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Children’s Ombudsman publishes investigation report on the implementation of Children First
This report is the result of an investigation launched by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office in November 2008 into the implementation of Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children by the Health Service Executive (HSE), and the monitoring of this implementation by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. The investigation was conducted in accordance with Section 10 of the Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002, which provides that the Ombudsman for Children may conduct an investigation of her own volition.
The Ombudsman for Children has made 11 findings of unsound administration against the relevant public bodies and 22 recommendations to improve the system.
It is the view of the Ombudsman for Children that much needs to be done to protect and promote children’s rights and welfare. This is not simply a matter of resources. Some of the problems identified - variable practice, a lack of internal and external scrutiny and a failure of inter agency collaboration - indicate a need for a fundamental change in culture and attitude towards child protection generally.
Investigation meetings were held with 9 of 32 Child Care Managers to get a picture of implementation in practice. Further meetings were conducted with the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMCYA), the HSE at national level, An Garda Síochána and the trade union IMPACT. This Office also conducted detailed analyses of documents secured from all of the 32 Local Health Offices of the HSE.
While some may claim that practice on the ground in Ireland is good, in the absence of any internal or external audit we cannot know this for sure. In the 11 years since the introduction of the Children First guidelines, case files from only one part of the country, and only on one occasion, have been audited to assess implementation on the ground. The result of that audit was worrying and yet did not prompt any further action nationally.
The Ombudsman’s investigation examined a time period when health and social services were undergoing fundamental reform, in particular with the creation of the HSE. It is recognised nationally that the health service is a complex organisation, but it is also recognised internationally that change is a constant in any health service. This report examines how children fared in the context of this wider reform.
The report concludes from this investigation that at times child protection services were not given priority in this reform process. While it is acknowledged that efforts were made to implement Children First, critical momentum was lost in 2003. At the same time, it is acknowledged that since the launch of this investigation that a number of initiatives, with positive potential, are currently underway. It is important that this potential is realised. To date, there has been no shortage of analysis of what the problems are, but far less action to tackle them.
Note to Editors:
Emily Logan is Ireland’s first Ombudsman for Children.
The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is the statutory, independent body responsible for promoting children’s rights and welfare in Ireland. The Ombudsman for Children is accountable to the Oireachtas.
- The investigation was launched on 19th November 2008.
- The investigation was concluded and sent to the HSE and OMCYA on 15th February 2010 in order to afford both public bodies an opportunity to comment on the findings.
- On receipt of comments the report was then finalised and sent to the HSE and OMCYA on 1 April 2010 requesting a response to the Ombudsman for Children's recommendations.
- HSE response was received on 21 April.
- OMCYA response was received on 29 April.
Aoife Greene (01) 865 6800
The Executive Summary can be downloaded here.
A full copy of the report can be downloaded here.