Saturday, November 28, 2009

Delay to child protection law was 'extraordinary'

THE DELAY by the Government in devising and implementing updated child protection legislation during the 1970s and 1980s “is quite extraordinary”, the Commission of Investigation’s report states.

It says during this time the Government was aware that the law on child protection was inadequate. However, no significant change took place until the 1990s.

Even when new legislation was finally implemented in 1996 it did not make any significant change in the role the health authorities could play in cases of extra-familial child sexual abuse.

“In the Commission’s view the law as it stands at present does not provide adequate powers to the health authorities to promote the welfare of children who are abused, or in danger of being abused, by people outside the family and, in particular, by people who have privileged access to children,” the report says.

It adds that until the Child Care Act 1991 was fully implemented in 1996 the main legislation dealing with child protection issues was the Children Act of 1908.

Even in 1970 when health boards were set up, the powers of health boards in relation to child protection were not set out.

It was wrongly assumed by Government and the boards themselves that they had powers to act as “fit persons” for the purposes of taking children into care.

A taskforce was set up by the Minister for Health in 1974 to look at who should have the main responsibility for children’s services.

However, it did not report until 1980.

A draft Bill was prepared in 1982/83 to give health boards responsibility for the welfare of children but it was never brought before the Oireachtas.

In 1985 the Children (Care and Protection) Bill was published.

It was at committee stage when the Government resigned in 1987.

It was introduced by the new government and eventually became the 1991 Child Care Act.

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