Saturday 24 February 2018

‘Ferocious’ childcare protection watchdog hailed

Ed Carty

A NEW state body to protect children has been billed as a ferocious corporate parent demanding the best for the country's youngsters.

The Child and Family Agency will takeover the role of three separate bodies to improve services for children, which the Government says is the most effective response to repeated and tragic failings of the past.

It will have 4,000 staff, a budget of 609 million euro and a national network of 106 community based family resource centres.

But children's rights campaigners have said the main challenge that remains is to ensure all the services available for families are joined up.

Gordon Jeyes, chief executive of the new agency, pledged that it will tell it as it is when it comes to child protection and services.

"This agency is an exciting fresh start, putting children first always: planning for individuals, joining up services. One child. One plan. Many perspectives," he said.

"The Child and Family Agency will be a ferocious corporate parent, demanding for the children of Ireland the very best that the state can give.

"This will be an agency that has the agility and the freedom and flexibility to engage with individual families on a practical level and the capacity to react to changing circumstances.

"This agency will tell it as it is."

The agency,, will take on work currently done by the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Family Support Agency and the National Education Welfare Board.

It will also offer care and protection for children in circumstances where their parents are unable to and ensure every child in the state is being educated.

It will see social workers and staff in community based services, education welfare and social care work in partnership with voluntary and other state agencies.

Expert staff will deal with child protection and welfare, educational welfare, psychological services, alternative care, family and locally-based community supports and domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald said it is one of the largest and most important public sector reforms being undertaken by the Government.

"For the first time we will have child and family social workers, family support workers, social care workers and education welfare officers all working together to protect children and support families," she said.

"We are going to move from a position where child and family welfare was barely a priority, to a position where it will be the sole focus of a single dedicated state agency, with a ring-fenced budget and streamlined management, overseen by a single dedicated government department."

The minister added: "We will not fix the problems overnight. It took decades for the legacy we inherited to develop; it will take years to fix it."

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