Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children Robert Troy TD has today introduced legislation in the Dáil aimed at reforming the manner in which the ‘Guardian Ad Litem’ system works in the context of legal proceedings involving children.
A Guardian Ad Litem is a professional person who is appointed to represent the wishes and interests of a child during court proceedings. The system lacks regulation under current legislation, and allows a select number of individuals to claim as much as €300,000 in a single year to act as court appointed officers for children.
Deputy Troy commented, “Today I introduced legislation in the Dáil which, if enacted, will ensure proper oversight over the manner in which the court appointed Guardians ad Litem act as representatives for children during court proceedings. The Child Care (Guardian Ad Litem) Bill 2015 will ensure that the best interests of the child are paramount when it comes to appointing a legal representative on their behalf.
“Under the current system scare resources are being spent on an unregulated and chaotic system while at the same time we do not have enough resources to fund frontline staff in supporting vulnerable children. As it stands some Guardians Ad Litem can earn as much as €300,000 in a single year to act as a court appointed officer for children. This is an exorbitant cost that needs to be addressed. Spending on legal fees increased from €11.9m in 2013 to €16m in 2014 with even further increases likely in the years ahead.
“To put this €16m in context, the last budget left Tulsa €18m short of meeting day to day running costs. This resulted in Tusla having to make savage cuts to rape crisis centres around the country and domestic support services for vulnerable women. These cutbacks could have been avoided, or at least minimised, if we had a properly functioning Guardian ad Litem system.
“The exorbitantly high fees for legal representation are a gross waste of public money at a time when we have a shortage of social services and are curtailing support services operated by Tusla. The current system is undoubtedly in need of a radical overhaul, especially when you consider that the Minister for Children currently does not even know how many guardians are receiving exorbitant payments.
“Guardians ad Litem play a vital role in ensuring that the voice of the child is heard during court proceedings. However the legislation I have brought forward will ensure the proper supervision, training, monitoring and accountability of all individuals in the appointment and the training of Guardians ad Litem while also addressing the high legal fees being charged. If the Minister for Children is genuinely interested in reforming the current system then he will ensure the passage of this legislation through the Dáil” said Deputy Troy.