Thursday, 30 June 2016

Ceisteanna (12)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

12. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection the anticipated timeframe for addressing the issue of fees for stillborn birth and death registration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18696/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Social)

This is a very sensitive topic and I thank the Minister for his action on it. Since the question was initially tabled, he has signed a statutory instrument to address the issue of the State charging for the registration of stillbirths. I appreciate his action in that regard. The matter first came to my attention this time last year when I was collecting the birth certificate for my own, thankfully, healthy second son. I noticed that the State was asking for a fee to register a stillbirth and, in the case of children who pass away shortly after birth, a fee for the birth and death certificates. The latter issue remains outstanding. Can measures be taken to address it also? Again, I acknowledge the Minister's swift action on the first issue.

I thank the Deputy for bringing this sensitive issue to my attention some weeks ago. As Members will be aware, I previously announced that I intended to look at the issue of the fee charged for a certificate of stillbirth registration. I am very pleased to inform the House that I have dealt with this matter quickly and that the fee for the certificate of a registration of stillbirth is being abolished. Earlier this week I signed a statutory instrument, as provided for under section 67 of the Civil Registration Act 2004, to provide that there will be no fee charged to parents for a certificate for their stillborn child. This will come into effect next week. As the Health Service Executive has responsibility for the day-to-day running of the Civil Registration Service, I sought the view of my colleague, the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, prior to signing the new regulation. I am happy to say he is in full agreement with me on this matter.

The registration of stillbirths is not mandatory. The register was established in 1995 under the Stillbirths Registration Act 1994 to afford parents the option of recording a stillbirth. The intention of this provision is to provide comfort for the bereaved parents. In many ways, the fact that there was a fee had a contrary effect as identified by the Deputy. It is my hope the facility to register a stillbirth will continue to provide some solace for parents at what is, undoubtedly, a very sad and difficult time by allowing them to register that their children were born and were persons.

The Minister acted very swiftly on this issue, which I acknowledge. The scenario outlined demonstrated a lack of sensitivity on the part of the State. Thankfully, the issue in relation to stillbirths has been addressed. On the matter of there being two separate charges for a birth certificate and a death certificate for a child who passes away shortly after birth, is it the case that the position cannot be changed by way of a statutory instrument? Is additional work required and is it something the Minister can pursue? What would be involved in that process?

Section 12 of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2014 provides for the provision of information on a death which occurs during the first seven days of life of a child born alive. This is known as an early neo-natal death. The section has not yet been commenced owing to industrial relations issues within the HSE. Once these issues are resolved, it is my intention to commence the section which provides for the making of a further statutory instrument waiving any fee for the registration of a early neo-natal death.

I thank the Minister. It is a matter of principle and it would mean that there was one less issue for people to deal with at a very difficult time in their lives. I appreciate the Minister's help and his very swift reaction.

I thank the Deputy for bringing the matter to my attention and my officials and I were very happy to be able to make the change. There are approximately 240 registrations of stillbirths in Ireland every year. While waiving the fee has a small impact in terms of the loss to the HSE of some €5,000, there was no difficulty from the point of view of the Department of Health or the HSE in losing that income.