Question 9: U.N Committee on the rights of the Child report.
On 16 July 2013, Minister Fitzgerald advised that her Department had finalised and submitted to Government for approval Ireland’s consolidated Third and Fourth State Report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The submission of this Report, which is already considerably overdue (April 2009), are essential components of Ireland’s international obligation in relation to the review and monitoring process of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Can the Minister provide a definitive answer as to when Government approval will be secured and when the consolidated Reports will be furnished to the UN Committee?
The Government approved a consolidated 3rd and 4th Report in July 2013 and the report was submitted to the on the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, in August 2013. The report is available on www.dcya.ie and outlines the most significant developments for children and how Ireland has been implementing the main aims of the UN Convention during the period 2006 to 2011 inclusive.
Ireland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. Ireland submitted our second progress report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2005. Following the establishment of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in June 2011, I directed that a substantial progress report, combining the 3rd and 4th reports, to cover the period 2006 to 2011 inclusive should be submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. An Inter-Departmental Liaison Group was established to prepare the report and a draft of the report was completed in December 2012. This draft report formed the basis of consultations with the NGO sector and subsequently the Children’s Rights Alliance, on behalf of the NGO sector, submitted its observations on the draft to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. These observations were considered by my Department in conjunction with other Departments and a draft report prepared for consideration by Government.
With the Report’s submission now complete I look forward to attending a hearing of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on the report, although the timing of the hearing will be a matter for the UN Committee. I understand there is currently a backlog of hearings to be dealt with by the Committee. The hearing when it takes place will provide an opportunity to further bring the Committee up to date on what we have achieved as part of the programme of this Government since 2011.
Question 10: Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Reports
There have been a number of important Reports concerning children over the last number of years. Significant amongst them are the Fifth and Sixth Reports of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon. In each of these Reports, recommendations are outlined to Government to improve the experiences and lives of children in Ireland. In the interests of transparency and accountability, and indeed to facilitate the tracking of said recommendations, will the Minister consider adopting a formal response to the recommendations similar to Ireland’s response to the Working Group Report on the Universal Periodic Review, whereby indication is given to each recommendation as follows: examined and supported; to be examined and responded to in due time; not supported? And, will the Minister ensure that implementation mechanisms and timelines are developed and published as part of the formal response to each Report’s recommendations?
There have been a number of important reports concerning children published over the last number of years, among them are the reports of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection and, significantly, the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (referred to as the Ryan Report) published in May 2009. Currently the monitoring mechanisms vary between no formal mechanism, once off responses or annual monitoring.
The Special Rapporteur on Child Protection is appointed by the Government and his recommendations are relevant to a number of Government Departments and Agencies. The reports of the Child Protection Rapporteur are circulated to all relevant Departments and it is a matter for individual Departments to take the appropriate action on any recommendation relevant to its work. Where recommendations are proper to the DCYA they form part of the process of policy development and, if appropriate, are incorporated within the Department’s business planning process.
The most formal response to a report is that of the Implementation Plan in response to the Ryan Commission Report, which was published in July 2009. The Plan sets out a series of 99 actions to address the recommendations in the Ryan Report, and includes additional proposals considered essential to further improve services to children in care, in detention and at risk. The Government committed to implementation of the Plan. The 99 actions identified in the Implementation Plan are the responsibility of a number of Government Departments and Agencies. I, as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, have had the responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the actions set out in the plan. I chair a high level monitoring group with representation from the Department of Education and Skills, the Irish Youth Justice Service, the HSE, the Gardaí, the Children’s Rights Alliance and my Department. Three Progress Reports have been published so far and the final Progress Report is due at the end of this year.
My Department is currently preparing a monitoring framework for higher level oversight of recommendations from all significant child care reports, which is intended to be put in place following the completion of the formal monitoring process for the Ryan Commission Implementation Plan. In this regard the intention is to review current monitoring and reporting mechanisms, with a view to capturing all relevant recommendations and streamlining progress reporting, to provide effective and sustained implementation of recommendations.
My Department has also commissioned independent research on the extent to which previous reports have influenced policy and practice. This research also identifies learning as to how to improve the influence and usefulness of recommendations made in such reports. It is my intention to publish this research as I believe it will be of general interest and particularly useful to anyone engaged in conducting reviews or investigations in the future.
Question 11 Youth work budget.
To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to share with the Committee the discussions her Department had with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform concerning the budget for youth work in the next round of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure from 2015-2017. Did the Minster emphasise the disproportionate cuts to youth work in the overall budget adjustments for her Department in the last round from 2012-2014, and also will the Minister give details of when youth work organisations will receive details of funding for 2014 following the budget on October 15th?
Officials of my Department have met with representatives of all the national organisations that are funded under the Youth Service Grant Scheme to share information and to hear from the organisations about the impact of the reductions in funding on the services that they provide. I have met with and continue to meet with, many youth projects and groups to try and see how we can work together to minimise the impact of these necessary savings in order to ensure that the provision of quality youth services to young people is sustained in these challenging times.
Funding requirements and how resources should be prioritised and allocated across each area of Government spending are generally considered as part of the annual estimates cycle and budgetary process. I am sure the Senator will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time on any decisions that may be taken by Government in the context of Budget 2014. The Committee can be assured that the benefits of youth work have been fully considered as part of my Department’s input to Budget 2014. As soon as Budgetary figures are available my Department will assess the implications for youth funding and engage with the sector in planning the approach to 2014. It would be my hope that the earlier timing of the Budget will allow for the notification of allocations to be brought forward so that they can take place prior to the commencement of the year.