Child welfare

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Child & Family Agency and Family Resource Centres

The Bill establishing the Child and Family Agency was approved on fourth and fifth stage (Dail Eireann, Debates, 21st November 2013, 23-37; 56-87).  Caomhghin O Caolain  (SF, Cavan Monaghan) presented a fourth stage amendment for the board to include people with knowledge of the legal environment for children, child protection, psychology, family support and therapeutic services.  He said he was putting forward the amendment out of concern for services transferred to the new agency, especially those of the Family Resource Centres and he had met members of the Family Resource Centre National Forum.  It was essential that the legislation take account of their concerns and for this the composition of the board was crucial.  The decision to drop ‘support’ from the original title of ‘child and family support agency’ had caused significant, understandable concern and it was essential there be people on the board who understood family services and the responsibilities formerly undertaken by the Family Resource Centres.

 

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald, disagreed: the amendment was inflexible and prescriptive.  The minister must be able to choose a board from a broad and specific range of skills.  Broader remit can be lost in boards with a representative character and appointments should be open and flexible.  She had already introduced an amendment to clarify family support: it was central to the agency and many members of the board had a background in social work and family support services, but we also needed people who understood governance, human resources and so on.  That was the mix we needed, rather than specify qualifications. 

 

Caomhghin O Caolain told the Dail that he had requested the biographies of those appointed to the board, but had not received them.  The minister assured him that there were persons with detailed experience in the area, with a lot of experience in local delivery from Family Resource Centres.  The amendment was lost.  The Bill was passed and sent to the Seanad.

>  See also establishment of Child and Family Agency, due 1st January 2014: Dail Eireann, Debates, 12th November 2013, 276-8.