Speeches

Address by Mr Tim O´Malley T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children at the opening of the Southside Springboard Family Support Project

Introduction

I am delighted to have been invited here today to officially open this Springboard Family Support Project.

I am pleased to say that this Government is committed to the development of family oriented projects such as the one we are opening here today. This Government, and indeed the previous Government, recognised that family support had been a relatively neglected aspect of family policy and that our duty as legislators and administrators was predominantly the protection of the child within a safe and loving environment. We have now begun to recognise that true protection of the child begins with a well functioning family.

I know that for all those associated with the child care area such as social workers, child care workers, youth and community workers, family support and project workers, child protection and family protection is the bed-rock of their thinking. As a modern, progressive society, I believe we are reaping the benefits of this mindset and will continue to do so in the years to come. While we still have a way to go in developing services, I am pleased to say that since 1997 the Government has provided an additional approximately €178M revenue funding to services for children who are at risk and their families.

Springboard

As you know, in 2002 all existing 17 pilot Springboard projects were continued as a mainstream service by the health boards. It is hoped that existing projects will keep the committed, and now highly experienced staff and go on to strengthen your responsiveness and effectiveness of the Springboard services. The initiative has been expanded by four new Springboard projects since 2002. Annual funding of €7.6M is made available to support the Springboard initiative to health boards. The Department of Health and Children is committed to the ongoing and, resources permitting, the further development of Springboard and this commitment will continue as long as there are positive measured outcomes for those children in the area who are at risk of coming into care or being excluded from school or getting into trouble with the law.

Family Support

In seeking to understand the needs and potential of children and families, studies have proven that it is important that we accentuate the positives. There are whole sets of questions which never get considered if attention is only focused on the negatives in a child or family profile. Through actively looking for positive resources, we validate the strengths of the family and open up vast potential, especially for children. In working from this perspective in family support, whether we are administrators, policy makers, practitioners or parents, we will be doing our solemn duty to our children, that is, that we facilitate and help our children in any and every way possible to achieve their true potential in life. This is without doubt the single, most important task that we as adults will undertake. As the designers of our children´s tomorrows, we have the capacity to shape the Ireland of the early years of this new century. It is a task that we dare not fail – a task that if we succeed at will result in a wonderful, confident society at ease with itself long after our days are done.

The support of the family unit is, I believe, crucial in the thinking of a progressive society. I am pleased to say that this Government has supported this area of family welfare in the progression of many initiatives such as the Springboard initiative which basically highlights and accentuates the positives of the child and the family unit. Through actively looking for positive resources, we validate the strengths of the family and open up vast potential, especially for children.

I am pleased to say in this context that my Department has initiated a Review of Family Support Services. The purpose of this process is, inter alia, to develop a national policy on family support. Contact will be made over the coming weeks with Health Boards and other interested parties in order to compile an overview of service provision and to identify needs. I would ask all health boards and the other interested parties to fully engage with this process.

However we also know that so many families experience huge adversity in their lives. The evaluation on Springboard showed that you were working with these families. It is against the backdrop of ongoing difficult circumstances that parents can find it hard to be emotionally available to their children. It is important therefore that positive measures to promote attachment are used in the interventions available to families.

The evaluation has shown that parents and children experienced considerable improvements in well-being while attending Springboard. Virtually every parent and child attributed their improved well-being to the intervention of Springboard. It is hoped that through its Family Support Projects, Springboard will build on its quality base and continue to provide a range of best practice services which meets the needs of vulnerable families and I am sure that the people of Southill and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish will reap the rewards of the project being opened here today.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank Barnardos together with the Mid-Western Health Board and Limerick County Council for their great commitment and contribution in bringing today’s opening of the project to fruition.

May I thank you again for inviting me here today to open this Springboard Project. I would like to wish all involved every success with the project which I now have pleasure in declaring officially open.