Dáil Éireann - Volume 586 - 27 May, 2004

Written Answers - Child Care Services.

  158. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children when the implementation of the Children Act 2001 will result in the introduction of family welfare conferences; and the reason they have been delayed. [16065/04]

  Mr. B. Lenihan: Part 2 of the Children Act 2001 provides for family welfare conferencing for non-offending children who may need special care or protection. Substantial work has been done to allow for the introduction of almost all of Part 2. Funds for the services have been made available to the health boards. The services have been piloted and are available.

Part 2 provides for family welfare conferences, Part 3 deals with special care and Part 11 concerns the special residential services board and all are linked. Part 11 established the board on a statutory basis and it has commenced. In recent months a board has been appointed and [1075] the recruitment and appointment of staff, including a chief executive officer, has taken place.

Over 120 high support and special care places were developed in recent years along with intensive community based services such as the youth advocacy programme pilot projects in the Northern Area Health Board and the Western Health Board. These developments cater for the small number of non-offending children in need of special care or protection. They will facilitate the introduction of the provisions of Part 2 and Part 3 of the Children Act 2001.

Given the complexities involved, my Department undertook detailed work in conjunction with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the legal steps necessary for the introduction of Parts 2 and 3 of the Children Act 2001. At present the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel is preparing the necessary draft commencement orders prepared by both Departments in connection with this. Subject to this, almost all of Parts 2 and 3 will be commenced in the near future.

Sections 7(1)(a), 10(2) and 13(2) of Part 2 will not be commenced at this time. They relate to section 77 of Part 8 that deals with the referral of cases, by the Children’s Court, of children charged with offences to health boards for the purpose of holding family welfare conferences. Consideration shall be given to commencing these sections when the expertise and optimal use of the statutory scheme has been established and having regard to the resources required and available.