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Statement from Dr.Niall Muldoon on the Child Law Project Report on Special Care

Comment from the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon:

“The serious issues highlighted by Judge Simms in relation to the lack of regulated suitable placements for foster care, residential placements and special care, are of concern to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO). The OCO has specifically raised with Tusla the use of private providers, and the need to insure that an adequate level of care is provided to all children.

Children in care are among the most vulnerable and every effort must be made to ensure that they receive the supports they need. However, children cannot be adequately supported if they do not have a suitable, secure and stable place to live.

In May, while appearing before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth in relation the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2023 which deals with children in these placements, the OCO suggested prohibiting the placement of children in unregulated accommodation and imposing a statutory duty for Tusla to ensure that there are sufficient appropriate placements for children within each administrative area, including for children in need of emergency accommodation. Alternative care placements should be close to a child’s former home and school, and children should be placed with their siblings wherever possible.

The OCO also believes that Tusla should be required to have a system in place to identify and support teenagers at risk of being sexually or criminally exploited. We know that a certain group of teenagers are At Risk and many of these are in the care system. In December 2022, the OCO convened a high level round table meeting focused on collaboration for the benefit of these children attended by senior representatives from Government departments; Tusla; the HSE’s Disability, Mental Health and Addiction services; Oberstown Children’s Detention Campus; HIQA; the Policing Authority; the National Review Panel; Children’s Rights Alliance, the Child Law Project; EPIC; and the Judiciary.”