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If you think a public body or organisation’s actions have negatively affected a child or children, you can contact us and make a complaint.
Who can make a complaint?
Anyone can make a complaint to us provided it is about a public service in the Republic of Ireland. We accept complaints from children and young people under the age of 18, and also from adults on children’s behalf. Most of our complaints come from parents but people working with children such as residential care staff, social workers, teachers and others also contact us on behalf of children.
Before I make a complaint to the OCO
Whenever you have a concern, the first step is to talk to the service concerned. Talk to the person that you were dealing with or ask to speak to the manager. It is important to give the service you are dealing with the opportunity to resolve the issue before you go elsewhere. Keep a note of dates, who you spoke to and what they say will happen next. Also keep track of any documents or emails that you send or receive.
If you’re not happy after this, the next step is to make a formal complaint to the organisation. It’s best to do this in writing so that you can keep a record. Make sure that you mention that you are writing under the complaints procedure. Make your explanation of what happened as short and clear as possible. Focus on the main issues and leave out irrelevant details. It is also helpful for you to outline what outcome you want. For example, this might be an apology or an explanation of what happened. It can take a while to sort out complaints so it’s useful to keep copies of emails or letters you write so that you can remember later.
Many of the complaints we receive are about education or relate to Tusla, the HSE and local authorities. Click here for information on the complaints procedures of some of these organisations. Should you be unsure as to how to make a complaint to a public body, please click here for further information. Please be aware that the OCO cannot investigate complaints about asylum, immigration, naturalisation or citizenship. We do accept complaints about the Direct Provision system.
It’s important that the service that you are complaining about has a chance to put things right before you contact us. Our experience is that complaints are best dealt with locally and quickly. This is called local resolution and is something that we encourage.
However, if you are still not happy after this, then it may be time to contact us.
What can I complain about?
The Ombudsman for Children Act 2002 sets out the framework for our complaints work. Under this law, we provide a free and impartial complaints service. Our role is to see if a public body’s administrative actions have had an adverse effect on a child or children. In other words, we aim to see if a public body’s administration is effective or whether maladministration has occurred. Maladministration is not defined in our legislation but it basically means when things go wrong.
We cannot investigate complaints relating to or affecting the terms or conditions of someone’s employment. For this reason, it is more appropriate for complaints about a professional’s conduct and/or practice to be made to the employer. If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome of that process, you may wish to bring your concerns to the attention of the relevant professional regulator.
You may click each profession here to source the appropriate professional regulator and a link to how to make a complaint.
Enrolment, suspension or expulsion:
If your complaint is about school refusal to enrol, suspension or expulsion this issue is included in the Education Act 1998 and the Department of Education is the first place to go. The Department of Education provides a Section 29 Appeal Process regarding decisions to refuse to enrol / suspend / expel a child. The Appeal Form, in addition to information about the process, is available online here.
Social Welfare Allowances
Complaints about social welfare payments that are made to adults, are dealt with by the Office of the Ombudsman rather than the Ombudsman for Children’s Office.
Time is also important when it comes to making a complaint. In most cases, we can only investigate a complaint made within two years of the time of the action.
The Ombudsman for Children Act 2002, the law that sets out what we can and cannot investigate, states that we can’s investigate issues relating to asylum, immigration, naturalisation or citizenship. We do take complaints about the Direct Provision process.
We do not have the authority to investigate clinical judgement in relation to the diagnosis of illness or the care or treatment of a patient.
In most cases we must receive a complaint within two years of the action or event in order to investigate.
Make a complaint
The easiest way to make a complaint is to fill out our complaint form online here. We have designed the form so that it covers the information we need to know. For example, we need to know what service or organisation the complaint is about and how what has happened has affected the child or children concerned. The complaint form gives us a good idea about what your complaint is about and if we need more information we’ll ask for it. There is also an option to upload up to five documents, these documents may provide evidence of local procedures and it is very important you provide any relevant information which supports your complaint.
You can print off a copy of the complaint form and post it to us at the Ombudsman for Children’s Office, Millennium House, 52-56 Great Strand Street, Dublin 1.
If you want to speak to a member of our complaints team, you can ring us on our Freephone 1800 20 20 40 and they will go through the form with you or send you one.
Online Complaint Form
1800 20 20 40
52-56 Great Strand St
What happens after I complain?
The first thing we do when we get a complaint is to see if we can look at it. We review information provided to see if the issue or complaint is within our remit. The Ombudsman for Children Act 2002 was amended in 2012 and brought over 180 additional public service providers under our remit. We may be able to look at a complaint about a service provider not included in the list of reviewable agencies if it is state funded.
We know that complaints processes can be confusing. Therefore, giving people information about the right agency to deal with their complaint is an important aspect of our work and we try to do this as quickly as possible.
Sometimes complaints come too us too early and we encourage complainants to go back to the public body so that they can complete the local complaints process and resolve the issue if possible. This is called local resolution giving the public body an opportunity to fix things without the need for us to become further involved.
How we include the voice of the child in our complaint process
We have a duty, as much as we can, to ensure that a child or young person’s wishes are considered in line with their age and understanding. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child also outlines the right of children to be heard and to express their views in all matters affecting them, and the OCO is committed to this.
In each complaint, we must decide if, when and how to gather the views of the child or children concerned. We ask them about their experiences, their opinion on what has happened and what they would like to change.
What does this mean?
We may think it is appropriate to talk to the child or children that the complaint is about. This is only done with the consent of the child, parent or guardian. Children share their views with us in many ways - face to face meetings, online meetings, telephone calls, letters and emails. We work with the children to see what is best for them.
The voice of the child in our complaint process:
The OCO has an obligation under Section 6(2) to in so far as practicable, to give due consideration, having regard to the age and understanding of the child, to his or her wishes, and is committed to the principles and provisions of the UNCRC, including the right of children to be heard and to express their views in all matters affecting them.
In each complaint examined, the OCO must make a decision on if, when and how to gather the views of the child(ren) concerned in relation to their experiences and views of the matter and any redress they may seek. These decisions must be made with reference to our obligations but also proportionally in the context of the specific details of the individual complaint.
What does this mean?
It means that we may consider it appropriate to seek the views of the child (ren) at the centre of the complaint. This is only done with the consent of the child, parent or guardian. Further the means by which we do this can vary depending on the child’s wishes. Some examples of how we have heard the voice of the child, include face to face meetings, online meetings, telephone calls, letters and emails.
The OCO staff member assigned to your case can discuss this process with you in more detail.
Complaints in Numbers
Read our complaints in numbers here.
When We Cannot Help
If we cannot help, we will always try to help and signpost you to organisations that may be able to deal with your complaint. Click here for information on the complaints procedures of some of these organisations.