Press Release

Provision of high support and special care accommodation units for children

Statement by Ms Mary Hanafin TD, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, regarding the provision of high support and special care accommodation units for children who need to be maintained in such accommodation for their own welfare.

Referring to a Court Order made by Mr Justice Peter Kelly in the High Court this morning (Friday, 25 February 2000), the Minister of State with special responsibility for children, Ms Mary Hanafin TD, said ‘The detention of a child should be an action of the very last resort. I feel that that children’s futures can be best secured by tackling their needs within the family and in a local community settings. Early intervention and prevention at community level is the most appropriate response. However, I recognise that, in some cases, this is not possible and the provision of high support and special care accommodation, which is dealt with in the Court’s judgement, is a top priority for me.”

The need for this accommodation has been identified, said the Minister, and the necessary funding has been provided to the Health Boards. A development programme has been agreed with the Boards, and the Minister emphasised “this programme, which aims to provide 140 additional places, will be speeded up.”.

The Minister also pointed out that she had set up a new Interim Body on special residential services for children convicted of committing offences and for children who have behavioural problems and are in need of special care and protection.

“I set up this Interim Body in anticipation of the enactment of the Children Bill, 1999 which provides for a Special Residential Services Board. The Special Residential Services Board will then take over the Interim Body’s responsibilities when the Bill becomes law.”

“While the Children Bill is currently before the Dáil, I was determined to move quickly and in advance of the formal enactment of this piece of legislation to ensure that there is a full system of care available to provide the best possible care for our more troubled children.” Minister of State Hanafin said.

The Interim Body will advise the Ministers for Health and Children and Education and Science on policy on the remand and detention of children in detention schools and special care units.

It will advise on co-ordinating the delivery of the services and on the development and provision of educational and other programmes for children in these schools and units.

Minister Hanafin concluded “Mr Justice Kelly’s order compelling the State to facilitate the building and opening of a number of high support and special care units in health board areas outside of the Eastern Health Board area is a very significant judgement. It will be given detailed consideration by my Department in consultation with the Attorney General’s Office”.

*Note: This figure of 140 additional places is divided as follows: 30 special care and 80 high support places in the Health Board system for non-offending children and 30 in the Department of Education and Science system for offending children and children on remand.