Child & Family Agency Bill enacted – Agency to be established in January 2014
The bill to establish the new Child & Family Agency has passed all stages in the Oireachtas. 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.
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.
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
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.
€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, 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.
€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 childcare capital funding was provided, which had previously been discontinued in 2008.
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.
Action Plan on Bullying launched
The Government’s new ‘Action Plan on Bullying’ was launched.
Important child protection reports published
2013 saw the publication of the pilot phase report of the HSE’s National Audit of 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.