The Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2019 was published on 8 August 2019 and completed Third (Committee) Stage in Dáil Éireann on 23 October.
The Bill addresses significant inadequacies in the current system of Guardian ad litem (GAL) provision which is ad hoc, unregulated and in urgent need of reform. Appointment of GALs is uneven, with huge variation in rates of appointment across the country and there is no system for commissioning legal representation for GALs. This Bill will ensure that all children in child care proceedings have their voice heard and the Court gives full consideration as to what is in their best interests. It also gives me the statutory basis to put in place a high quality and sustainable GAL national service within my Department.
I am pleased to note that the Bill has been broadly welcomed. I am currently seeking advice from the Attorney General's office on a number of Opposition amendments that were passed or proposed at Committee stage and am considering some of the concerns raised by Deputies and stakeholders. I am committed to considering how these concerns can be addressed and plan to bring the Bill through Report Stage early in the New Year. I have already put in place a Programme Team to establish the national service within my Department and have secured funding of €2.5 million for 2020 to allow for the opening of the office in January 2021.