FINE GAEL AND CHILDREN
I very much welcome the commitments Fine Gael have included in their Election 2011 Manifesto with regard to the Safety, Welfare, Protection & Rights of Children. I have been calling for many of these measures to be introduced by Government for quite some time and I am hopeful that a new Government will come into office ready to implement these measures without undue delay – this country’s failure to cherish and protect children must not continue any longer.
I have listed some of the commitments Fine Gael have made below, I have included the introduction of Sarah’s Law which is not in the manifesto but I understand this is also Fine Gael policy. I am also very pleased to see that the Fine Gael Manifesto highlights homophobic bullying in schools as a problem needing particular attention – children are entitled to be educated in a safe environment and a homophobic ethos which validates homophobic bullying is not acceptable in any of our schools.
Given Fine Gael’s policy to abolish the HSE I also look forward to the publication of more details from them about how child protection within the care system is to be reformed and managed after the HSE is abolished.
FROM THE FINE GAEL MANIFESTO FOR GENERAL ELECTION 2011
REFERENDUM: As a priority Fine Gael will ensure children’s rights are strengthened through a Constitutional referendum.
CHILDREN FIRST: Fine Gael will put the Children First national guidelines on the protection and welfare of children, that apply to individuals and agencies dealing with children, on a statutory footing so that they are effectively and consistently implemented throughout the State.
VETTING: We will enact legislation to facilitate the use of soft information in vetting individuals working with children. We will also seek a review of the Garda Vetting Unit with a view to improving application processing times.
STAY SAFE PROGRAMME: We will require all schools to effectively implement the mandatory Stay Safe Programme.
REFORMING CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES: Fine Gael will fundamentally reform the delivery of child protection and welfare services to achieve a better and more effective service for children that is fully accountable to the Dáil. We will enact legislation that will significantly increase the power and function of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
SARAH’S LAW: Parents and Guardians should be able to register a concern with authorities about any individual who has access to their children about whom they are genuinely worried. In some cases it should be possible for them to be told if such an individual is a known sex offender or not. This measure is already being rolled out in the UK, having being piloted to great effect; the pilot scheme in four counties saw one in ten calls to police uncover evidence of a criminal past. Out of 315 applications for information from concerned parents, details of 21 paedophiles were revealed. These were sex offenders known to the authorities who were putting themselves in a position of having access to children again, and they were stopped because those parents could register their concerns and access this information.
TAGGING SEX OFFENDERS: In 2011, nearly 100 sex offenders will leave prison, only 22 of whom will have had rehabilitative therapy. Fine Gael will provide for electronic tagging for high risk sex offenders on their release from prison to reduce the risk of reoffending.
ANTI-BULLYING POLICY: We will encourage schools to develop anti-bullying policies and in particular, strategies to combat homophobic bullying to support students.