Brexit risks ‘unintended consequences’for children

The Government has raised concerns that Brexit might have “unintended consequences” for children, including difficulties with cross-border care placements.

At a meeting of the Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures Advisory Council Meeting in Dublin yesterday, stakeholders were also told to consider the ramifications of any limits on free movement between north and south for young people and whether Brexit might compromise all-island co-operation in areas including child cardiac treatment.

While the British government has said it will not trigger discussions on its exit from the EU until next March, the government here has already begun scoping out areas of concern, with Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone saying those efforts are “intensifying”.

Ms Zappone referred to a meeting with Health Minister Simon Harris and their northern counterparts in Armagh last week, when some potential complications arising from Brexit were discussed.

“In terms of child protection there are concerns about the Brussels regulation which governs placement of children in out-of-State services such as secure care,” said Ms Zappone.

“Another issue is the placement of children from Northern Ireland in care in Ireland, including residential and relative foster care.

“In the wider health area we are seeing huge developments in terms of cross-border and all-island co-operation, including child cardiac treatment — how do we safeguard that?”

Ms Zappone said concerns had been expressed, both north and south of the border, about EU funding of youth services.

“EU Peace funding is currently accepting applications from projects North and South for £80m,” she said.

“Many in the sector are questioning if this will be the last round of funding.”

The meeting was attended by groups including Barnardos, the ISPCC, and the Children’s Rights Alliance.

Ms Zappone said she hoped to hold a more high profile and larger gathering in the new year and said she was open to the suggestion of forming a task-focused working group within the council if that helped to debate key issues.

Separately, Ms Zappone said she is “very committed” to accepting migrant children from Syria and other countries, adding that she has “full confidence that we will find a way” of supporting lone children who come here.

“I was very pleased we passed the motion where we will accept up to 200 children from France that were in the jungle which has now been disbanded,” she said.

“We are very committed to that. My department is going to be meeting with the Tánaiste’s department within the next week or so to take a look at the implications of all that.

“It is important that Tusla, with its current resources, has already accepted and received approximately 104 lone children this year, 59 that they have placed within foster families.”

Ms Zappone said the 450 children currently in care and without a social worker is an “issue which is going to be tackled”.

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