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Legal gaps mean children remain vulnerable - Children's Ombudsman


08/07/2009

Gaps in law, policy and practice mean that some children remain vulnerable and are not receiving the full support of the State, according to Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, today (Wednesday) at the launch of her fourth annual report.

The Ombudsman for Children chose the occasion of the publication of her annual report to highlight the following concerns emerging throughout the year:

  • the absence of a mechanism to deal with inappropriate behaviours towards children in school settings; 
  • gaps in law where allegations of abuse against staff in education and health settings fall short of prosecution;
  • the lack of any statutory obligation on the State to provide aftercare support to young people leaving care;
  • the lack of independent inspection for children in residential care; and
  • the lack of independent inspection for ‘separated children’ in care.

In this reporting period (2008) the Ombudsman for Children’s Office received 810 complaints, a 10% increase and a significant change since its first year of operations, 2004, when 94 complaints were received.

The Ombudsman for Children has a statutory role to promote and safeguard the rights and welfare of children. This year efforts were made to prioritise the accessibility of the Office to children in all settings including prisons, hostels and care settings.

Emily Logan said: “The information we have learned over the past year makes me feel uneasy. It also makes me as Ombudsman for Children reflect on my own role and the increasing significance of the work of this Office and the unique contribution we can make to safeguarding children’s rights. The three areas of most significance are:

  1. Independent oversight – we provide a complaints handling service to monitor the actions of the State towards children. While my Office generally investigates a complaint from a member of the public, in 2008 we shifted our approach and actively pursued a number of investigations of my own volition.
  2. Legislative change – I am charged with giving advice to Ministers on any matter relating to the rights and welfare of children. 2008 began with an invitation to meet with the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children. I remain convinced that Constitutional change is required to ensure that any new legislation puts the interests of children first.
  3. Consulting with children – how do we hear what they have to say. We are the only independent, statutory institution charged with consulting with children and highlighting what they have to say.

This fourth annual report (2008) documents how my team and I are dealing with these challenges.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  • 810 complaints were received from January to December 2008. This represents a 10% increase on 2007.
  • Parents and extended family continue to be the main advocates for children representing 72% of complainants.
  • Professionals now account for 15% of complainants.
  • The Ombudsman for Children is the independent statutory body with responsibility for promoting children’s rights and welfare.
  • The Ombudsman for Children reports directly to the Oireachtas.
  • The three functions of the Office are Complaints and Investigations; Policy and Legislation; and Education and Participation. The activities in each of these areas in 2008 is set out in detail in the 2008 annual report.
  • The Ombudsman for Children’s Office allocation, was €2.463m at the start of 2008. In line with the reduction of budgets across the public sector this was later reduced to €2.409m.

For more information contact Nikki Gallagher at 01-8656803 or 086-8163246

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