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Family Support Services

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 14 October 2020

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Ceisteanna (231)

Patrick Costello

Ceist:

231. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration the steps taken by Tusla to ensure parental alienation does not occur as a by-product of Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30430/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

Thank you deputy for your question on this important matter.

The issue of parental alienation is highly complex. While there is no specific legislative provision regarding parental alienation in Irish family law, section 246 of the Children Act 2001 provides for an offence of frightening, bullying or threatening a child in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to the child's physical, mental or emotional health or wellbeing.

There is also a range of legislative provisions in place for dealing with child welfare particularly regarding the relationship between a child and his/her parents or guardians, providing the framework for a legal response to a wide spectrum of child welfare issues.

As you may already be aware the Report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality on Reform of the Family Law System, which was published late last year, considered the issue of parental alienation among a broad range of issues in the area of family law.

A Family Justice Oversight Group was established within the Department of Justice and Equality the membership of which includes representatives from the judiciary, the Courts Service, the Legal Aid Board and my Department. Indications are that recommendations contained in the committee’s report will be integrated into the work of that group.

Social workers in Tusla review all referrals concerning a child welfare or child protection matter and prioritise their response on the basis of potential or real risk of harm to the child. Throughout the pandemic, Tusla prioritised their direct engagement with children on the Child Protection Notification System or in need of an assessment regarding harm, with children in care in relation to access with families and with victims of domestic violence.

The courts may refer civil cases to Tusla where parental custody disputes are impacting on the welfare and safety of a child, and Tusla takes into account issues relating to ‘parental alienation’ in their assessment and engagement with the family.

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