I move amendment No. 220:
In page 25, before section 24, but in Part 4, to insert the following new section:
"143.—The following section is substituted for section 159 of the Act of 2001:
"159.—(1) Subject to subsection (2), a certified reformatory school or industrial school under Part IV of the Act of 1908 shall, with the agreement of the Minister and the Minister for Education and Science, become a children detention school on the commencement of this section in relation to it.
(2) A certified industrial school under that Part shall, with the agreement of the Minister for Education and Science and the Minister for Health and Children and on the commencement of this section in relation to it, become premises provided and maintained by the Health Service Executive under section 38(2) of the Act of 1991 for the provision of residential care for children in care.
(3) On the commencement of this section in relation to a certified reformatory school or industrial school the functions relating to which stood vested in the Minister for Education and Science (other than the function of providing education and training and related programmes for children detained in it) such schools immediately before the commencement shall—
(a) if the school becomes a children detention school, be vested in the Minister, or
(b) in the case referred to in subsection (2), be vested in the Health Service Executive.
(4) The lawfulness of the detention, and the period of detention, of a child who is detained in a certified reformatory or industrial school is not affected by the commencement of this section in relation to it.
(5) Any reference in any enactment to a reformatory school or an industrial school shall, on the commencement of this section in relation to it, be construed as a reference to a children detention school or, as the case may be, premises provided and maintained by the Health Service Executive under section 38(2) of the Act of 1991.".".
This amendment provides for the transfer of certain detention responsibilities to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform from the Department of Education and Science. This relates to five different legal entities, but the relevant detention facilities are at Oberstown, Finglas and Clonmel. What is envisaged for Clonmel, which is unnamed in the amendment, is that it will be transferred to the Health Service Executive.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh's amendment seeks to transfer responsibility for child detention from the Minister for Education and Science to the Minister for Health and Children, and Deputy Jim O'Keeffe's amendment seeks to require the consent of the Minister for Health and Children to the transfer.
The purpose of the amendment in my name is twofold. It transforms the existing industrial reformatory schools into children detention schools and transfers responsibility for these schools to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform or, in a specific case, to the Health Service Executive. Following the review of the youth justice system carried out in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and based on its recommendations, the Government agreed last December to establish a new youth justice service within the Department. The new service is intended to bring together all services for offending children in one place so that the needs of these children can be addressed in a coherent and co-ordinated way.
Historically, the youth justice sector has been characterised by a fragmented, unco-ordinated structure. The youth justice service will not only bring all services for offending children together, but will operate within the strategic environment of my office, the Office of the Minister for Children, ensuring that services for offending children are developed and delivered within the wider context of services for children generally.
Accommodation of children sentenced to detention by the courts will come under the remit of the youth justice service. This amendment provides for the existing industrial and reformatory schools to become children detention schools, which as a result of other amendments proposed here will be my direct responsibility as the delegated Minister within the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
The transfer of responsibility for the detention of children up to the age of 16 from the Minister for Education and Science to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will have a number of positive effects. First, it facilitates the extension of the children detention school model to all children up to the age of 18. Second, it locates children detention services in the same youth justice service that is responsible for all other aspects of youth offending responses. That is important. It is a mistake to leave one Department in charge of detaining children and another in charge of community-based responses. That makes no sense, but it is the system under which we have operated for decades. The Department of Education and Science paid the bill for detaining the children, but other than in a limited educational way had no overall responsibility for an alternative approach. The result of the change is that the children detention services will be in the strategic environment of my office.
With regard to the transfer of a certified industrial school from the Minister for Education and Science to the Health Service Executive, I have been advised, since preparing these provisions, given that it involves a transfer from a Minister to a statutory body, that this requires to be spelled out in more detail. The necessary amendments will be prepared and brought forward on Report Stage.
Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 220, in the name of Deputy Jim O'Keeffe, seeks the consent of the Minister for Health and Children for an industrial or reformatory school to become a child detention school. Currently, all these schools are vested in the Minister for Education and Science. Under the proposed official amendments, the detention functions of the children detention schools will be vested in the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The consent of these two Ministers is required for the change to occur. The Minister for Health and Children has no role in these schools, under the current or the new system, and therefore her consent is not required. I have not detected an appetite within the Department of Health and Children to assume responsibility for children detention schools.
St. Joseph's industrial school in Clonmel will be transferred to the Health Service Executive, but it will not become a children detention school and, therefore, it is not covered by this subsection. The reason for this is that the majority of the persons held in St. Joseph's industrial school are there on referral by the HSE. Very few are there on foot of court orders.
Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 to amendment No. 220, in the name of Deputy Jim O'Keeffe, seek to add two commas to the subsection and substitute the word "functions" for "schools". Whatever about the commas, the Deputy is correct in saying that what are being transferred are functions, not schools. I would like the views of the parliamentary counsel on the drafting of those amendments before accepting them. If the parliamentary draftsmen consider a different form of words to be more appropriate, I will bring forward a newly drafted amendment on Report Stage. I thank Deputy Jim O'Keeffe for bringing the issue to my attention.
Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 to amendment No. 220, in the name of Deputy Ó Snodaigh, raise an issue of principle because he proposes to transfer all existing industrial and reformatory schools to the Minister for Health and Children as opposed to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The report to the Government recommended the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and I have listed the benefits of that transfer.
The transfer brings together detention for all children up to the age of 18 and facilitates the management of detention in an integrated manner, with non-custodial sanctions and other strategies to address offending behaviour within a single service. The youth justice service will be co-located with the other children's services within my office to ensure the detention services are managed and developed in a co-ordinated manner with these other services. The Deputy's amendment would remove those benefits. His amendment raises the fundamental philosophical issue, touched upon by some of the amendments raised by interested parties, as to why we should have a youth justice system. If ultimate sanction is vested in the health service, the logical follow through is to bring the age of responsibility up to 18 and to have a complete therapeutic service for youth offenders under the age of 18. I do not believe in that. There must be some sense of personal responsibility epitomised in our youth justice system. We cannot simply say that every problem is a social problem and should be treated accordingly, which is implicit in the thinking behind the Deputy's amendment.
A youth justice system may be a regrettable necessity, but if we must have it, there should be coherent management of the system from the earliest stage of diversion to the ultimate sanction of detention. This is necessary to ensure detention is the last possible resort and that community-based alternatives are built into the system as far as possible. However, it is useful to look at these amendments because they help tease out the issues involved.
A case can be made for having a single agency managing all this. I have managed to reduce the agencies from three to two. In other words, we are left with the need for co-operation between the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Health and Children. This will take place under the aegis of my office and is a real advance. In another decade we may well be asked whether we would be better off with one agency to deal with troubled children. Having surveyed the administrative scene, I cannot say there is an appetite for that now. My achievement will have to be to have reduced the number to two.