The Office of the Minister for Children was established in accordance with the Government decision of 7th December, 2005 to place the interests of children at the heart of Government and to build on the successes already achieved in the context of the National Children's Strategy. The Office is an integral part of the Department of Health and Children. The responsibilities of the new office comprise the following: the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme — EOCP (transferred from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform); the new National Childcare Investment Programme which was announced in Budget 2006 as part of the new National Childcare Strategy for the next 5 years; the programmes and activities of the former National Children's Office; policy and legislative work on Child Welfare and Protection (Department of Health and Children); Implementing the Children Act (2001).
The new Youth Justice Service of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Early Years Education Policy Unit of the Department of Education and Science will be co-located at the new office. The purpose in bringing these various responsibilities together is to maximize the co-ordination of policies for children and young persons and to provide a strong focus at the highest level. The Office of the Minister for Children also maintains a general strategic oversight of bodies with responsibility for developing and delivering children's services.
As Minister for Children, I hold delegated responsibilities in the Departments of Health & Children, Education & Science, and Justice, Equality & Law Reform for those areas appropriate to my brief. In addition, I attend meetings of the Government. This gives a strong voice for the interests of children and young persons at Cabinet level.