All agencies of the state should be working together to protect children – Ombudsman for Children

“The report published today, detailing the use by An Garda Síochána of their child protection powers clearly highlights an urgent need for improved interagency cooperation to protect young people”, says Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon. Niall was speaking following the publication of Dr Geoffrey Shannon’s audit of the use of section 12 of the Child Care Act by An Garda Síochána.

“The audit of the Gardaí’s child protection powers under section 12 of the Child Care Act, carried out by Dr Geoffrey Shannon and as recommended by my predecessor, the former Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, makes for difficult, but vital reading.

“Overwhelmingly inadequate interagency cooperation is not good enough and must be addressed immediately. The failings highlighted by Dr Shannon, which include poor communication and a reluctance to share information, are unfortunately the same issues consistently raised in our dealing with Tusla.

“It is essential that all children receive the very best service available and that means that all professionals interacting with young people should be working together. It also means that a service should be available at all times, to all children.

“While I acknowledge that since this audit took place Tusla has started an out of hours service, this service is still inconsistent and overly reliant on private contractors who are refusing young people with addiction issues or who demonstrate challenging behaviour. A seamless and robust out of hours service is needed that provides an equal service to all children, regardless of their issues, in all parts of the country.

“I am also extremely concerned about the fact that 54% of young people who are taken into care under section 12, are removed to either a hospital or a Garda station. Neither of these locations is suitable for vulnerable children who have been through a traumatic experience.

“Examples of repeated section 12 orders relating to the same children shine a light on the fact that young people considered at risk by Gardaí are being returned to their parents or guardians, only to be removed again. It is vital that we ask why is this happening? Are Tusla following up appropriately on these cases, and are Gardaí being updated on why the young people were sent back?

“It is time for the Government to really take this issue seriously. The recommendations from this report, and similar made by my office, in relation to interagency cooperation should now lead to real and constructive reform.

“It is my view that colocation of services should be seriously considered. This would bring all relevant professionals together, in one office and working towards one common goal- the welfare of children.

“I was very pleased to see that consideration of children’s rights in policing guidelines included as one of Dr Shannon’s recommendations. The invisibility of children and the lack of consideration of their views is starkly evident in the case studies included in this report. This must be addressed.

“The way we assess and meet the needs of our most vulnerable is a true reflection of our society. Children who are taken into the care of the state under the extraordinary powers of section 12 have already been failed, and we cannot fail them a second time.

“To quote Dr Shannon speaking at the launch today; Children don’t need our sympathy, they need our action.”

ENDS

Contact:
Aoife Carragher
Ombudsman for Children’s Office
01 865 6806