06 January 2014

Minister Fitzgerald launches new Child and Family Agency

Local TD and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald announced that the Child and Family Agency will commence operation with effect from 1 January, 2014.

"The establishment of the Agency is one of the largest and most ambitious public sector reforms being undertaken by this Government involving the bringing together of over 4,000 staff and a budget of nearly €600 million from three existing bodies," Minister Fitzgerald said.

The agency will assume responsibility for a range of services, including:

Child Welfare and Protection Services, including family support services currently delivered by the HSE’s Children and Family Services;  
Existing Family Support Agency responsibilities;

    Existing National Educational Welfare Board responsibilities;

    Pre-school Inspection services;

    Domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services;

    Community-based services related to the psychological welfare of children and families.

Minister Fitzgerald said “The 2011 Programme for Government committed to fundamentally reforming the delivery of child protection services by removing responsibility for child welfare and protection from the HSE and by creating a dedicated Child Welfare and Protection Agency. It also committed to reforming the model of service delivery and improving accountability to the Dáil. In this context the establishment of the Agency is a concerted response to critical systemic failures in delivering services to vulnerable children, evidenced in a number of reports over recent years. It has also presented the opportunity to further reform how services to children and families can be delivered into the future.”

The range of responsibilities outlined above will contribute to the achievement of the overall vision for the Agency, which is seeking to bring about greater integration of services for children and families and a more consistent focus on early intervention and community engagement.

The Minister said: “The establishment of the Agency represents the most comprehensive reform of child protection, early intervention and family support services ever undertaken in Ireland. It is very ambitious, and I am keen to see the Agency discharge its new remit to the highest possible standard. The bringing together of some 4,000 staff and an operational budget of approximately €600m has been the outcome of detailed preparatory work by the Secretary General and staff of my Department together with Gordon Jeyes and his management team and also extensive legislative work to establish the Agency over many months in the Dail and Seanad.

The Minister continued: "The setting-up of this Agency will mean that for the first time child protection and associated services will be together under one dedicated
agency with clear lines of management, more integrated models of working and a ring-fenced budget.

While many challenges remain and while more service developments are needed and planned, this major organisational reform in itself lays the foundations for development of world-class child protection, welfare and family support service in Ireland."

The Agency will operate under the Child and Family Agency Act, 2013 which was recently signed into law. Minister Fitzgerald said: “I was anxious that the new Agency would operate within a strong framework of public accountability, and the Child and Family Agency Act 2013 sets this out in detail. I will also be in a position to determine specific operational priorities, in line with Government objectives, and these will be communicated to the Agency and incorporated into its corporate planning process, in due course.”

“I wish all of the incoming staff well as Establishment Day finally arrives and also wish them well into the future. Finally, I want to convey every good wish to the incoming Board of the Agency.”