I propose to take Questions Nos. 308 and 309 together.
The Department of Health and Children was alerted by the South Eastern Health Board to allegations of child abuse in Cappoquin in January 1994. The health board was advised immediately that the gardaí should be notified of the allegations. The health board gave the Department assurances at the time that the alleged abuse was not continuing and that the children were safe. Within a few days of receiving this information, the Department also arranged for its then social work adviser to visit Cappoquin to confirm that the children then residing in the home were safe. The social work adviser subsequently reported back that, subject to the limitations inherent in a once-off visit, she was satisfied that the home was being well run and that the children appeared to be happy.
The chief executive officers of each health board were also circularised and instructed by the Department to ensure that children placed in residential care were visited regularly and that the care being provided to them was monitored closely. Additional resources were provided to the South Eastern Health Board in 1994, 1995 and 1996, in common with all other boards, in preparation for the full implementation of the Child Care Act 1991.
Furthermore, a working group to advise on standards in children's residential centres was established. This group included representatives of the Department of Health and Children, health boards, the Residential Managers Association, the Irish Association of Care Workers and the Conference of Religious of Ireland. As a result of this, the Child Care (Standards in Children's Residential Centres) Regulations 1996, SI 397 of 1996, were introduced. These regulations set out the statutory obligations in relation to the standards to be maintained in children's residential centres run by voluntary agencies.