Minister Fitzgerald announces Norah Gibbons as Chair of new Child & Family Agency

-   Susan Moss

Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children & Youth Affairs has today announced that the Government has approved the appointment of Ms. Norah Gibbon as first Chairperson of the board of the new Child & Family Agency. The Government also confirmed the name of the new body will be the ‘Child & Family Agency’.

Ms. Gibbons will initially be appointed as Chairperson of the existing Family Support Agency which is one of the agencies being incorporated into the new Child & Family Agency.

Minister Fitzgerald welcomed the appointment of Ms. Gibbons stating: “The new Agency represents the single greatest transformation in children and family services in the history of the state. I am delighted the board of the new Agency will be led by Norah Gibbons, a true champion for reform of children’s services and one of Ireland’s leading advocates for children..”

“Norah’s work with Barnardos in developing community based supports for children and families gives her great experience of the services which can make a difference for children. Her conduct of both the Roscommon Inquiry and the Independent Child Death Review has given her an unprecedented insight into the consequences of child abuse and neglect. Having worked for many years to improve the effectiveness of supports for children and families and having reviewed these harrowing cases, I can think of no better person to Chair the board charged with delivering the required reforms.”

“Along with CEO-designate Gordon Jeyes, I am heartened that the preparations now underway will allow the new Agency to hit-the-ground-running, led by a world-class board and senior management team.”

Norah Gibbons worked for many years in social work in both the statutory and voluntary sector in the UK and Ireland. She has been a passionate advocate of support and effective services for families. Norah served as Director of Advocacy of Barnardos from 2005 to 2012. She served as a member of the Commission to Inquire into Child abuse 2000-2009 (which produced the Ryan Report) and chaired the Confidential Committee of the Commission from 2000 to 2005. Norah chaired the Roscommon Child Abuse Inquiry in 2009 and co-chaired the Independent Child Death Review Group with Dr Geoffrey Shannon from 2011 to 2012. She is a member of Acknowledge Forum of Historical Abuse Inquiry in Northern Ireland, from 2012 to present. Norah was formally the Chairperson of the board of Action Alcohol Ireland and served on the Taskforce on the Establishment of the Child & Family Agency.

Work is well underway on the establishment of the new Child and Family Agency, including the drafting of the required legislation. This will be a very comprehensive piece of legislation, providing as it does for the subsuming of functions from three separate agencies; namely the HSE, the Family Support Agency and the National Educational Welfare Board, and, reassigning, under law, the sensitive and complex legal responsibilities which arise in relation to the care and protection of children and the promotion of their welfare. The legislation is expected to be published shortly.

Significant work has already been undertaken at an operational and logistical level to prepare for establishment of the new Agency including in relation to recruitment of a senior management team, disaggregation of budgets and discussions with staff unions.

Establishment of the new Agency represents one the largest and most ambitious areas of public sector reform currently underway in the State involving, as it does, over 4,000 employees and a budget of over €550 million.

The term of office of the current board of the Family Support Agency is coming to an end. The Minister intends shortly to seek expressions of interest from suitable members of the public who wish to be considered for appointment as a board member. Pending the legal establishment of the Child and Family Agency, the newly appointed board of the Family Support Agency will, in addition to its existing functions, provide oversight and direction to the organisational preparations which are underway for the new Agency. The Minister recorded her great appreciation for the work of the current board of the Family Support Agency, led by Ms. Sharon Foley; and assured them that the many achievements of the Family Support Agency will be recognised and built upon within the Child and Family Agency.
 

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