Good afternoon everyone.
I am delighted to be here with my colleagues- the Tánaiste and Minister Frances Fitzgerald, to launch Better Outcomes: Brighter Futures, the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014 – 2020.
Commitments to children and young people
Making sure that the State serves and protects our children and young people is a top priority for this Government.
It’s just three years since Minister Fitzgerald became Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, the first ever, charged with overseeing the vital reforms of child and family services and delivering on the commitments in the Programme for Government.
There has been much progress including:
· holding the Children’s Referendum to strengthen the rights and protection of children in the Constitution;
· the new Child and Family Agency is in place. This is one of the key foundations to ensure provision of a better, more effective service that is more responsive to the needs of our children and young people;
· the Bill to place the Children First Guidelines on a statutory basis has been published;
· developing a child-focussed youth justice policy –ending the unacceptable practice of detaining children in adult facilities.
In addition, and in line with the Programme for Government, we have protected the free pre-school year; are taking steps to improve the quality and staff qualification standards in early years and childcare services; and have introduced the €30m Area Based Childhood programme designed to improve outcomes for children through early intervention and parenting support programmes.
These reforms and developments are in many instances being implemented and introduced as part of this Government’s determined effort to respond to our country’s shameful legacy of past failings in the area of child protection.
In the past:
– Our laws did not do enough to protect our vulnerable children;
– Our services were not adequate and could not respond;
– Our approach was not integrated or comprehensive and so struggled to improve the outcomes for our children.
For too long our society turned a blind eye to abuse and neglect and children suffered.
For too long our State failed in its moral duty to protect those suffering and to respond when alerted.
This Government’s actions to right this legacy have been both determined and comprehensive.
Nonetheless, we know we cannot be complacent. We know that the challenges haven’t suddenly gone away. There are demand and service pressures. Sadly, child abuse and neglect doesn’t go away.
We are determined to change this legacy. We have led through reform. We are enhancing our laws. We are improving our services. We are putting Children First.
National Policy Framework
My vision, and my commitment as Taoiseach is to work to make Ireland one of the best small countries in which to grow up in and to raise a family.
This National Policy Framework sets out how we can achieve this… better outcomes and bright futures for all children, all young people and their families.
This is not a small objective.
This is not a task for one Minister. It falls to us all. All of Government. All of Society.
Better Outcomes: Brighter Futures, is a whole-of-Government policy.
It has to be as almost all policy areas have a direct or indirect effect on children and young people’s lives. The purpose of this Framework is to coordinate policy across Government to achieve better outcomes for children.
More than anything, this Framework goes beyond aspirations.
The arrangements will enable Government and interagency collaboration.
It will connect infrastructure.
It will guarantee standards and make the best-possible use of public money, in the service of the State, its children and families.
It will do this through:
· Improving supports for parents;
· Focussing on earlier intervention and prevention;
· Fostering a culture that listens to and involves children and young people;
· Ensuring quality services;
· Strengthening the transitions between child and adult services; and
· Enhancing cross-government and interagency collaboration and coordination.
In conclusion, I believe the publication of the Framework marks a turning point in terms of children’s policy generally. We are moving from a position of fire-fighting and addressing the legacy of past failings to one of focussing on improving outcomes for all our children and to building for Ireland’s future.
This Framework provides an exciting road-map for Government and all who work with children and young people.
Together let’s work to deliver those better outcomes and that brighter future.