Children and Youth Affairs, Dáil Debates, Dáil Work, Oral Questions

Unfortunately questions to Minister Reilly about the importance of dealing with childhood obesity and the shocking cases of abuse of children in state institutions or state funded care were not selected for discussion, but we will chase it up again.

QUESTION NO: 30
DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Dr. James Reilly)
by Deputy Clare Daly
for ORAL ANSWER on 27/05/2015

To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he has had discussions with the Minister for Health with regard to the need to have nutritional information on confectionery products in particular, which are aimed at children, documented in a manner as a percentage of a child’s daily intake, rather than an adults daily intake; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Clare Daly T.D.

REPLY.
I share the Deputy’s concerns in improving information on nutrition for children, young people and parents, and actively engaged with improving nutritional information on foods and beverages, including calorie posting in restaurants, when Minister for Health. However, in relation to the specific issue raised by the Deputy there are particular practical problems in achieving this. The calorie intake required by children varies enormously by age and gender and activity levels. For example a relatively sedentary 5 year old girl will require around 1200 calories, whilst an active teenage boy may require 3000 calories per day, making the calculation of the percentage it contributes a particular daily total for a child or young person complex. Confectionary should, ideally, not form part of any child’s everyday diet, and be seen as an occasional treat. The campaign currently being run by SafeFood in partnership with ourselves and the Department of Health has had this as one of its key messages.
The Department of Health is currently in the process of developing new healthy eating guidelines for children aged under five which will help parents and professionals advising them make the best choices in relation to the nutrition of their children.

QUESTION NO: 38
DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Dr. James Reilly)
by Deputy Clare Daly
for ORAL ANSWER on 27/05/2015

To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of allegations of abuse of children under the care of the Health Service Executive or other State institutions or State funded care, which are currently under investigation by Túsla – Child and Family Agency, broken down between historic cases and present cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Clare Daly

REPLY.
Children First guidelines set out the roles and responsibilities for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, as well as for State institutions and other publicly funded services, in relation to allegations of abuse. Tusla has clear operational guidance for its staff on the assessment of allegations of abuse, whether current or historical. An Garda Siochana carries out criminal investigations into allegations of abuse.

When Tusla receives an allegation of abuse, their first duty is to the safety of the child concerned and to gather sufficient information in order to come to a professional opinion regarding risk to that child and any other child posed by the person against whom the allegation has been made. When Tusla receives information from an adult about abuse he/she suffered as a child, Tusla have the same responsibility to assess the current risk that may be posed to children by the adult against whom the historical allegation has been made. Tusla has a duty of care to apply fair procedures and natural justice to any adult where they are undertaking an assessment of the risk that adult may pose, but where they conclude that the allegation is founded, they will share that information with relevant third parties to ensure that children are protected.

Tusla publishes data on all abuse referrals, by type (neglect, physical, emotional and sexual abuse) and on referrals concerning welfare issues. Tusla’s data shows many referrals proceed to initial assessment, and how many are confirmed as requiring a child protection plan. The data, as nationally collected, is not broken down into investigations of historical and present abuse. Consequently, Tusla has informed me that it does not have data in the form requested by the Deputy. Tusla has informed my Department that, as part of the standardisation of data collection, it intends to disaggregate the total number of referrals and assessments to allow reporting on historical allegations separately.