Dáil Éireann - Volume 630 - 31 January, 2007
Written Answers. - Family Support Services.
Mr. McCormack Mr. McCormack
Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will acknowledge that the increase in juvenile crime and lack of morality is due to not having a functional Government structure in place for children from broken homes and lack of services for youth to help cope with the trauma of their parents’ separation. [2202/07]
Mr. B. Lenihan Mr. B. Lenihan
Mr. B. Lenihan: The Government is committed to improving the lives of all children in Ireland under the National Children’s Strategy and in order to bring greater coherence to policy making for children, the Government has established the Office of the Minister for Children (OMC). The OMC is an integral part of the Department of Health and Children.
The OMC focuses on harmonising policy issues that affect children in areas such as early childhood care and education, youth justice, child welfare and protection, children and young people’s participation, research on children and young people and cross cutting initiatives for children. Children now have a stronger voice on issues that affect them, through my attendance at Cabinet meetings.
In relation to juvenile crime there has been no increase in the rate of offending by young people in recent years. All young people suspected of committing an offence are referred to the Garda Diversion Programme. The number of young people referred to the Programme in recent years has remained stable at approximately 17,500 young people each year since 2002. The 2005 figure of 17,567 actually represents a decrease of 0.5% over 2004. The percentage of children considered unsuitable for the Programme and sent forward to be considered for prosecution has also been falling since 2002.
The Government is committed to tackling the problems in the youth justice area. Following a review of the system completed in December 2005, a series of reforms has been initiated including the establishment of the Irish Youth Justice Service, the development of new community alternatives to detention and the investment of considerable resources to support the process.  Under the National Development Plan, €224 million has been committed to youth justice programmes over the lifetime of the plan.
In relation to child welfare and protection services family support programmes are provided by services such as the Community Mothers, Family Support Workers, Teen Parents Support Projects, and Springboard Projects and encompass specific interventions such as Parents Plus programme, the Family First Parenting Initiative as well as a range of general parenting programmes and supports.
The Family Support Agency provides, under the Scheme of Grants for Marriage, Child and Bereavement Counselling Services, funding for Child counselling in relation to Parental Separation and funding for relationship counselling.
The Family Support Agency also provides a Direct Mediation Service. Parents may elect to go to mediation, which can help in these circumstances. The Family Mediation Service is a free professional service. Mediation helps couples who have decided to separate, or who have already separated to negotiate their own terms of agreement, taking into account the needs and interests of all involved. Mediation assists parents in working out a parenting plan for their children. A parenting plan is a carefully devised schedule which lays out how to share time with the children, how to manage responsibilities, and how to make decisions about the children. When a couple has reached agreement, a session is offered to parents with their children to discuss their new family arrangements in an encouraging and positive way.
Dáil Éireann 630 Written Answers. Family Support Services.