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Minister for Children and Youth Affairs

In 2011 Frances Fitzgerald was appointed Ireland's first ever Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

Frances Fitzgerald TD., Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Among the key priorities she outlined are the need to protect children by putting Children First on a statutory footing, to deliver a Children's Referendum, to establish a dedicated agency for Children and Family Services, to continue to offer a free pre-school year for children, to develop youth services throughout the country, to end the practice of sending under-18s to St Patricks Institution, to open inter-country adoptions with countries such as Vietnam and to improve adoption and fostering systems in Ireland.

As Minister for Children & Youth Affairs, she has been leading the Government’s comprehensive reform of child protection in Ireland. The many steps take to date include:

Child & Family Agency established in January 2014  The establishment of the Agency is one of the largest and most ambitious public sector reforms being undertaken by this Government involving the bringing together of over 4,000 staff and a budget of nearly €600 million from three existing bodies.

Additional funding secured in Budget 2014 to support child protection reforms An additional allocation of €6.7m the 2014 budget (rising to €12m in a full year) to support further child protection reforms, including additional recruitment.

Expanding special care provision in Ireland In 2013, Minister Fitzgerald announced plans to expand the number of special care places in Ireland from 17 at present to 35 by 2015.

First HIQA child protection inspection report 2013 saw the publication of the first report independent reports by HIQA (Health Information and Quality Authority) on inspection of child protection services. Minister Fitzgerald initiated this new inspection regime to help drive standard-led approach to improving quality, consistency and accountability in child protection.

Implementing the Pre-school Quality Agenda There has been major progress since July on the implementation of the 8-point plan for a Pre-school Quality Agenda.

Commenced the publication of pre-school inspections reports As promised we have, for the first time, begun publishing pre-school inspections reports on the Pobal website. As of 16th December there were 1,912 pre-school inspection reports now online including the first 35 new reports.

New laws enacted on pre-school regulation and enforcement The Oireachtas has passed all stages of the Child & Family Agency Bill which provides for statutory registration of all pre-schools service, new pre-prosecution enforcement powers for inspectors and increased penalties at District Court level.

Recruiting new Inspectors The HSE is currently at an advanced stage of recruiting 5 additional inspectors in areas where gaps had been identified. Budget 2014 includes an allocation of €500,000 to further increase staffing levels to strengthen the preschool inspection system.

Funding secured for Pre-school Quality Support Service Budget 2014 includes an allocation of €2.75m to establish a new National Quality Support Service which will  work directly with services to improve quality including assisting services to implement the Siolta framework and Aistear curriculum.

Increasing the minimum qualification requirements for pre-school staff Minimum qualification requirements for staff working in pre-school services are being increased from September 2015 for existing services and from September 2014 for new services. Budget 2014 includes an allocation of €1.5m to support training for staff already working in the sector to meet the new qualification requirements.

Construction underway at Oberstown child detention facility Construction has commenced on the new child detention facility at Oberstown in north Co Dublin. This €55 million project will deliver on the commitment to end the detention of children in St Patrick’s Institution.

€30 million ABC programme launched In November, 13 sites were names for the new ABC (area based childhood) programme. This €30 million programme, co-funded by Atlantic Philanthropies, aims to improve outcomes for children in disadvantaged areas and delivers on a key Programme for Government commitment.

Government agreement on changes to law on Aftercare In November, the Cabinet agreed a new policy to strengthen the legislative provisions relating to the duty to prepare a plan that identifies a child’s needs for aftercare supports. The legislation is currently being finalised.

€1.5 million announced for new youth cafesIn 2013, €1.5 million in capital funding was provided to fund 30 new youth cafes around the country, bringing the total investment by this Government in new youth cafés to €2.2 million.

€2.75 million announced to improve childcare facilities In 2013, €2.75 million in capital funding was provided to fund improvements to childcare facilities throughout Ireland. This is the second year in a row that Minister Fitzgerald has provided childcare capital funding, which had previously been discontinued in 2008 by the last Government.

€250,000 announced for new playgrounds In 2013, €250,000 in capital funding was provided to local authorities towards the development and refurbishment of children’s play areas.

116000 Missing Children’s Hotline launched in Ireland The 116000 Missing Children’s Hotline was finally launched in Ireland in April 2013 on foot of Minister Fitzgerald’s initiative. This 24/7 support service is run by the ISPCC with financial support from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the EU.

Reporting to the UN Ireland has submitted the State's Consolidated 3rd and 4th Reports to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Under the last Government, Ireland previously failed to submit the 3rd as originally required in 2009.

Launch of Report of Early Years Expert Advisory Group ‘Right from the Start’, the report of the Expert Advisory Group on Ireland’s first-ever Early Years Strategy was launched in October. This report and its recommendations will form the basis for the final strategy which will be published in early 2014.

Successful Presidency of EU Council of Youth Ministers During Ireland’s EU Presidency, Minister Fitzgerald served as President of the Council of Youth Ministers and secured EU agreement and the publication of a ‘Dublin Declaration’ recognising the role of youth work in supporting youth employability and in implementation of the Youth Guarantee.

Action Plan on Bullying launched In January, Minister Fitzgerald launched together with Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn the Government’s new ‘Action Plan on Bullying’.

Review of the Implementation of Youth Homelessness Strategy In line with the Programme for Government, a Review of the Implementation of the Youth Homelessness Strategy and Young People's Homeless was completed and launched.

Adoption agreement concluded with the US In September, inter-country adoption operating arrangements were concluded between Ireland and the United States of America.

Government agreed revised heads of Children First Bill Following a comprehensive 700 page report form the Joint Oireachtas Committee, the Cabinet has agreed revised heads of Children First Bill and work is been finalised on this important legislation.

Important child protection reports published 2013 saw the publication of the pilot phase report of the HSE’s National Audit if Neglect; the interim report of Dr. Carol Coulter’s Child Care Law Reporting Project and the review of implementation of child protection inquires by Dr. Helen Buckley.

Frances is a T.D. elected by the constituency of Dublin Mid West. Frances previously served as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate on her election as a Senator to the 23rd Seanad and previously served as T.D. for Dublin South East for ten years. She gained a B.Soc. Science in U.C.D. and an M.SC. in Social Administration and Social Work in the London School of Economics. Prior to her election to the Dail Frances was a high profile Chair of the National Women’s Council of Ireland (1988-1992) and Vice President of the European Women’s Lobby.

As Chair of the National Women’s Council she initiated and served on the second Commission on Women, chairing the Employment Sub-Committee. She held the first conference on Women and Decision Making and championed the cause of introducing equality proofing mechanisms. Frances also led a number of high profile health campaigns. She has served on the boards of the Employment Equality Agency, Arthritis Ireland, The O’Reilly Theatre and the Breast Research Unit in St. Vincent’s Hospital. Frances was also Vice Chair of Europa Donna, the European breast cancer campaign.

Frances trained as a social worker and family therapist. She worked in the Mater Hospital, St James’ Hospital and Ballymun Child and Family Centre for ten years. She also worked in inner city communities in London and Dublin. She specialised in family-work including adoption and fostering. She also lectured in social work in Adult Education Courses and in Trinity College, Dublin.


Since her first election to the Dail, Frances has been appointed to six different portfolios under three different Fine Gael leaders - John Bruton, Michael Noonan and Enda Kenny. On her first day in the Dail Frances was appointed to the Fine Gael front bench as Spokesperson on Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and went on to serve as Spokesperson on Defence, Social Community & Family Affairs, Equality & Family Affairs, Social Welfare and served as Spokesperson Health and Children in the Senate.

Frances has served on various Dail and Seanad committees including Justice, Health, the Committee on the Constitution, the National and Economic Social Forum, the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, Social Affairs and Health. Frances was also a member of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children and co-authored several Oireachtas Committee reports. She recently co-founded the first ever Cross Party Group on Mental Health and worked closely with Amnesty International to help break down the stigmas associated with mental health issues. Frances has campaigned strongly on mental health, special needs, social policy and equality issues and worked professionally in these areas.

Frances is married and has three sons in their twenties, an actor, a trainee accountant and a student.

 

Name Frances Fitzgerald (FG) [Dublin Mid West]   
Ministerial Office Department of Children and Youth Affairs
43 - 49 Mespil Road
Dublin 4
 
Constituency Office 9 Main Street
Clondalkin
Dublin 22
 
     
Email frances.fitzgerald@oireachtas.ie  
Ministerial Office Tel: (01) 647 3000  Fax: (01) 647 3101  
Constituency Office (01) 457 7712  
Local Office (01) 284 6050  
     
Education  The London School of Economics
University College Dublin
 
Occupation   Social Worker  

 

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Minister's Expenses

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Visit by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald T.D. Boston, 14 – 19 March 2012

 

 

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