As the Deputy is aware, the Child Care Law Reporting Project is an independent project authorised under Section 29 of the Child Care Act 1991 (as amended by the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2007), and in accordance with Regulations made under that Section to report on child care proceedings. The project is supported in this work by my Department.
On 29 January the Child Care Law Reporting Project published its final series of reports on child care proceedings, focusing on exceptionally lengthy and complex cases. These cases reveal the challenges that can arise in child care proceedings, including delays in obtaining appropriate Special Care placements and services for young people with severe psychological and psychiatric needs, examples of extremely prolonged care proceedings, and difficulties in accessing appropriate services in cases involving allegations of sexual abuse. The reports also include examples of successful outcomes for children at the centre of care proceedings, including one young man who on returning from specialist services in the United Kingdom at 18 years of age is doing extremely well in a privately funded placement in an adult psychiatric unit.
Overall, the project has provided a measure of the effectiveness of current systems and policies in the areas of child protection and court administration, and assisted in identifying areas where corrective action may be required. Ultimately, it has assisted my Department in gaining a greater depth of knowledge and understanding of child care cases and increasing the evidence base on which future policy formulation can be based.
Within the Special Care resources currently available to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, there are 13 places occupied at present. Recruitment and retention of staff is a priority for Tusla to enable this resource to operate at its full capacity of 26. Tusla is also committed to the implementation of a new model of care across Special Care services. It is anticipated that this model’s focus on staff support will make Special Care an attractive employment option, while the model will also assist children and young people and those tasked with caring for them in managing risk-taking behaviours and preventing the breakdown of step-down placements.
In addition, I am currently conducting a fact-finding exercise on how sexual abuse services are co-ordinated in other jurisdictions. I will work with my colleagues across government, including the Minister for Health and the Minister for Justice and Equality, to develop a model suitable for our country. This will deepen co-operation across health, justice and child protection to improve access to services and to justice, and to minimise the trauma of children who have experienced child sexual abuse.