Barnardos Response to Public Accounts Committee scrutiny of C&AG Report 2015
The Public Accounts Committee today examined in detail the operation of the Guardian ad Litem system in the Irish courts, in response to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General on the subject. As the largest provider of GAL services in Ireland, working with 840 children last year, Barnardos wholeheartedly welcomes the light shone on the system by the Report and the Committee, and the proposals for reform that are emerging.
Barnardos Chief Executive Fergus Finlay said, “Guardians are appointed by the Courts to work alongside children at times of great stress and pressure, when life-changing decisions are being made about them. They are the voice of children at a time when children must have a voice. Therefore it’s essential that Guardians must be empathetic and independent. They must be appropriately qualified, trained and vetted thoroughly, supervised and managed professionally, and be accountable. These are all qualities and characteristics that Barnardos has sought to ensure in respect of the Guardians with whom we work.
“But we have always said that the overall system, which has grown up in an ad hoc and unregulated way, needs extensive reform. It’s expensive and it’s frequently adversarial. A well-run and well managed system, which must be independent in the interests of the child, will put the needs of the child first and will be far more transparent.
“That’s why we welcome the decision taken by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, and outlined by the Secretary General of the Department, to publish the Heads of a Bill outlining this reform in the coming days, and to seek passage of the legislation before the year is out.
Finlay concluded, “Barnardos has long called for the need for a properly regulated and managed system for providing Guardian ad Litem services to the courts – one agency that is accountable for the management and supervision for all Guardians ad Litem, and that can provide real value for money while ensuring that children have a voice where and when they need it most. We will do whatever we can to ensure this necessary reform happens.”
Note to editors
Barnardos is the largest and longest established National Guardian ad Litem Service in Ireland, working with over 830 children in 2016. A Guardian ad Litem supports children to have their voice heard in certain types of legal proceedings, and makes an independent assessment of the child’s interests.