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State agencies need to cooperate in the best interests of children – Annual Report 2017
- 13 June 2018
- Type: Press Release
- Annual Report 2017 shows 1,755 new complaints, up 4% from 2016, 7% since 2015
- Concerns for children experiencing mental health issues and homelessness
- First year dealing with complaints about Direct Provision Centres
The Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon has today expressed concern about the failure of public bodies to adequately consider the best interest of children in the delivery of services and policy decisions.
Launching the OCO’s Annual Report 2017, Dr Muldoon said: “In 2017, we saw another increase in the number of new complaints, and this highlights a continued failure by public bodies to put the best interests of children at the centre of their decisions.”
Education and Child Protection and Welfare remain the two most complained about sectors. The Office is also concerned about children and young people who are experiencing mental health issues, homelessness, and who live in Direct Provision accommodation.
Dr Muldoon said his Office was disappointed by the lack of progress in relation to young people struggling with serious mental health issues who are trying to access the emergency supports they need.
“We have told the HSE we had serious concerns about how suicidal young people access emergency services, and the difficulties faced in certain parts of the country. All children who need an assessment of mental health in emergency departments should be able to access this quickly – not days after the event.”
“We have found an inequity in psychiatric consultant cover around the country. I would urge the HSE to address problems with consultant psychiatrists’ out-of-hours contracts to ensure children and adolescents have access to the services they need, when they need them.”
In April 2017, 17 years after the setting up of the Direct Provision system, the last group of children who could not bring complaints to the OCO were finally allowed to do so. “The lack of access to this Office by families in Direct Provision over many years has adversely impacted on the rights of children and compounded State failures in this area,” Dr Muldoon said.
“The absence of an independent inspectorate, variations in standards and financial constraints are all concerns. I am urging the Government to implement in full the recommendations of the McMahon report, and in particular to establish an independent inspectorate of Direct Provision to ensure there is transparency and regulation of standards.
“I am also urging the Government to speed up the process for assessing asylum applications.”
Housing and Homelessness
Dr Muldoon said that while family hubs are a short term improvement for homeless families – they cannot become the norm. “A new way of thinking is needed from Government. The State needs to move away from prioritising financial interests that view housing as a commodity and instead recognise it as a social good, offering children and families a secure place to live in dignity,” he said.
Cooperation of state agencies in the best interest of the child
Dr Muldoon noted the need for state bodies to cooperate to secure the best possible outcome for children. As an example, he referred to a report by the OCO, finalised in 2017, on the case of a young girl, “Molly”, who has severe disabilities, and whose foster mother was caught in a constant battle between the HSE and Tusla over Molly’s funding needs.
“There is a need for all state bodies responsible for children’s welfare to show some joined-up thinking. For too long we have seen responsibility passed between agencies, with no clear lines of accountability,” he said.
“Additionally, we need to see increased co-operation between Tusla and An Garda Síochána in speeding up the co-location of child protection services, to achieve best outcomes and to offset the impact of investigations on children,” Dr Muldoon said.
Advice on policy and legislation & rights education
Highlighting 2017 as the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children, Dr Muldoon concluded that the Office gave advice and commented on 12 Government strategies, policies and legislative bills, and these are outlined in the report. “There are key areas where children are still not afforded the opportunity to live safe, fulfilling and happy lives.”
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Notes to Editors
Mental Health: In 2017, in response to a complaint we examined (p30), the HSE provided the Office with information on the number of CAMHS consultants nationally who provide out-of-hours cover in the 10 HSE community health organisation areas. This varied from no cover at all in areas such as South Tipperary, Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford to full cover in Galway, Roscommon and Mayo, Clare, Limerick, North Tipperary and East Limerick.
Other Complaints: Education p22, Health p29 and Housing p35 and Direct Provision p38; Consultations with children and young people p52, Advice on Legislation and Policy p60.
The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is an independent statutory body to promote the rights and welfare of children under the age of 18 living in Ireland. Among the core statutory functions is the impartial investigation of complaints made by or on behalf of children in relation to public bodies, as well as organisations providing services on behalf of the State.
- 13 June 2018
- Type: Press Release