Health and Social Care
Health and social care are issues that arise frequently in the work of the Ombudsman for Children’s Office, mostly through our complaints and investigation function. You can find further details on the types of issues that arise in the OCO’s annual reports.
However, the OCO can also use its other statutory functions to advise the Government and the Oireachtas on matters relating to health and social care, and has done so on a number of occasions.
The Child Care (Amendment) Bill addressed the issue of special care and other related matters, including the legislative basis for appointing a guardian ad litem for children in the context of child care proceedings.
Access to special care, the process involved and the impact of such court orders on young people have all been the subject of examination by the OCO in the course of its complaints work. The absence of a statutory framework within which special care orders could be made had been a source of significant concern to the OCO for some time, particularly with respect to young people in need of special care who have also been charged with a criminal offence. Indeed, the Ombudsman raised this matter in her 2009 Annual Report to the Houses of the Oireachtas.
In her advice to Government on the Bill, the Ombudsman for Children reiterated these concerns and raised a number of additional points arising from the provisions of the Bill. The OCO recommended that:
• Detention on remand should not be used for welfare reasons because of the lack of a suitable care placement;
• With regard to care proceedings, consideration should be given to creating a more unified court process at a regional level with specially trained and properly resourced judicial personnel looking at the full spectrum of children’s care needs;
• Children involved in care proceedings should have a right to representation by a guardian ad litem, or at the very least there should be a strong presumption in favour of appointment;
• Consideration should be given to establishing a regulatory framework for guardians ad litem that is independent of the HSE, that is mindful of the existing work done by voluntary organisations in this area and that will monitor the operation of the system over time; and
• The Bill should contain a positive obligation on the State to provide aftercare for every child in care whether they are in voluntary care, or in care under a care order, supervision order or under a special care order at least until they are 21.
The Health (Amendment) Bill 2010 (the Bill) was referred to the Ombudsman for Children by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on 14 June 2010. The version of the Bill referred is that of 11 June 2010 at 16.00. The text of the Bill, when published, may of course differ. It is welcome that, despite the urgency of the Bill, it was referred to this Office.
The Bill aims to ensure that certain information is furnished by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to the Minister for Health and Children.
The advice set out in this document has been prepared under section 7(4) of the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002. It provides that the Ombudsman for Children may give advice to a Minister on any matter relating to the rights and welfare of children, including the probable effect on children of the implementation of proposals for legislation.
The Bill arose from the difficulties in accessing information held by the HSE encountered by the Independent Group established by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to examine the deaths of children in care since 2000. It is for this reason, in particular, that the Bill is of interest to this Office
The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children issued a an invitation for submissions on the issue of primary medical care in the community and the Ombudsman for Children submitted her advice to the Committee further to that invitation in November 2008.
The submission was based on issues that had come to the attention of the OCO through its complaints and investigations work, issues that were identified in the baseline research published by the OCO in August 2007 on the barriers to the realisation of children’s rights in Ireland and concerns that had been expressed by international human rights monitoring mechanisms.
The issues discussed included child welfare and protection; mental health services for children and young people; children in care; and access to therapeutic services.”
The aim of this report is to bring to the Committee’s attention complaints conveyed to my Office regarding child protection in Ireland. This report contains a summary and analysis of 61 complaints submitted to my Office by members of the public. In the complaints, the complainants have indicated concerns about the way in which reports of child abuse, in all its forms, have been handled by the relevant authorities. The report highlights the issues of concern raised by the complainants and makes recommendations aimed at addressing the difficulties identified.