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Children being let down in Education, Mental Health and Disability Services

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) has highlighted its concerns over shortcomings faced by children in education, mental health and disability services, to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It’s the first time in the OCO’s 20-year history that the Office has submitted an alternative report to this Committee, which is currently examining how the State is meeting its obligations to ensure everyone in Ireland fully enjoys their economic, social and cultural rights. The OCO believes that children, who make up almost a quarter of the population, are facing a number of barriers to fully enjoying these rights.

With education issues dominating the complaints made on behalf of children to the OCO every year, the Office is particularly concerned by the barriers faced by marginalised and disadvantaged groups. For example, schools use reduced school days disproportionately in respect of Traveller children and children with Special Educational Needs.

In the area of mental health, the OCO has consistently highlighted the inadequacy of our Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and how children across the country are suffering as a result. Children are also still being placed in adult psychiatric units, despite a previous Committee recommendation to the Irish State to end this practice.

While welcoming increased investment in recent years to support children with disabilities to access education, the OCO still has significant concerns about the lack of concerted State action to uphold the rights of children with disabilities to special measures of protection and assistance, to physical and mental health, and to education.

Commenting on some of the issues raised by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to the State, the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, said:

“We welcome that over the past two days the Committee has asked the State about a number of issues relating to children. This includes the need to prioritise mental health, reviewing the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act, the need for an inclusive and accessible education system, as well as the measures taken by the State to address child poverty.

“It is clear from the focus given to the housing crisis that the Committee shares our concerns about the impact on children and the need for the State to prioritise this issue. We also note the concern expressed by the Committee about the lack of available data, something we have been highlighting for some time, and which makes it difficult to fully analyse the issues faced by different groups of children.

“We look forward to reviewing the Committee’s Concluding Observations of its examination of the State and our Office will be seeking to hold the State to account when it comes to children’s economic, social and cultural rights in Ireland.”



The OCO’s report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights can be found, here: