Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth | Acting upon children at risk
To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth the extent to which his Department continues to receive updates in respect of children at risk and act upon same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Statutory and operational responsibility for the delivery of child protection and welfare services is a matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. As Minister, I am not in a position to intervene in individual cases as Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is required by law to be independent in its work as set out in Section 8(11) of the Child and Family Agency Act 2013 that “the Agency shall be independent in the performance of its functions”.
Tusla acts urgently on notification of an immediate risk to a child. Children who are in a situation of immediate risk may initially be dealt with by An Garda Síochána or by Tusla, but in the main both agencies work together in such cases.
Tusla has an out of hours emergency number for An Garda Síochána which provides advice based on the circumstances and also can identify whether a child of concern is listed on the Child Protection Notification System (CPNS). The Child Protection Notification System is a Tusla owned secure database, which lists children who are considered to be at ongoing risk of significant harm.
There is a 24/7 ‘out of hours’ social work team available in Dublin, Wicklow, Kildare and Cork and on call social workers in other areas through out the country. Tusla has a network of emergency foster care placements for children in need of emergency care out of hours.
Gardaí have specific powers under Section 12 of the 1991 Child Care Act to remove a child from a situation of danger, and under Section 13 of that same act, to deliver that child into the custody of Tusla. Tusla will at that point carry out an assessment to determine the child’s needs. This may in some cases include applying for an Emergency Care Order. In all cases, a plan will be put in place to ensure that the child is safe from harm. Where a child is already in care, Tusla will make a determination as to whether the child is safe in their placement or if they need to be moved.
My officials are in regular contact with Tusla in relation to all aspects of its work. Tusla submits monthly and quarterly performance reports which are reviewed by the Department. Furthermore, Tusla submits ‘Need to Know’ notifications to this Department. The purpose of a Need to Know notification is to alert myself and my officials to serious incidents and to provide the information on what action is being taken.
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