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Minister Zappone welcomes Audit on Section 12 by Dr Geoffrey Shannon

Monday 29th May, 2017

Minister Zappone welcomed the report by Dr Geoffrey Shannon which is an audit of the use of section 12 of the Child Care Act by An Garda Siochana.

“Audits like today’s point out where we need to be” said Minister Zappone.  Our decisions in relation to child protection must be based on comprehensive information.  That’s the imperative if we want our child protection system to become one of the best in the world.  And we do.”

The audit covers the period from 2008 to the end of 2015.

When Tusla was established in 2014, it was obvious that a huge amount of work needed to be done to improve our child protection system.

“This work has well and truly begun”, the Minister said today. “In the months and years ahead, any improvements that need to be made will be made.  Now that I have the report we will review it.   I have arranged to meet with Dr Geoffrey Shannon in the next week to discuss his findings and recommendations.  I am determined to do whatever needs to be done to improve child protection in Ireland.

Out of Hours service
In the past 18 months,  the emergency out of hours service has been significantly expanded.  There is now full national cover for this service.  Four areas (Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow and Cork City) have a full social work service, where social workers are available to engage directly with the children concerned.  The rest of the country has social workers on call to deal with queries from the Gardai and an arrangement to place children in emergency foster care if required.

Importantly the Gardai now have full access to the Child Protection Notification system which they did not have in 2015. Through this system they can check if a child is at ongoing risk of harm.
Communication beatween Tusla and the Gardai:
Communications have been enhanced through regular strategic meetings which take place at senior level between the Gardai and Tusla.

In the coming week a dedicated Tusla Offical will work with the Garda National Child Protection Unit.  This Unit will carry out an audit at local level of the child protection operations between Tusla and an Garda Siochana.

Divisional Protective Services Units are being established in all 28 Garda divisions and effective liaison with Tusla will be a feature of these units.

Significantly, Tusla is ready to sign a joint protocol with the Gardai on the operation of section 12.  This will provide clear and extensive guidance on a range of issues in relation to children at risk. This will address many of the issues raised in the report today.

Residential Services
Emergency foster care is not suitable for all children in all circumstances. There are exception situations when a residential placement is more suitable.  Tusla has an emergency residential centre in Mullingar for 3 children and one in Dublin for 6 children.  Tusla is now looking at opening an additional centre in Cork.

There is a lot of work to do.  Progress in relation to child protection is happening.  Audits, such as that published today are incredibly helpful in pointing out where we need to be.  We need these type of audits as our decisions in relation to child protection need to be based on comprehensive information.
We will continue to carry out this type of audit in order to improve our services to children and so that our Child protection system can become one of the best in the world.


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