Proposed child agency breaks pay rules
The agency which will take over responsibility for child and family affairs has breached advertised salary guidelines for one of its new senior staff members.
The Child and Family Support Agency is to take over responsibility for child protection and family support services from the Health Service Executive next year.
One newly appointed member of the management team, Margaret Anne Callanan, who has been appointed as head of quality assurance, will receive a salary €145,000.
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs said it was not possible to source a candidate with the required professional and management expertise that was sought.
“In the circumstances, approval was subsequently granted to the filling of the post on a three-year fixed-term basis at a newly authorised level,” a spokeswoman said.
“The post will be re-advertised by way of open competition in advance of the expiry of the fixed-term contract.”
The head of the new agency will be Gordon Jeyes, chief executive designate, on a salary of about €184,000.
Four other senior management posts were sanctioned by the Government at assistant national director level, which carry a salary of between €95,000 and €116,000.
They are: Paul Harrison, head of policy and planning; Colette Walsh, head of corporate and human resources; and Pat Smyth, head of finance.
As well as taking over responsibility for child protection from the HSE, the agency will absorb the functions of the Family Support Agency and the National Educational Welfare Board, which monitors school attendance.
It is estimated that more than 4,000 staff will transfer to the agency.
The move to establish the agency follows repeated criticism of management failures in the organisation of child protection services.
A report into the deaths of children in State care last year, for example, criticised a lack of co-operation between State agencies responsible for the welfare of children.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, who will bring forward legislation shortly to establish the agency, has said the move amounts to one of the most significant shifts in child welfare in the State’s history.
“We’re going to move from a position where child and family welfare was barely a priority, to a position where it will be the sole focus of a single dedicated State agency, overseen by a single dedicated Government department,” she said.
Children’s rights advocates have expressed concern that the new agency may place a greater emphasis on frontline child protection rather than the kind of early intervention and support that can help prevent neglect and abuse.
They say, for example, that public health nurses, among the first State officials to monitor the welfare of children, will not form part of the agency.
Ms Fitzgerald, however, has insisted that early intervention will form a key part of the agency’s work. She said public health nurses could form part of the agency in the future.
“Child protection is a big issue, but for the agency to be worth its salt, it has to also focus on early intervention,” she said.