Minister Andrews launches Government’s Implementation Plan in response to the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, 2009
Tuesday, 28th July 2009
Barry Andrews TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs today launched the Government’s Implementation Plan in response to the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, 2009. Speaking at the launch Minister Andrews said: ‘The publication of the Report of the Commission – known as the Ryan Report - on May 20th gave rise to trauma, grief, shock and abhorrence. In 1999 the then Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, T.D., made a sincere and full apology for the failings of the past. Our current Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen, T.D., reiterated that apology eight weeks ago. The damage caused by a culture that tolerated and even encouraged physical, sexual and emotional abuse for decades will not be undone by words alone. It is by implementing this Action Plan that we will win back the trust of those whom we abandoned’.
Minister Andrews noted that in accepting the 20 recommendations contained in the Ryan Report, the Government has shown its commitment to support survivors. ‘This Implementation Plan, which I was asked to formulate, is a comprehensive response to Justice Ryan’s recommendations. A memorial will be erected, in consultation with the survivor groups, to act as a constant reminder of the neglect and abuse of the past and as a warning to be vigilant to the threat of child abuse into the future. Consideration will also be given to arrangements for a national day of remembrance and solidarity,’ stated Minister Andrews.
Counselling for survivors is provided by the National Counselling Service (NCS). This is a professional, confidential counselling and psychotherapy service available in all HSE areas. ‘There are waiting lists for this service and the HSE has noted a substantial increase in referrals following the publication of the Ryan Report. In light of this, and in anticipation of the publication of the Report of the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation, I have recommended in this Plan that the NCS should purchase additional therapy services. The NCS will be exempt from the public service moratorium on recruitment and replacement of staff,’ added the Minister.
The Minister went on to say that many survivors believe they have a criminal record that they carry to this day. ‘In the main, children were referred to industrial schools under Section 58 of the Children Act, 1908, which did not give rise to a criminal record. However, in recognition of the genuine concerns of survivors, the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform has undertaken that any individuals can write to him and his officials will look at the matter and, if required, will issue a certificate clarifying the position. The Minister will also consider if any additional means, including legislative ones, are required to address this concern,’ continued Minister Andrews.
‘The review of compliance with Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2008), found that in some cases, State organisations did not uniformly apply the guidelines. Accordingly, I have taken the decision to put compliance with Children First on a statutory footing. Under this Plan, I will bring forward legislation to provide that staff of all publicly funded bodies will have a duty to comply with and implement these guidelines,’ said Minister Andrews.
‘This Plan highlights the need to deploy social work services on the basis of need and not simply on geographical location. The HSE will carry out an audit of current resources and need in order to provide effective services. The appointment of a senior manager in the HSE, with sole responsibility for children and family services, will provide leadership and focus in the delivery of services. 270 social work posts within the HSE will be filled. This will enable all children in care to have access to a designated social worker. Unfortunately, this is not always the case today, but under this Plan, I am confident that this protection and entitlement will be delivered,’ added the Minister.
The Minister noted that some facilities in which children live in the care of the State are not independently inspected. ‘Recognising this gap, it is the Government’s intention that, by 2010, all children’s residential centres, including those for children with a disability and separated children seeking asylum, will be independently inspected by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA)’ continued Minister Andrews.
Noting the importance of aftercare for young people leaving care, Minister Andrews said: ‘There has been no systematic follow-up of young people who have left care, so it is very difficult to estimate the number who experience difficulties in the transition to independent living’. Under this Plan, the HSE will conduct a longitudinal study to follow young people who leave care to map their transition to adulthood. Critically, provision of aftercare services will be delivered to all children leaving care in all instances where the professional judgement of the allocated social worker determines it is required’.
‘In recognition of the need for an out-of-hours social work crisis intervention service, the HSE will build on its existing service and put such an out-of-hours service in place with GPs, acute hospitals and mental health services. I announced at the time of the publication of the Monageer Report that the HSE was commencing from early June an out-of-hours 'place of safety' service for children deemed to be at risk by Gardaí under Section 12 of the Child Care Act. That system has been working well – with approximately one referral per night. The HSE will pilot the out-of-hours social work crisis intervention service in two areas. Demand for the place of safety service and the results from the out-of-hours social work crisis intervention pilots will provide us with an accurate picture of need and will help us shape appropriate services,’ declared Minister Andrews.
‘We can never compensate the survivors of abuse for their lost childhoods. The State must now and in the future, deliver care services that nurture and support children. I am taking personal responsibility for the full implementation of the 99 actions in this plan. I am determined that we give effect to the worthy aspirations of the 1916 Proclamation of the Republic - to cherish all of the children of the nation equally,’ concluded Minister Andrews.