Order of Business, 26 June 2012

I, too, welcome the publication of the consultation document on the criminalisation of the purchase of sex which I believe is the result of the motion the Independent group brought before the House on two occasions.

Last Friday, 22 June, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, signed a statutory order to remove section 11(1)(e)(iii) of the Ombudsman for Children Act which excluded children detained in St Patrick’s Institution from the complaints remit of the Ombudsman for Children, Ms Emily Logan. The order will take effect from 1 July. I warmly welcome this move which I do not believe received much publicity. Prior to this, children held in prison, children in the Defence Forces and children involved in dealings with the Garda were the only three groups of children excluded from the remit of the Ombudsman for Children.

However, there is an ombudsman in place for both the Defence Forces and the Garda. It followed from the announcement of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on 2 April that the detention of children in St Patrick’s Institution would end on 1 May for all newly remanded or sentenced 16 and 17 year olds. They will now be detained in Oberstown. These two measures mark significant progress in the treatment of juvenile offenders and the observance of children’s human rights. However, I am mindful of the fact that there is still no independent, fair and impartial complaints mechanism for adult prisoners. Concern has been expressed in this regard by both the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the inspector of prisons, Mr. Justice Michael Reilly, in his annual report for 2010.

In Mr. Justice Reilly’s report he refers to a deficiency, to be rectified by 1 July 2011, in the following of proper complaints procedures, with supporting documents. I look forward to seeing what progress, if any, is recorded in his next annual report. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Justice and Equality to the House to confirm when the annual report of the Office of the Inspector of Prisons for 2011 will be published. I understand it was sent to the Minister on 17 April. I ask that we have a debate on how best an independent, transparent and accountable prisoner complaints mechanism can be established in the prisons.

Senator van Turnhout Calls For Implementation Plan To Ensure Lessons Learnt From Child Death Report

Press Statement, 22 June 2012, Supplementary to Press Statement, 20 June 2012

***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

Senator van Turnhout Calls For Implementation Plan To Ensure Lessons Learnt From Child Death Report

“Having now had the opportunity to read the Report of the Independent Child Death Review Group (ICDRG), I believe there is an urgent need for an Implementation Plan to demonstrate that the necessary lessons have and will be learnt from these tragic deaths. The Implementation Plan must contain tangible commitments, concrete time lines and clear lines of accountability. Periodic Implementation Plan Progress Reports should be published and laid before the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Health and Children for scrutiny. The Implementation Plan should also incorporate the commitments outstanding in the Ryan Report Implementation Plan, such as the recruitment of psychologists for vulnerable children and the development of a national specialist multidisciplinary team for children in special care and detention.

The Report reinforced the need for the new Child and Family Support Agency, which must be an agency for all children. It must be fully resourced and include, or have easy access to, vital services for children such as: Psychological Services; Mental Health Services (CAMHS); Addiction Services; Speech and Language Therapy; Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy. There must be a culture change in advance of the establishment of the new agency with the services centred around the child. In some of the reported cases, resources were provided to families who had to deal with more than 15 officials. This disconnect, which is clearly documented throughout the Report of the ICDRG, must be addressed. The new agency must provide universal services and deliver direct specialised services to children at risk.

The important role of education and school attendance stood out in the Report as an early and significant indicator of difficulties in a child’s life. One child missed school for over 2 years without any red flags being raised. The National Education and Welfare Board must have a connecting role with the new agency.
I welcome the commitment by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, to create a Child Death Review Unit, as recommended in the Report, and I call on the Minister to ensure it is established without delay. I echo the call I made in May 2010, in my previous role as Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, for assurance that this new unit will be independent, transparent, and accountable. In addition to dealing with deaths of children in the care of the State or known to the authorities, the unit must also be mandated to review serious incidents.

I believe that to ensure a robust system that protects all children equally we must strengthen children’s rights in our Constitution. It is vital that we get the wording right. We need a constitutional amendment that will allow the State to respond earlier, proportionately and more decisively. The focus should be on keeping families together. However, in exceptional cases the State must be empowered to intervene in the best interests of the child. The Children’s Rights Referendum has to happen this year. Children are constantly being pushed to the bottom of the priority list. This is our opportunity to clearly demonstrate that we value each and every child.”

Order of Business, 20 June 2012

I support Senator O’Brien’s proposal to deal with motion No. 9 today. It has been widely reported that the report of the independent review group on child deaths will be published later today. I greet this report with profound sadness and with a sense of responsibility and shame I bear as a member of a society that has systemically failed to protect our most vulnerable children. I commend the dedicated work and the sensitivity with which the report’s authors met this agonising task and I sympathise with the family and friends of each of the children and young people documented in the report. Their stories have been told anonymously, but those who love them know who they are.

The report examines the death of 196 children and young adults, either in the care of the State or known to the State between the years 2000 and 2010. Some 112 of these died from non-natural causes, ranging from suicide to drug abuse. Each and every one of these was a child The review group was established in 2010 by the former Minister with responsibility for children, Barry Andrews, due to concern about the HSE’s inability to provide accurate figures on the number of deaths of children in State care. The reported findings seem to point to systemic failure within the HSE child protection system and documents many deaths that could and should have been prevented. The majority of children did not receive adequate child protection services. This is a damning report for all of us. We are all part of society and I see it as damning.

I have asked on several occasions over recent weeks, but now with urgency, for the Leader to invite the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to the House to discuss this report and to set out her Department’s response. This is not day one of the reform process. This report has been with the Minister for several months. I have questions for the Minister that I hope the Leader will put. Will there be an independent investigation into several high profile deaths of children in the care of the HSE or known to the agency? Will the State put on a statutory basis a provision of care for children when they reach the age of 18? What are the plans for the new, much mooted child and family support agency? What are the plans to strengthen children’s rights in the Constitution? All too often children have been moved to the bottom of the priority list. This report signals the need for a system through which we will act early and decisively to protect children. Every child must and should count. We cannot have different standards for children in care and children in families. I call for the Seanad to take the leading role in part of this reform.

Senator van Turnhout; Profoundly Saddened by Child Death Report. Urgent Need For Children’s Rights Referendum

Press Statement, 20 June 2012
***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

Senator van Turnhout; Profoundly Saddened by Child Death Report. Urgent Need For Children’s Rights Referendum.

“I greet the publication later today of the Independent Child Death Review Group Report with profound sadness and a sense of the responsibility and shame I bear as a member of a society that has systematically failed to protect our most vulnerable children.

I commend the dedicated work and the sensitivity with which the report’s authors, Dr Geoffrey Shannon and Norah Gibbons, met the agonising task of accounting for the life and death of 196 children and young adults known to the HSE, or in State care between 2000 and 2010. Each and every one in this number is a child and the report has documented many deaths that could and should have been prevented.

I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers, sisters and friends of each of the young people documented in the report. Their stories have been told anonymously but they know who they are.

We don’t need special expertise to recognise the importance of stability, consistency and support for children’s wellbeing and development. It is what we all expect in our own lives. It is even more important from the perspective of children in care, given their often turbulent and dysfunctional backgrounds. Yet, I know that if you talk to children in care, many will describe having had a litany of social workers assigned to them over the course of a few years and no sense of a constant presence upon whom they can rely. The systemic failure is demonstrated by the reported state of some care files, which were in “complete disarray”. What we know is right for children generally cannot be disregarded for children in care

Today’s publication of the report does not mark day one in the reform process. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, has had sight of this report for a number of months and I call on the Minister to outline the measures that have been put in place during this time. The new Child and Family Support Agency, which will ensure greater integration between child welfare and protection and family support and will ultimately lead to better outcomes for children and their families, must be established as a matter of urgency.

Furthermore, I believe that to ensure a robust system that protects all children equally. We must strengthen children’s rights in our Constitution. We need a constitutional amendment that will allow the State to respond earlier, proportionately and more decisively. The focus should be on keeping families together. However, in exceptional cases the State must be empowered to intervene in the best interests of the child. The Children’s Rights Referendum has to happen this year. Children are constantly being pushed to the bottom of the priority list. This is our opportunity to clearly demonstrate that we value each and every child.”

ENDS

Order of Business, 6 June 2012

I agree with Senator Bacik’s proposal for a debate on the future of the Seanad in light of the announcement concerning the constitutional convention.

I also send my best wishes to those sitting the junior and leaving certificate examinations. I would not swap places with them but I wish them the very best, having dropped my nephew to his first exam today.

I warmly welcome the announcement by the EU for funding for the missing children hotline on Missing Children’s Day. This House played a strong role on that matter by having an all-party, all-group motion seeking the hotline to be up and running. This funding has now been announced by the EU but the ISPCC, which has been awarded the hotline and the funding, will need additional funding from the Government. I therefore repeat my call of 22 May, asking the Leader to invite the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, to the House to discuss her Department’s plans to provide the necessary funding and support for Ireland’s missing children’s hotline, so we can have it operational in the coming months.

We should also discuss with the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, how her Department and the Government can support the exceptional work done by the ISPCC through its Childline service. I also ask the Leader to seek from the Minister a date for the publication of the report into child deaths. She should give a commitment to attend the House shortly after it is published so that we can discuss it with her.

I commend the joint policing operation between the Garda Síochána and the PSNI into organised prostitution, brothel keeping and money laundering. On Tuesday last, 29 May, searches were carried out at over 120 houses, apartments and flats on both sides of the Border under Operation Quest, which led to a number of arrests. I particularly welcome the fact that three suspected victims of human trafficking were rescued during the course of these searches. I welcome the Garda Síochána’s recognition of the link between prostitution, organised crime and money laundering, as well as the additional link between prostitution and human trafficking, which this case demonstrates. I commend the gardaí for their approach.

The Minister for Justice and Equality has advised us that he will shortly publish his public consultation document. I am disappointed, however, that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has banned a radio advertisement campaign by “Turn off the Red Light”, which seeks to highlight abuses in the Irish sex trade. That is very disappointing.

The Lancet

In July 2021, Jillian co-authored an article in the world-renowned medical journal “The Lancet”