I raise this issue to highlight a most urgent matter requiring immediate intervention by the Minister to provide accommodation for a 12-year-old Cork girl.
In Cork District Court yesterday it was revealed that this young girl cannot be held in detention by the Southern Health Board because the board does not have the power to do so. The Southern Health Board applied to the court yesterday to have an order, imposed on the board some time ago, to care for the child revoked. The board argued that, while it has always maintained this child, it appeared she needed more than they had power to offer her. In turn, the girl's solicitor argued that, although the board was unable to fulfil its function in regard to her, it was better than nothing and no other agency was prepared to intervene to help.
This girl has had a very traumatic background. It is an appalling indictment of the Government that its only response is one of inertia and paralysis. Judge Uinsin MacGruairc said that if there was a facility in Cork similar to the Oberstown Girls Centre, he would be able to fill it with five similar girls. He said this facility should be provided by the Department of Education and not by the Southern Health Board. I share the frustration and annoyance articulated by that judge who is accurate in his assessment of the need in Cork for the provision of a facility such as that at Oberstown to accommodate children in similar positions in Munster.
I am annoyed reading daily in newspapers complaints by judges about the lack of such facilities nationwide. Children with behavioural difficulties are very low indeed on the agenda of this Minister for Education. We hear of the establishment of task forces and of many committees but we want immediate action. Such a facility for young girls is urgently required in the Munster region. Many social workers have contacted me, complaining about the lack of such facilities for young girls in the southern region. The Southern Health Board has done everything possible to find suitable accommodation for this girl but without success. The judge requested the board's solicitor to contact Oberstown, to beseech the authorities to find a place for her.
In the short term it is my understanding that new places could be sanctioned in Oberstown. It is my hope that, in the case of this girl, a place will immediately be sanctioned. Furthermore, I hope a centre for such girls will be provided in the southern region without further delay.