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1,812 complaints to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office as Ireland falls behind on children’s rights

There were 1,812 complaints to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office in 2022. Falling Behind; the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) Annual Report for 2022 reveals that education was once again the most complained about issue (30%), with bullying, expulsion or suspension, and special education resources featuring in many of the complaints.
Significantly, the work of the Office in 2022 shows that on many issues, Ireland is starting to fall behind on children’s rights. This was reflected in two major OCO reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and their subsequent Concluding Observations, which raised concern about the standard of living and child poverty issues, mental health services for children in Ireland, the lack of inclusive school places for all children, and the State’s failure to integrate children’s rights into legislation.

Falling Behind also features the stories of some of the children the OCO worked with last year. This includes Aisling*, who told us that after making an allegation of bullying with a sexual dimension, the school made her feel responsible, and that she was bullied by other students for reporting the abuse. The OCO took action and the school eventually apologised to Aisling with the Board of Management updating their policies.

We also hear about 10-year-old Chloe* who developed an eating disorder during the pandemic and had to be tube-fed. Chloe’s family came to the OCO as they weren’t happy with how her case was handled. The HSE apologised to Chloe’s family and the OCO recommended changes to improve the system.
Commenting on the publication of Falling Behind, the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, said:
“2022 and 2021 before it have been the busiest two years for the OCO since our Office was established. In 2022 we received over 1,800 complaints across the areas of education, health, justice, finance, as well as complaints relating to Tusla and Local Authorities.
“Our Annual Report this year is called Falling Behind because we wanted to highlight how Ireland is doing in relation to children’s rights and unfortunately, we’re not where we should be. This is backed up by the Concluding Observations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

“The Taoiseach has said that he wants Ireland to be the best country in Europe to be a child. If this is to happen we need to finally incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into legislation – 30 years after its ratification. We also need to totally reform our Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) which we know are hugely dysfunctional and failing our most vulnerable children. Changes also need to be made to provide inclusive education for all children in Ireland. “

Falling Behind also details the OCO’s direct engagement with children through our children’s rights workshops which saw 1,100 children visit the Office in 2022, as well as events for children run by the office around the country. The report details the submissions, reports and advice offered by the OCO on a range of issues including surrogacy, school places for children with special educational needs and the rights of children seeking international protection in Ireland. Alongside the Annual Report, the OCO has published an update on the OCO’s work in relation to the reporting and monitoring process of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which made up a large proportion of the work of the Office in 2022.