Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has said that significant progress is being made on the Children’s First Bill, which will bring statutory guidelines into law by the end of the year. Deputy Doherty was speaking after the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, of which she is a member, received a request from the Children’s Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, to examine the Heads of the Bill.
“This legislation has been a long time coming. As stated by Minister Fitzgerald at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis at the weekend, the legislation was first promised by Fianna Fáil 14 years ago, but it was never delivered. Now, this Government is determined to finally place the Children First guidelines on a statutory footing.
“Last year, with the publication of the Cloyne Report, we were once again reminded of the horrendous abuse and neglect visited upon our children in the distant and recent past. But this isn’t just a legacy issue; child abuse and neglect is happening every day in this country. As a government, we need to ensure we put the protection in place to safeguard these children.
“The Children First Bill will send out the message that it is absolutely critical that if somebody has, on good faith, reasonable concerns over the abuse or neglect of a child then those concerns must be reported to the relevant authorities. Complying with Children First will also mean we take a much more comprehensive approach that will lay down the responsibilities of organisations in contact with or providing services to children.
“Minister Fitzgerald is due to submit a draft General Scheme and Heads of the Children First Bill to Government at the first meeting after Easter. She will also seek Government approval to refer the Heads of the Bill to the Committee on Health and Children.
“I look forward to examining the draft Bill, and helping to prepare this legislation that will completely overhaul our approach to child protection. This is just one piece of the jigsaw when it comes to improving our child protection structures. Work is also progressing on the Children’s Referendum, which will ensure the best decisions are made for vulnerable children, as well as addressing a number of other anomalies in our law which mean children are not being given the care they deserve.”