Written Answers. - Child Care Services.

Tuesday, 5 November 2002

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 556 No. 3

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  540.  Ms Shortall  Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall   asked the Minister for Health and Children  Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin   his plans to establish a State funded guardian ad litem service in accordance with the recommendations set out in the report by the guardian ad litem group of May 2001, entitled Giving Children a Voice; when such a State-funded service will established; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the continued failure to have a State-funded independent guardian ad litem service is in breach of a number of international treaties; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that there are a number of children who urgently require the services of such a service in the courts but who currently do not have one; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20181/02]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  I am aware of the recommendations in the report of the guardian ad litem group and of the difficulties identified by the group with the operation of the existing system, and I am conscious of the position regarding the current availability of the guardian ad litem service. The question of establishing a State funded service is one of a number of issues to be addressed in the context of a review of the existing service which is being undertaken by the national children's office. The need to review the operation of the existing service was highlighted in the Government's national children's strategy. The national children's strategy is a major initiative to improve the quality of all children's lives over the next eight years.

The National Children's Office is currently finalising a request for tenders document inviting tenders from interested parties to undertake the review. The review will be wide ranging and will involve consultation with interested parties in both the voluntary and statutory sectors, including health board personnel, the social services inspectorate, the Judiciary and the Law Society. Among the other issues to be examined as part of the review will be:

(i)the management and organisation of the present service, including selection and vetting procedures;

(ii)the difficulties being experienced with the current system and issues relating to the need for national standards;

(iii)the need for detailed guidelines on the appointment, role, function and powers of a guardian ad litem in public and private law proceedings and the ethical and professional standards required of them;

[827](iv)the experience, qualifications, training, capacity and skills of a potential guardian ad litem;

(v)the need for legislative reform in the area.

The recommendations of the guardian ad litem group will be further considered in the light of the outcome of the review.

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