Dáil Éireann - Volume 546 - 11 December, 2001

Written Answers. - Children Act, 2001.

239. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is expected to give effect to the Children Act, 2001; the way in which this will impact upon the establishment of an identity register of vulnerable children here; if family centres will be established in various locations as a consequence; if it is intended to provide for a number of high support and secure units for children with severe difficulties; the capital pro[707] gramme involved in this regard in 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31870/01]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Ms Hanafin): As the Deputy will be aware, this Government is committed to the implementation of the Children Act, 2001, on a phased basis. The National Children's Office has already established a high level group composed of senior officials of the relevant Departments and other concerned which will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Act. This group is drawing up an implementation plan at present and it is intended to submit the plan to Government early next year.

The Act has no direct implications for an identity register of vulnerable children. Under Children First, the practice of each health board having its own child protection notification system, CPNS, is being introduced. The CPNS is to be a health board record of every child about whom, following a preliminary assessment, there is a child protection concern. The CPNS aims to improve the management and record keeping of notifications across all health boards. It will also ensure uniformity of approach in assessing child protection notifications. All health boards are in the process of implementing the CPNS at present.

The Children Act, 2001, will require strengthening and further development of a wide range of child protection and welfare services, including special care units, high support units, other residential care facilities, alternative care and intermediate care services, family support services and early intervention and preventative services. The recently published National Health Strategy states that “family support services will be expanded” – Action 27 – and this includes a specific commitment to the introduction of family welfare conferences and other services required to support the Children Act, 2001. In accordance with this policy the Department of Health and Children has allocated, for 2002, additional funding to establish springboard projects as a mainstream service of the health boards and for the development of new springboard initiatives in a number of areas which have been designated as RAPID areas of disadvantage. Health boards have also been requested to submit specific proposals for additional family support services as part of their service plans for 2002. It is envisaged that these proposals will cover a wide range of both safeguarding and supportive services, such as neighbourhood youth programmes, parenting programmes, early intervention services and the development of cross-sectoral co-ordination.

Capital investment of approximately 38.09 million, £30 million, is being made available by [708] this Government through the health boards to put in place additional high support and special care places to provide for a small group of children who need more intensive intervention. The number of high support and special care places has increased from 17 in 1996 to a current total of 88 places. An additional 46 places are also planned as follows: in the eastern region, a high support facility providing 24 places at Portrane; 12 high support places in Castleblayney, facilitating the Midland, North-Eastern, North-Western and Western Health Boards; a further five high support places and five special care places for adolescent boys in the Mid-Western Health Board area. Places in these facilities are due to become available by mid 2002. The Special Residential Services Board, which was recently launched, will advise on and improve the co-ordination of special residential services for children convicted by the courts and for non-offending chidlren in need of special care and protection.

The development of these services is ongoing and includes capital expenditure. However, the complete capital programme for 2002 relating to this area will not be finalised until early in the new year.