Child czar is ‘missing piece’ in the protection services

CHILDREN’S Minister Barry Andrews said the appointment of a ‘child czar’ would be the missing piece in the jig-saw of child protection services.

The minister confirmed he had held talks with the Health Service Executive over the appointment. But speaking yesterday at an international conference on youth justice, he also admitted there needed to be greater coordination between agencies, such as the National Education Welfare Boards and the National Educational Psychological Service, and the youth justice system.

Mr Andrews said he felt the person appointed to oversee the delivery of child protection services would report to the board and the chief executive of the HSE as well as having a direct line to the minister’s office and to the Health Minister.

He said the person appointed to the position would be charged with implementing the recommendations contained in the internal PA Consulting report, leaked earlier this year and which found a series of gaps in child welfare services within the HSE around the country.

The person who will fill the position will also be charged with rolling out changes recommended by the HSE taskforce on child protection and a knowledge management strategy which the minister said would allow for “an X-ray of the services at any one time”.

“We had discussions with the HSE about that on Tuesday and I am very pleased that they are very positive about it,” he said.

“We have various building blocks ready to go in terms of new management. We have additional resources that people are aware of, and I think the one missing piece of the jig-saw is to bring in some outside expertise to improve the management in the HSE for child protection services in the future. I am talking about bringing someone in from abroad.”

He added that he will be meeting the HSE today to discuss other aspects of child protection.

In his address to mark the opening of the two day 5 Nations Biennial Conference on Children, Young People and Crime, he said where the system was “falling down” was the lack of coordination with other agencies, such as the NEWB and NEPS.

“The challenge there is to coordinate that better and that is my job and we will try and pursue it a little better,” he said.

The minister also rejected criticism of his non-appearance at the funeral of murdered teenager Daniel McAnaspie on Tuesday, stating he had never attended a funeral unless he knew the deceased person or their family.

Yesterday’s conference heard from a number of experts, including from keynote speaker Rod Morgan, Prof Emeritus at the University of Bristol, who said the present era of budget cuts could present an opportunity for people working with children, particularly if it meant community interventions being utilised instead of custodial sentences in institutions.

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