Law rapporteur calls for overhaul of childcare act

The latest report by government-appointed Child Law Rapporteur has called for a complete overhaul of the Child Care Act, querying whether the current provisions are fit for purpose.

The act has been one of the principle statutes underpinning child law for the past two decades, but the latest Child Law Rapporteur’s Report from Geoffrey Shannon has recommended as many as 20 amendments.

The report also said the Direct Provision (DP) system for asylum-seekers needs to be reviewed immediately, with a specific focus on vulnerability of children in DP centres.

Recommendations made by the Irish Refugee Council on how to overhaul the system should be implemented, with a special focus on limiting stays in asylum seekers centres, the right to work and child protection concerns, it said.

It comes after the minister responsible for DP, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, signalled a need to review the system.

In his report, Mr Shannon said there should be an immediate review of DP, with research carried out into the specific vulnerability of children in the system.

Referencing the recent cases in which two Roma children were wrongly removed from their families over unfounded allegations they may have been abducted, the report recommends inter-agency co-operation in using powers under Section 12 of the Act.

It also suggests that authorities should consider prohibiting a parent or other party from communicating with a child taken into care under section 13 of the Child Care Act, even through social media, except in cases where express permission is provided by courts or relevant parties.

Referring to the referendum passed in 2012 on enshrining the rights of the child, the report said Ireland has yet to adequately address how children be allowed a role in decisions that affect their health and well-being.

It also highlights obesity in children, which could be addressed through changes to the advertising of fatty foods and more promotion of breast-feeding.

The report also raises concerns over emergency orders being sought in some cases just after the birth of a child, outlining how the mother in such a situation could not reasonably be expected to take legal advice and contend with the application. It says the Child and Family Agency should have to outline why it could not have given pre-birth notice of its intention to take a newborn from a family’s care, and that a new ‘Holding Order’ be instituted as an alternative to an emergency care order in those cases.

It also points out that Ireland has not ratified two conventions on internet regulation, nor put into Irish law the EU Directive on Combating Sexual Abuse and Sexual Exploitation of Children and Child Pornography — meaning Ireland is in breach of EU law.


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