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Children's Ombudsman announces Separated Children project


20/04/2009

Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, has today (Monday) announced an independent consultation with Separated Children who have come to Ireland without their parents on the circumstances in which they are living in the care of the State. The purpose of the consultation is to find out and understand the experiences of these children – good and bad – since they have arrived in Ireland, with a view to improving the situation for the children.

This project, which will run until autumn 2009, aims to identify key issues of concern to the children themselves and in so doing, the project will endeavour to identify any gaps in supports for Separated Children and develop recommendations aimed at addressing these gaps.

Emily Logan said: “Research undertaken for my Office by University College Cork has identified that children without parental care face particular difficulties and are at higher risk from harm. This project is part of a broader programme of work over the next two years that will focus on children who are living without parental care.”

Emily added: “Much of the current debate about Separated Children focuses on ‘Missing Children’. Obligations of the State must commence as soon as a child comes into the care of the State, not just when a child goes missing. In this project we intend to explore the points where the children’s needs may not be met and how this may make them vulnerable. The findings of the consultation will be published and any recommendations will be put to the Government, the Oireachtas and other policy makers.”

At present, there are approximately 180 Separated Children under the age of 18 living in Ireland. The vast majority of these are based in the greater Dublin area. While all of these children are in the care of the State, only a small number live in HSE-run centres and the majority reside in private hostels which have been contracted by the HSE to provide accommodation for the children. The private accommodation is not subject to any independent inspection. Separated Children do not have access to an independent guardian and many Separated Children do not have regular access to a social worker directly allocated to them. In the absence of such mechanisms, Separated Children have brought a range of concerns to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO).

As this is a participative piece of work, the OCO is keen that the children and young people themselves will play an important role in shaping the project. Section 7(2)(a) of the Ombudsman for Children Act states that the Ombudsman for Children shall consult with groups of children she considers representative for the purposes of her function under this section.

Over the past two months, staff from the Ombudsman for Children’s Office have visited the centres and met with children living there as well as staff who work in these centres. These visits were followed by an open day at the OCO last week. 46 Separated Children came along to hear about the project. The OCO has invited all of the children and young people they have met to join the steering group for this project. The OCO also plans to continue to meet as many children as possible during the course of the project by running a drop-in service at its Office and by continuing the visits to the accommodation centres.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

1. 'Separated Children' are children under 18 years of age who are outside their country of origin and separated from both parents, and previous/legal customary primary care giver.

2. Accommodation for Separated Children under the age of 18 is provided in ten residential centres. Two of these are residential centres and eight operate outside the normal residential care system.

3. The Ombudsman for Children has previously highlighted her concerns about the different standard of care provided by HSE-run care centres and private hostels.

4. The Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) is the independent, statutory organisation responsible for the promotion of the rights and welfare of all children and young people under eighteen in Ireland. This duty extends to all children who are living in Ireland, including those seeking asylum. The role and functions of the OCO are set out in a primary legislation, the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002, and the Ombudsman for Children is directly accountable to the Oireachtas.

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