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Children’s Ombudsman publishes investigation into housing complaint of boy with a disability

Best interest must be a primary consideration in public policy decisions regarding children

Public policy decisions regarding children must have the best interest of the child as a prime consideration, Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, has said today (Wednesday) in light of an investigation conducted by her Office into how Fingal County Council failed to provide appropriate housing in the case of a child with a disability.

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office received a complaint in 2005 from the mother of a child with an advanced form of a progressive and disabling disease about the manner in which her application for suitable housing had been handled by her local authority.

The mother complained that she made an application to the housing authority in 2000 on the basis of her son’s long-term needs. She did not accept the initial offer of a house as it had not been adapted for her son. The case was not reviewed for a period of almost four years despite numerous approaches to the local authority by advocates including medical professionals. During which time her son’s physical health had deteriorated.

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office investigated the complaint and found that the case had not been reviewed by the local authority from December 2000 to August 2004 and that in that period eleven identical, generic letters were sent to the mother and her advocates.

Emily Logan said:

“Four years is a long time in any child’s life but it is an inordinate amount of time for a child with a progressive illness. Timeliness is crucial when making decisions that affect children. The inaction by the local authority, which delayed the decision to find suitable housing for the family, had adversely affected the child. This has affected the child’s general quality of life, freedom, independence and dignity.

“It is important to note that Fingal County Council has responded positively to my report and has already taken steps to implement some of my recommendations. The family involved has been offered a house, which is currently being assessed by an architect and occupational therapist to determine how it can be adapted to meet the child’s needs.

“However, on a broader level, I have concerns that no appropriate mechanisms exist for interagency cooperation when it comes to considering and meeting the holistic needs of children with a disability. I would urge the relevant departments to consider remedying this as a matter of priority.

“In the course of the investigation, my Office was neither adversary to the public body nor advocate to the child. My Office provides an independent, impartial complaints handling service. In publishing the investigation report is to increase awareness among public bodies of the importance of providing appropriate, timely services for children. I believe that this case illustrates the negative consequences of inaction for children and their families.”

Ms Logan has written to the Department of the Environment to invite them to meet her to discuss related public policy issues concerning children.


Contact: Nikki Gallagher at 01-8656803 or 086-8163246

Notes to Editors:

  • The Ombudsman for Children’s Office conducts complaints in accordance with Section 8 of the Ombudsman for Children’s Act, 2002
  • The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is the statutory, independent body with responsibility for promoting children’s rights in Ireland. Emily Logan reports directly to the Oireachtas.