Question Time: Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Tuesday 8 October 2013

TopicalQuestions for the Health Minister today involved him answering questions on Domiciliary Care from Mr G Kelly MLA, Suicide Prevention Strategy from Mr Cathal Boylan, and Child Sexual Exploitation from Mr Fra McCann MLA.

During the Child Sexual Exploitation question Minister Poots said “abuse victim Áine Adams was let down by the RUC, by her uncle Gerry Adams and by the PSNI” and demanded there should be zero tolerance for those who cover up child abuse and also called for the Police Ombudsman to look at the case

The Health minister also challenged SF members who called for the Cardinal to go over clerical abuse to step up to the mark today.

MrPootsI have people who are currently scouring for a suitable person or persons to carry out that work.  Independence is absolutely critical.  Child sex abuse is a vile thing; an awful thing.  I simply ask people to put themselves in the place of a victim of abuse, even for just 24 hours. 

Equally, turning a blind eye to abuse is never right; it is a heartless and sickening thing to do.  Where there is evidence of failings, whether in residential care or people's homes, it is incumbent on us to tell the police and the social services of child abuse that is taking place.  It is incumbent on us to cooperate with those services.  The public should not be in any doubt that there should be zero tolerance for any failure to report child abuse.  That is why I met the Chief Constable yesterday.  I indicated that the police had not done their job as well as they should have in taking the message to the public that there is zero tolerance for child abuse, and for those who cover it up.  I am wholly opposed to any individual who would cover up child abuse.  It is wrong, and it was wrong in Cardinal Daly's instance.  I note that many of the Member's colleagues made comments in reference to Cardinal Daly.  I challenge Martina Anderson, Martin McGuinness, Sue Ramsey, and others who called for the cardinal to go, to step up to the mark today.

Oral Questions to the Health Minister covered the following topics:

Mr Dominic Bradley asked the Minister “why he has not legislated to protect the health service from privatisation, given that this proposal was endorsed by the Assembly earlier in the year following an SDLP motion”

Mr Poots: “I set out my intentions in response to contributions to the debate on 28 May and again in response to Mr Kelly's question of 17 June.  Those intentions have not changed.  I will continue to use all the options that are available to me, including the independent sector, to drive down waiting lists and provide the best possible care for our citizens.  I will not introduce legislation that would prevent me from responding in a flexible manner to any healthcare issues that might arise. We need to make the changes that are required to improve patient experience and care, and we need to do that in a transparent and sensitive way.  I remain committed to doing so”.

Mr Jim Allister asked the Minister, “what progress has been made in bringing the Marie Stopes clinic within regulatory control and accountability requirements”.

The Minister responded with, “I have raised a number of issues with officials about receiving statutory assurance that the law is being adhered to and that the RQIA is fulfilling its statutory duties.  My officials are engaging with the RQIA on the matter.  I want the maximum level of assurance, and I am looking at a range of powers. 

The Member knows very well that this matter is dealt with under the criminal law”.

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