous Minister, namely, the Deputy, did a great deal in this field and it is only fair to give him credit for that. This is a very important matter and I would hope that we would be able to continue to deal with it on a non-partisan basis. For that reason I have said what I have said.

Thank you.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary agree that some special training course for teachers in second level institutions dealing with those children should be instituted as the problems are not necessarily the general problems?

For the teaching staffs? I understand that there are courses available in special education for dealing with handicapped children and for dealing with children for whom remedial education is necessary. The teachers in these special schools avail of these courses. I should also point out that there is a very favourable teacher-pupil ratio within these schools. But, as to the specific point made by the Deputy, I would need to have it investigated further before I could give a definite reply.

As it is past the time allotted for Questions, perhaps the House might allow the Parliamentary Secretary to finish the questions addressed to the Minister for Education?