Time to implement Children First Act

 

Sir, – We are writing to express our concern at the continued delays to the commencement of the Children First Act, which was enacted in November 2015.Today, almost a year later, only three sections of the Act have commenced.

Without the enactment of this legislation, children do not have sufficient legal protection when it comes to their safety. The most recent date given for full commencement is not until February 2018, nearly 2½ years after the law was enacted.

Responsible implementation of such important legislation is crucial, but it is extremely disappointing there has not been a stronger statement of intent when it comes to essential child welfare and protection safeguards. Sadly, our organisations see every day the impact of this legislative gap.

Despite Ireland’s historic legacy of mistreatment and abuse of children, which is well-reported and documented, the State has not put in place the strong legal framework that Children First promises.

We feel this is a missed opportunity, and our experience of working with children highlights the potential transformative effect it could have.

The strongest message the state could give to children on Universal Children’s Day (November 20th) is to commit to their safety and security.

The Children First Act was born from a united cry to ensure that the level of abuse witnessed in Ireland would never happen again, but it cannot do its job until it is translated from paper into action. We acknowledge there have been significant strides made with regards to the protection of children in Ireland in recent years; however, if this is not underpinned by the full implementation of this key piece of legislation the spirit and intent will remain an ambition rather than a reality.

We recognise Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has faced severe resource constraints in the past, but these have eased in recent times. While it is of course important to ensure the requisite training and preparation takes place to ensure effective enforcement of the legislation, there comes a point when a clear prioritisation has to be made. That time is now. – Yours, etc,

FERGUS FINLAY,

Chief Executive,

Barnardos;

TANYA WARD,

Chief Executive,

Children’s Rights Alliance;

GRAINIA LONG,

Chief Executive,

Irish Society for the

Prevention of Cruelty

to Children, Dublin 2.