Child care law to become more ‘child-centred’

Child care law to become more 'child-centred'

Roderic O'Gorman

The most significant reforms to child care law in more than 30 years will deliver more “child-centred” legislation, the government has said.

Ministers yesterday approved the drafting of the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2023, which will revise and update the Child Care Act 1991 to better reflect changes in child welfare and protection services as well as capture current legislative, policy and practice developments.

The bill will also revise and update the regulation of early learning and childcare services.

A significant area of change is a new guiding principles section in the 1991 Act, with the best interests of the child as the overriding principle.

It will also introduce a duty to co-operate between relevant bodies, such as Tusla, government departments, the HSE and An Garda Síochána.

The bill will also strengthen the voice of the child both in court proceedings and in decisions taken outside the court setting by introducing a principle that children should be able to participate in the decision-making process.

Other provisions include amendments related to assessments of reports of harm, changes to the existing rules for supervision orders, interim care orders, care orders, emergency care orders and voluntary care agreements, and enhanced enforcement powers for Tusla.

Children’s minister Roderic O’Gorman said: “The Child Care Act 1991 was a transformative piece of legislation, helping to promote the protection of children.

“We want to build on that, making the Act more child-centred, and taking account of the many societal and legislative changes since 1991 including the establishment of the Child and Family Agency, Children First legislation and the children’s referendum.”

The general scheme will now be referred to the Office of the Attorney General for priority drafting of the bill.

“The text of the bill will be finalised as a matter of priority and it is intended to progress the legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas in the coming months,” Mr O’Gorman’s department said.

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