Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick says a national framework for child services is essential to reforming state care

The Fine Gael deputy said Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has been doing stellar work in her newly formed Department of Health and Children

The Fine Gael deputy said Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has been doing stellar work in her newly formed Department of Health and Children

“The establishment of this department highlights the importance this Government places on providing for our children,” he said. “Part of ensuring that these priorities are met is the development of a national framework for children and young people. A public consultation process on this has just been launched. “The number of social workers employed in child and family services in Ireland currently stands at 1,197. This includes 258 of the 263 posts filled, to date, in line with the recommendations made in the Ryan report.  Authority has been granted to fill the 57 vacancies that have arisen and that currently exist as a result of retirements and so forth.   “Every year more than 30,000 child protection and welfare concerns are reported. Of these, more than 16,000 are child welfare concerns, more than 13,000 are child protection concerns and more than 1,500 refer to cases of sexual, physical and emotional abuse.  The abhorrent reality is that thousands of children have been raped, humiliated and assaulted in recent years, some with the knowledge of others who did nothing and instead turned a blind eye.  This may be due to embarrassment, fear or a lack of care.   “We need to reform the systems of State care and intervention. This can be done through the implementation of a national framework for child services and the introduction of new laws. Minister Shatter has already initiated legislation to protect children in the form of the Criminal Justice (Withholding Information on Crimes against Children and Vulnerable Adults) Bill, which will make it an offence not to disclose wrongdoing against a child or vulnerable person to the Gardaí. Minister Fitzgerald is also progressing legislation to ensure that Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children, is placed on a statutory footing. “In addition to these measures, the forthcoming Children and Young People’s Policy Framework, which Minister Fitzgerald recently launched, will ensure that we create an Ireland that is safe for our children, and in which they can prosper, develop and reach their complete and  full potential,” he said.