Landmark review of the Child Care Act 1991 receives approval to be drafted

The Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2023 provides for the review and update of the Child Care Act 1991, the primary Act guiding child welfare and protection in Ireland

The new Bill intends to capture positive policy and practice developments and address legislative gaps identified during the review process and will also revise and update the regulation of early learning and childcare services.

Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, has today (19 April) announced government approval to draft the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2023.

The Bill, when enacted, will revise and update the 1991 Act to better reflect changes in child welfare and protection services in Ireland in the 30 years since enactment of the 1991 Act, 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.

The development of the Bill was informed by significant engagement and consultation with stakeholders to collect their views on the legislation including through public consultations, written submissions and a number of consultation events. This included extensive engagement with Tusla on subjects covered by the 1991 Act.

Some of the most significant areas of change proposed are as follows:

• Introduction of a guiding principles section to the Act, with the best interests of the child as the overriding principle.

• Introduction of a duty to cooperate between relevant bodies, such as Tusla, Government Departments, the Health Service Executive (HSE) and An Garda Síochána (AGS). This cooperation will include the sharing of information between relevant bodies and Tusla, and with each other, in accordance with the law and as necessary and proportionate.

• The voice of the child is to be strengthened 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.

• Amendments to Section 3 of the Child Care and to Children First Act 2015 related to assessments of reports of harm.

• Amendments to existing rules for Supervision Orders, Interim Care Orders, Care Orders, Emergency Care Orders and Voluntary Care Agreements.

• Amendments to Part VIIA to allow Tusla Early Years Inspectorate to immediately close unregistered early learning and childcare services, to temporarily suspend registered services where there are concerns about significant risk to children, to share information on enforcement action with parents, to place some additional enforcement measures on a legislative footing, and to introduce a “Fit Person” regulation.

Welcoming the announcement, Minister 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.

For more information on the review of the Child Care Act click here

For more information on the public consultation on a review of regulations for early learning and care click here

For the report on a public consultation on a review of regulations for early learning and care click here