15 March 2011

The new Minister for Children commits to protecting, valuing and listening to children

‘The importance of protecting, valuing and listening to children has been highlighted in a number of high-profile reports published in recent years,’ said Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children.

‘For the first time in the history of the State, this Government has established a Department of Children, in order to prioritise and harmonise the development of effective policies and services for children,’ she continued.

The Minister noted that the Programme for Government 2011–2016 affords priority to holding a referendum to amend the Constitution to ensure that children’s rights are strengthened, along the lines recommended by the All-Party Oireachtas Committee. ‘This commitment will be one of my strongest priorities as Minister for Children,’ added Minister Fitzgerald.

She went on to say, ‘the Programme contains many other positive commitments for children, including:

· implementation of the recommendations of the Ryan Report, including putting the Children First Guidelines on a statutory footing;

· establishment of a Child Welfare and Protection Agency;

· maintaining the free pre-school year in Early Childhood Care and Education;

· investment in a targeted early childhood programme for disadvantaged children; and

· adoption of an area-based approach to child poverty’.

‘I am establishing this new Department of Children, which will work on implementing the commitments in the Programme for Government and build on the excellent work of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMCYA) over the last ten years. The staff from that Office will form the nucleus of my new Department and will continue in delivery of their existing priorities on child welfare and protection, early childhood care and education, children’s participation in decision-making, children’s research, child and youth services and children’s legislation,’ stated Minister Fitzgerald. ‘Indeed, work has already begun on the development of a new National Children’s Strategy (2012-2017), ‘she added.

‘My new Department will build on the model of collaborative, multi-agency working developed in the OMCYA. I believe that effective policies and services for children and only be delivered when Departments and agencies work together in an integrated, multidisciplinary manner to achieve positive outcomes for children. Such collaboration will become the cornerstone of my Department in implementing the commitments for children from the Programme for Government,’ concluded Minister Fitzgerald.