‘Child’s voice’ will be central to new agency, says Minister

Ó Caoláin fails to have wording of Bill amended

 Minister for Children  Frances Fitzgerald: Said that when decisions were being made regarding children, a great deal of evidence would be gathered by a range of methods.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald: Said that when decisions were being made regarding children, a great deal of evidence would be gathered by a range of methods.

 

The “child’s voice’’ would be a central factor in the making and proofing of decisions under the Child and Family Agency, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald told the Dáil.

“It breaks new ground to have it expressly articulated in legislation that consideration will be given to the views of children in planning and reviewing the provision of services under the new structure,’’ she said. “It is there in black and white in the Bill.’’

The Minister was replying to Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin during the debate on the final stages of the Child and Family Agency Bill 2013. The agency will have responsibility for a range of services, including child welfare and protection.

Mr Ó Caoláin said it was very important to confirm in the legislation that any consultation processes undertaken relating to children’s interests must give due consideration to their views.

He moved an amendment to the Bill that “the views of that individual child, where that child is capable of forming his or her own views, be ascertained and given due weight with regard to the age and maturity of the child’’.

The language of the Bill, he added, referred to “where that child is capable of forming and expressing his or her own views’’. The use of the word “expressing’’ suggested a capacity to give one’s views orally.

Communicate
He said there were many ways in which a child, indeed anybody, could communicate.

“I have a brother who cannot orally communicate. I have known it all my life but in most instances I know exactly how he feels about given matters.’’

Rejecting the amendment, Ms Fitzgerald said it had been accepted at an earlier stage of the Bill’s passage that the original wording was a little too limiting and she had broadened it. She had also ensured the provisions relevant to the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 were now included in the relevant section.

Range of methods
Ms Fitzgerald said that when decisions were being made regarding children, a great deal of evidence would be gathered by a range of methods, including from client feedback in sessions with the parents and with the child, from audits, the complaints mechanisms and through the guardian service when children were before the courts.

“In addition, the reviews conducted by the Health Information and Quality Authority involve interviews with individual children.’’