New figures obtained by Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children Robert Troy TD show Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, paid out over €35m in legal fees in 2014 alone.
Deputy Troy says scarce resources are being used to pay exorbitant legal fees.
“Figures I obtained through Parliamentary Questions in the Dáil show Tusla was forced to pay out over €35m in legal fees last year alone. This is a staggeringly high figure and accounts for a large percentage of the overall budget allocated to Tusla,” said Deputy Troy.
“The vast majority of these fees relate to services provided under the ‘Guardian ad Litem’ system. A ‘Guardian ad Litem’ is a professional person who is appointed to represent the wishes and interests of a child during court proceedings. However the current system overseeing legal representation lacks regulation under current legislation. A select number of individuals are claiming as much as €300,000 in a single year under the system and this is putting huge pressure on Tusla’s finances.
“Management at Tusla have made it clear on a number of occasions that they are experiencing financial difficulties and do not have enough resources to fund frontline staff in supporting vulnerable children. However at the same time Tusla is being forced to handover vast amounts of money to legal representatives due to the fact that the Government have not introduced the necessary reforms to ensure resources are used effectively.
“Last July I introduced legislation in the Dáil which would significantly reform the way Tusla works and bring an end to these exorbitant legal payments. If enacted ‘The Child Care (Guardian Ad Litem) Bill 2015’ will ensure the best interests of the child are paramount when it comes to appointing a legal representative on their behalf.
“I am calling on Minister for Children James Reilly to take immediate steps to implement a properly functioning ‘Guardian ad Litem’ system. The exorbitantly high fees for legal representation being paid under the currently system are a gross waste of public money at a time when frontline child support services are grossly underfunded.”