At the seventh meeting of the team held on 16th November 1977, Mr Ó Gilín reported on his trip to the secure unit at Redbanks in Lancashire and informed the team that the authorities there considered 30 children the ideal number for a secure unit. The team also discussed an item which had appeared in the Sunday Independent reported a ‘bitter row behind the scenes’ in relation to the deliberations of the team. Mr Ó Maitiú stated, ‘that such a report was inaccurate, must be treated as conjecture but it did emphasise the need for care in discussing the affairs of the Team’. At the next meeting on 30th November 1977: Reference was made to various letters and press reports concerning the Committee’s activities. The letters seem to cast doubt on the qualification of the members, and a letter was sent to the Daily Independent pointing out what their qualifications were but this had not been published. In reference to the letter from Mrs. M. Harding P.R.O, Irish Association of Social Workers, Sister Lucey said that its contents could not be regarded as I.A.S.W. policy because I.A.S.W. policy had not yet been defined.
In early 1978 the issue of administrative responsibility for childcare services was raised in the Department of Education. Mr Ó Gilín, on 9th February, in a detailed memo to Mr Ó Maitiú, noted the Task Force on Child Care Services had effectively stopped meeting in January 1977. The Minister for Health, Mr Haughey TD, decided to ask it to complete its work and appointed Judge Sean Butler of the High Court as Chairman in December 1977, replacing Mr Flor O’Mahony who had stepped down in April 1977. Mr Ó Gilín noted that: The task force has therefore now resumed work and, as a first objective, has set itself to produce a draft report on the question of administrative responsibility. It is considered that, at the present juncture, this will be a matter on which a decision can be made fairly quickly. As, in addition, it is one of the main issues on which the Task Force has to report, a decision on this matter is of major importance. For this reason, it is sought in this memorandum to confirm if earlier Departmental policy is unchanged in this regard. In particular, it is desired to establish the relevance to this matter of proposal no. 5 in the section of the Fianna Fail manifesto on ‘youth and youth employment’. The proposal is to the effect that a ‘Children’s Service Authority’ be established ‘with responsibility for deprived children or those at risk by the provision of the necessary medical and education services.
The Report was scrutinised in the Department of Education prior to publication and Mr Ó Maitiú drafted a lengthy response to the report dated 12th November 1980. He commented initially on the lack of agreement between the members and observed: Given the diverse composition of the Task Force, one could hardly expect unanimity of view on all aspects of the subject studied. Nevertheless, the extent of disagreement is somewhat surprising. There is one main report, one minority report (claimed by its authors, Mr. S. O Cinnéide and Miss N.O’Daly, of CARE, as a supplemental Report), and four sets of reservations from (a) Mr. K. O’Grady, Department of Justice, (b) Mr. Tomas O Gilín, Department of Education, (c) Mr. John Hurley, Department of Health and (d) Mr. M. Russell, Office of the Attorney General. It is obvious, therefore, that in reforming the Child Care system in this country, the Government will have to choose between a number of different solutions. Since the Department of Health will have the lead role in this reform, it is very likely to push the alternatives which best suit its own interests, and great vigilance will be needed to ensure that the interests of this Department do not suffer.
The reason for the Department of Education’s dissatisfaction with the large numbers in Kilkenny is evidenced by a four-page letter dated 8th May 1978. In this letter, Thomas O’Gilin of the Department of Education invited Mr T O’Dwyer, Principal Officer in the Department of Health, to meet and discuss the question of the future development of residential homes. He set out the changes that had taken place over the years since the Kennedy Report in the area of building programmes and in the declining number of children committed through the courts and the ISPCC. This had led to a situation where, in most cases, the homes’ finance for current costs came from the Health Boards who had the largest number of placements, yet responsibility for capital financing still remained entirely with the Department of Education. This created the anomaly because provision of capital money entailed a planning function, but the information needed for planning for future needs had to come from the Health Boards who were placing the majority of the children. The Task Force currently studying the situation were most likely to recommend the transfer of responsibility for residential homes to the Department of Health but, in the meantime, many urgent problems existed that required the co-operation of the two Departments.