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TheJournal.ie’s progress report for the Government: Children

One year ago, the government created a separate Department of Children for the first time – but has it lived up to its promises?

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

1) WHAT THEY SAID DURING THE 2011 ELECTION CAMPAIGN

  • Both parties mentioned plans for a National Children’s Hospital, with Fine Gael saying it was “committed” to its development and Labour stating it would “prioritise investiment” in the project.
  • In its manifesto, Fine Gael stated that it would reform the welfare system to introduce a new “child income support” consisting of both universal and “targeted” benefits.
  • Labour committed to supporting children with special needs in schools, and achieving “greater integration of special needs related services.” The party also said it would “endeavour” to end the practice whereby children and teenagers are placed on adult psychiatric wards.
  • Both parties pledged to hold a referendum on children’s rights.

2) WHAT THEY PROMISED IN THE PROGRAMME FOR GOVERNMENT

  • The coalition committed to the construction of the National Children’s Hospital.
  • It pledged “more support for early education for disadvantaged children”, and also to create a “dedicated Child Welfare and Protection Agency”.
  • The new coalition stated: “We will end the practice of sending children to St. Patrick’s Institution.”
  • And it promised a referendum on children’s rights.

3) PROGRESS – OR LACK THEREOF – IN FIRST YEAR OF GOVERNMENT

  • The children’s hospital was one of the relative few capital projects to get the go-ahead in last year’s spending review. However, it has now been held up after An Bord Pleanála rejected the plans for a large building on the Mater site.
  • A Child Welfare and Protection Policy Unit has been set up within Minister Frances Fitzgerald’s Department of Children and Youth Affairs. However, it is focused on policy only and does not deliver services, which are still handled by the HSE. In July 2011, Fitzgerald said the handover of such services would be “accelerated”.
  • Last month there were 45 boys aged 16 and 17 still in St Patrick’s Institution, the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children was told.
  • A referendum on children’s rights will be held before the end of 2012, the Government has said.

Read all sections here: HOW DID THE GOVERNMENT DO IN ITS FIRST YEAR? THIS IS HOW >

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About the author:

Michael Freeman

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