The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD, is pleased to confirm that Government has approved the drafting of the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2021, which provides for reform of the Guardian ad litem (GAL) system.
The Minister is committed to addressing the shortfalls in the existing arrangements for Guardian ad Litems and to extending the current system to benefit all children and young people who are the subject of child care proceedings, as well as providing a service that is high quality and sustainable into the future.
The Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2019, which provided for the same set of reforms, had completed Committee Stage when it fell with the dissolution of the Dáil in February 2020. The Minister has made some changes to the 2019 Bill in line with stakeholder concerns.
The Bill will enable the Minister to establish a new national Guardian ad litem service within an Executive Office of the Department on an interim basis with a view to longer-term arrangements for the Office being made within the new specialised family justice system. The principal aim of the office will be to make Guardian ad litems available to all children and young people who are the subject of child care proceedings.
The Heads of the Bill will be published on the department’s website by the end of the week. Some of the main provisions of the Bill are as follows:
the Bill will give the Minister the power to make regulations on the qualifications and experience required to act as a Guardian ad litem
there is also a provision for a transition period in the first year of operation of the Executive Office to provide for a seamless transition from the current system to a new model of provision
in response to stakeholder concerns regarding the wording in the 2019 Bill, it is proposed to introduce a clearer presumption in favour of appointment
Section 26 of the 1991 Child Care Act provides for the appointment of a guardian ad litem in childcare proceedings where a child is not a party to those proceedings and where the court is satisfied that it is necessary in the best interests of the child and in the interests of justice to have a guardian ad litem appointed
the main purpose of the General Scheme is to replace the existing provision in Section 26 of the 1991 Child Care Act. The overall objective is to ensure that the Guardian ad litem service can be provided for all children and young people, so that their voices can be heard in child care proceedings and that this service will be of high quality and sustainable into the future