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.”