Press Release

Minister Lenihan Launches Young Adult Support Training Manual at the County Wexford Partnership

Minister for Children at the Department of Health and Children, Mr. Brian Lenihan, TD, today (11th November 2005) launched a Young Adult Support Training Manual at the County Wexford Partnership, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford.

The Wexford County Partnership is a partnership between local community groups, state agencies and social agencies to provide a targeted response to the needs of people who are long term unemployed and socially excluded. The Partnership provides services to people in the area who are looking for work, starting up their own business, smallholders with an annual income of less than € 13,000, travellers, people with disabilities, looking for training/retraining and returning to education.

The Young Adult Support Programme is the result of a County Wexford pilot programme researching the needs of young adults ( aged 14 to 18 years ) in the New Ross area. It is a collaborative response to the the needs of young people who have left school early, or who have been identified as being at risk of leaving school early. The Young Adult Support Programme in New Ross is supported by the Health Service Executive, Youth New Ross, Juvenile Liaison Service and the Probation & Welfare Service.

The Young Adult Support Training manual outlines the mentor training programme which has been designed by County Wexford Partnership specifically for training the volunteer mentors and will allow the volunteers to develop their skills to the maximum and have constant support , and therefore are more likely to remain as volunteers.

The Minister said that in recent years the policy focus in the child care area has shifted to a more preventative approach of child welfare involving support to families and children and is aimed at avoiding more serious interventions later on.

The support services currently being funded in addition to mainstream family support services include, Springboard Programmes, Teen Parents Support Programmes and Youth Advocacy Programmes, the Minister said.

The Minister thanked the large number of voluntary bodies which play a major role in providing these services in partnership with the Health Service Executive.

The Minister said that he was aware that there is a clear link between early school leaving and continued socio-economic disadvantage in adult life and spoke of the services being provided by the Department of Education to improve school completion rates including breakfast clubs and homework supports and working with parents to promote school attendance. The Minister also referred to the establishment of the National Education Welfare Board in 2002 with a remit to monitor school attendance and also to run promotional campaigns on the importance of finishing school.

The Minister said that € 24 million has been provided this year for the School Completion Programme, which is a key component of the Department of Education and Science’s strategy to discriminate positively in favour of children and young people who are at risk of early school leaving.

Government Response to Ferns Inquiry

This was the Minister’s first official visit to Wexford (and the Diocese of Ferns) since the Report of the Ferns Inquiry was published on Tuesday 25 October, 2005.

“I know that this has been a difficult time for the community as a whole in Wexford and particularly so for the victims and their families. I wish to pay tribute to the very courageous people who gave evidence of their experiences of abuse to the inquiry,” the Minister Said.

The Minister said that the Government had accepted all of the recommendations in the Ferns Report and outlined a number of steps to ensure that the recommendations are implemented by all bodies concerned and also by the wider community.

There will be a national review of compliance with the Children First Guidelines by State bodies and NGOs which will be driven by the National Children’s Office, in partnership with all Government Departments. The Children First Guidelines were published in 1999 and in light of recent events, it is essential Government can stand over its own procedures in protecting children.

In the case of the church authorities, we must ensure that the current high standards of child protection now being operated by the Ferns Diocese are replicated in all dioceses. I have requested confirmation from the Bishop’s Conference that the recommendations of the Ferns Report will be implemented both collectively and individually. Also I have requested confirmation that the Framework Guidelines are in place in all dioceses. A two step approach is being undertaken. The first phase of a Commission of Investigation is an audit of the level of compliance with the 1996 Guidelines and the second phase is an inquiry in Dublin.

I have also requested the Health Service Executive to launch a nationwide publicity and awareness campaign on child sexual abuse. The National Children’s Office will assist the HSE in ensuring the campaign effectively targets, and is relevant to children and young people.

The HSE has made contact with the individual bishops in the Catholic Church as requested by me, to monitor child protection practices and ensure compliance with the recommendations of the Ferns Report.

I welcome the statement by the church authorities that they intend to introduce the Inter-Agency Review Group, along the current Ferns model, in all areas of the country. I have requested the HSE to convene meetings of this group to record and maintain its records, in line with the inquiry recommendations. The HSE is to report as soon as possible after initial meetings with the Bishops have been held and liaison arrangements have been put in place.

Earlier this week the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform announced the terms of reference for the commission to investigate the handling of complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse against clergy operating under the aegis of the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin; and the response to such cases.

It is also proposed that the commission will investigate the position in any Catholic Diocese in the State, following my notification as Minister for Children that the diocese may not be implementing Church guidelines in relation to child sexual abuse by a priest or religious, or a notification that a diocese may not be implementing satisfactorily the recommendations of the Ferns report.

The Department of Health and Children in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Office, will be undertaking an in depth study of the HSE’s powers in relation to third party sexual abuse and that this will be followed by legislative proposals as required.