Wednesday 5th March 2014
The Minister’s speech is presented below (abridged to highlight childcare related elements. To read the full speech, click here) .
“I welcome this opportunity to discuss the priorities that I, as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, wish to see realised over the coming months. I wish this morning to outline my main priorities for 2014, including in relation to delivery of outstanding Programme for Government commitments; and continuation of the implementation of the commitments I just referred to.
My Priorities for 2014 include:
My Department is currently finalising the Children First Bill, which will place elements of the Children First National Guidance on a statutory basis, in line with the Programme for Government commitment to fully implement the recommendations of the Ryan Report. The Bill is included in the legislative programme for the Spring/Summer session, and I expect to submit it to Government in the coming weeks.
It is intended that the Bill will impose a duty on certain specific individuals to report child protection concerns to the Child and Family Agency, and it will improve child protection arrangements in organisations providing services to children.
An Inter-Departmental Group has been established involving key Government Departments, An Garda Síochána and the Child and Family Agency to promote the importance of Children First compliance across Government and to ensure consistency of approach. In July 2013 the Government approved the publication by relevant Departments of their Children First Sectoral Implementation Plans.
I wish to advise the house that last week the government approved the heads of the ‘Aftercare Bill 2014’ and have been referred the Heads to the Oireacthas Committee on Health and Children for consideration. I understand the Committee will consider the matter on 11 March.
The proposals will amend Section 45 of the Child Care Act 1991 to impose a statutory duty on the Child and Family Agency to undertake advance planning in respect of the needs of children who are due to leave its care on reaching the age of 18 years. The proposals will formalise good practice and ensure the continuation of improved arrangements for aftercare which have been introduced under the Child and Family Agency’s National Aftercare Policy and Procedures.It is my intention to make the transition to aftercare as seamless as possible at a time when young people can be particularly vulnerable.
I accept that major challenges remain in ensuring quality standards of care in all early years/childcare settings. This is the result of a legacy of under-investment in quality and training supports; and an effective absence of regulation and enforcement. However I am satisfied that there has been significant progress with respect to the implementation of my 8-point Early Years/Childcare Quality Agenda. Priorities for 2014 in this area include:
In addition, as I announced recently in this House, my Department is to conduct a review of existing targeted childcare schemes (i.e. CCS & CETS) to consider how best to structure future childcare support, to both support working families and to incentivise labour market activation, which could be expanded to more families as resources allow.