25 July 2012

Standards-led approach is central to enforcing a new culture of quality, effectiveness and accountability in our child protection system - Fitzgerald


An Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D. is today launching the National Standards for the Protection and Welfare of Children of the HSE Children and Family Services. The Standards are based on the HSE’s responsibilities as set out in Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children and were developed by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and approved by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald T.D.


Describing the Standards as part of an ongoing reform agenda, the Minister stated that they are focused on creating better outcomes for children and will deliver greater consistency in child protection and welfare services nationally.


Welcoming their publication, Minister Fitzgerald stated: “For decades the child protection system has chased symptoms. We have seen children with problems, or in care, or jail, or in the worst cases children have, tragically, died. And we have said ‘what caused this?’ and have tried to trace the source of the problem. Now we are moving to a system where we will interrogate the system in the absence of evident failure.


“We are effectively building a new architecture for child protection. These new National Standards for the Protection and Welfare of Children set out, for the first time ever, the key features of an effective child protection service. An Taoiseach has shown his commitment to my Department’s ongoing change agenda by launching these Standards, a key element of this Governments’ wider reform programme.

“From now on, HIQA will constantly and consistently monitor and interrogate the services being provided to our nation’s children. The critical aspect of these Standards is that they will be tested, checked, assessed and audited. That is a radical step forward.

“We are absolutely clear on the results of systemic failure. We see families torn apart, childhoods ended, adulthoods destroyed before they begin. We have had 17 major statutory reports on child protection failings since 1980 in this country, the most recent being the Report of the Independent Child Death Review. We must, through our new Agency, create efficiency and excellence out of systemic chaos.

“I have said that this process will reveal failings, which is good, because we cannot fix what we cannot see. But we will fix those problems, just as we are fixing the ones we already know of. And eventually we will end up identifying and assessing risks in the system, long before those risks are allowed to create problems in the lives of children.

“This out-come based, standards-led approach is central to enforcing a new culture of quality, effectiveness and accountability in our child protection system. The Standards provide a framework for the development of child-centred services that protect children and promote their welfare. They build on the principles outlined in Children First and put the needs of children at the heart of our child protection service. From now on, HIQA will constantly and consistently monitor the services being provided to our nation’s children.

Commenting on the Department of Children and Youth Affairs’ change agenda Minister Fitzgerald stated: “Our radical reform programme is comprehensive and it is ambitious. It involves legislative reform, service reform and constitutional reform including the development of a standards-led approach to service delivery. We are creating a new Child and Family Support Agency, we have appointed Gordon Jeyes as CEO Designate of this new Agency which will be established in 2013, we are enshrining Children First in law and this autumn we are going to offer the people the chance to change our Constitution to give further supports to children and families.


“In 2013 we will have moved from a position where child and family welfare was barely a priority, to a position where it will be the sole focus of a single dedicated State agency, overseen by a single dedicated government Department. Today we publish the Standards which will enforce a new culture to be embedded in practice.


“I am committed to supporting front line staff working in child protection services and these Standards do just that. Social work staff in Ireland work at the very cutting edge of service delivery; working with some of the most vulnerable people in our society; working in some of the most difficult of circumstances; working to bring positive outcomes to children and families. Child protection and family support are two sides of the one coin and as Minister, I will continue to support frontline staff in delivering results for children and families throughout Ireland,” concluded Minister Fitzgerald.