Fianna Fáil has criticised the Government for the unacceptable delays in putting the Children First guidelines on a statutory footing.

According to the party’s Children’s Spokesperson Robert Troy, the failure to bring forward this crucial legislation has left gaping holes in child protection in the country.

He was speaking after a new report by the Child Care Law Reporting Project revealed that alcohol and drug abuse, social isolation and mental health problems are the main causes leading to childcare cases in the courts.

“This Government is in office for three years now and it’s still dragging its heels on implementing key recommendations on improving child protection in this country. There is simply no excuse for the delays in bringing forward the Children’s First legislation,” Deputy Troy said.

“This latest report on child care cases in the courts confirms a worrying lack of inter-agency cooperation when it comes to dealing with children at risk. This is an issue that could easily be addressed by robust legislation. But despite the repeated promises, we are still waiting for this legislation to be brought forward.

“I am once again calling on Minister Fitzgerald to clearly outline a timeframe for publication and implementation of the Children First legislation. While I welcome the establishment of the Child and Family Agency, this is not enough in isolation. Today’s report highlights the key role played by mental health services when it comes to protecting vulnerable children. But we are still awaiting clarity on the protocol between the Child and Family Agency and the HSE in supporting children and young people with mental health issues.”