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Restrictions in Ombudsman for Children legislation means not all children are treated equally

Hundreds of children and families already avail of services by Ombudsman for Children’s Office

Despite the hundreds of children and families helped to date, the Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, has expressed serious concerns about the groups of vulnerable young people who she is prevented from assisting under the investigative powers of her Office. Emily made her comments at the launch of the first annual report of Ombudsman for Children’s Office today (Tuesday).

“There are many, many young people who my Office can, and does help. Even during the set up phase of our first year we managed to provide assistance to children and young people in difficult situations. In addition to investigating complaints, we also have a mandate to promote the rights of children and young people; and to conduct research about issues that affect them. It is important to state that there are no restrictions in terms of the children we can help in our policy, research, advocacy or other functions.

“In the first year of our existence, our Office received 177 complaints. That number has increased by almost 40% in the last two months. One of our primary objectives is to strategically change how policies affecting young people are made. We have already approached the Departments of Health and Children, Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Education and Science with a view to offering a child proofing of future policy and/or legislation.

“However, there are certain groups of young people that cannot make complaints to our Office because of restrictions in the legislation underpinning our work. This results in some children and young people having less access to measures to safeguard their rights than others, and this goes against the letter and the spirit United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, ratified by Ireland in 1992.

“My Office was established to promote the rights and welfare of all children. I have serious concerns that because of certain limitations and exclusions in the Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002 we are prohibited from investigating complaints concerning children in certain places of detention and actions by An Garda Siochana. In addition, we are of the view that the exclusion concerning the administration of the law relating to asylum, naturalization or citizenship is too vague and this concerns us. This means that we may not be able to carry out our role and functions as effectively as set out in the Act, or as effectively we would wish.

“Many children and young people experience the reality of poverty, marginalisation and the effects of disparate social class in post-Celtic Tiger Ireland. I understand that these problems cannot be eradicated overnight. However, creating barriers and perpetuating inequality through legislation only serves to make a bad situation worse. It is of concern that the exclusions in our Act apply, in the main, to some of the most vulnerable children in the State.

“We are determined to make our Office an organisation that children and young people trust to respect them, represent their views fairly and to provide them with independent voice. As we head into our second year of operation with a permanent home in a fantastic new office and a full compliment of highly competent, deeply committed staff, we are excited and look forward to the challenges that lie ahead”

, Emily concluded.