DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Dr. James Reilly)

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Children and Youth Affairs, Dáil Issues

To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs his views in relation to care orders; and the steps that are open to parents when they are dissatisfied with the manner in which Tulsa has conducted matters.

Clare Daly T.D.

REPLY.
The Child Care Act 1991, as amended, sets out the different types of care order that can be sought, including an emergency, interim, full or special care order. The Act outlines the procedures and the conditions under which a Court may grant a care order, including the relevant period for review by the Court. While the Child and Family Agency has a duty to receive a child who requires care or protection into its care under the Child Care Act 1991, it does not have the power to impose a care order. A care order, in the case of emergency, interim or full care orders, can only be issued by a member of the judiciary sitting in the District Court, which may be part of a special sitting as the Children Court, as indicated in the Act. In the case of special care orders, an application must be made to the High Court. Decisions on the variation or discharge of a care order are also a matter for the relevant Court and lie outside the powers of the Agency. If a person is unhappy with a care order itself then an appeal can be lodged with the Courts, which, normally, in the case of an order from the District Court is to be lodged within 14 days of the order being made. Under the Child Care Act 1991, as amended, it is possible for a child to be placed with the Agency in care on a voluntary basis but this is not a care order and can be rescinded by the parent or guardian at any time.

If there is dissatisfaction on the outcome of a case or any other aspect of the service provided by the Agency then this may be referred to the Agency’s complaints service, under its complaints policy ‘Your Service Your Say’. The Agency’s website outlines a number of routes by which a complaint can be made and includes comprehensive guide on feedback and complaints, including contact information for a number of advocacy groups (www.tusla.ie).

There is also the option of referring the complaint to the Ombudsman for Children, who can look into how complaints with a child protection concern may have been handled. The Ombudsman can instigate investigations on its own volition. Complaints can be made directly by anyone under the age of 18, or by an adult on behalf of a child or young person. If the concern is in relation to professional misconduct or poor performance of a social worker, a complaint can be made to CORU, Ireland’s health and social care regulator using their complaints procedure, ‘Fitness to Practice’.

QUESTION NO: 165

for ORAL ANSWER on 24/02/2015

To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs his plans to extend the power of the Ombudsman for Children, including areas actively under consideration and a timeframe for delivery, in view of the urgency in relation to children in direct provision.

Clare Daly T.D.

REPLY.
I have no immediate plans to amend the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002 for the purposes outlined by the Deputy.

The direct provision system is under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality. The Department of Justice and Equality has primary responsibility in the area of asylum and immigration.

The Deputy may be aware that a report ‘Review of the operation of the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002’,was submitted by the former Ombudsman for Children, Ms Emily Logan to the then Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in March 2012. One of the recommendations contained in that report was that “… section 11(1) (e) should be amended to clarify that the exclusion regarding the administration of law in the area of asylum, immigration, naturalisation or citizenship relates solely to decisions taken by the relevant authorities in accordance with statutory procedures for determining whether a person is entitled to a particular status.” My Department engaged with the Department of Justice and Equality on this recommendation, among others. The then Minister for Justice and Equality considered that no legislative change was required and this position has been reaffirmed by that Department.

In a reply to a question by Deputy Brendan Griffin (Reference No. 31092/14 on 15th July 2014), the Minister for Justice and Equality addressed, among other issues, the question of the Ombudsman for Children being given jurisdiction in the direct provision system and for the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) to be allowed inspect direct provision hostels. In replying, the Minister made reference to provisions in both the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002 and Ombudsman Act 1980 which excludes either Ombudsman from investigating any action taken by or on behalf of a person in the administration of law relating to, inter alia, asylum. If I may quote from Minister Fitzgerald’s response, she said “Whilst there are no plans to change those legislative provisions, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) including RIA, has administrative arrangements in place with both Offices to assist and provide information on matters brought to its attention by them”.

The Department of Justice and Equality has established a working group to review a range of issues pertaining to asylum seekers and direct provision. The first meeting of the Working Group on the Protection Process was held on the 10th November 2014, chaired by Judge Bryan McMahon. The Working Group consists of children’s rights advocates, organisations engaged with asylum groups and representatives from a range of relevant government departments, including a representative from my own Department. I look forward to learning of the findings and recommendations of the working group in the Spring of 2015.