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Ombudsman for Children calls for review of Child Protection Services
- 9 March 2006
- Type: Press Release
A review of child protection services must be undertaken as a matter of priority in order to protect vulnerable young people and their families, Ireland’s first Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, told the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children today (Thursday).
Emily Logan said:
“We, as a society, must take seriously the task of protecting children from abuse and provide appropriately for those who have been abused. My role, as Ombudsman for Children, is to give a voice to those children and young people who have or who are experiencing abuse and to make sure effective action is taken to protect them.
“Although the statutory responsibility for child protection lies with the HSE, many families have contacted us because they do not know where else to go for help. I believe that the experience of the children and families contacting my Office must be put into the public domain so that measures can be taken to give them, and other families like them the support they deserve.
“In compiling and submitting this report to the Committee my aim is to highlight the main issues of concern brought to my Office by complainants, to give an opportunity to the relevant authority to benefit from that learning and to bring positive change for any child who may need child protection services.
“My report contains a summary and analysis of 61 complaints affecting 94 children made to my Office by members of the public up to December of last year. This report does not attempt to give an overview of child abuse in Ireland nor to substantiate the reports of child abuse or the substance of the complaints transmitted to my Office to date. However, the complaints indicate concerns about the way in which reports of child abuse, in all its forms, have been handled by the relevant authorities
“Last November, the Minister for Children, Brian Lenihan TD, announced a review of Children First – the National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children. While this is welcome, it is important to realise that reviews of these guidelines have already been undertaken. A comprehensive evaluation of child protection services provided by the HSE that takes account of, and addresses the issues raised in the complaints received by my Office, is needed. Anything less than a comprehensive review of child protection policy, practice and procedure will fall short of what is required to put things right.
“Minister Lenihan also said the HSE will launch a nationwide publicity and awareness campaign on child sexual abuse. I am calling for this campaign to be broadened to include all forms of child abuse – physical, emotional and neglect in addition to sexual abuse.
“I would strongly encourage the HSE to involve children and young people in the preparation of any campaign from the outset. The lack of clarity and understanding about what will happen to a child or their family if they disclose abuse may be preventing children and young people from reporting. This needs to be tackled with the participation of children and young people so that the most vulnerable may be reached. In planning the campaign, the different language needs of children and adults in a fast changing multicultural Ireland should be addressed.
“My Office has the power to monitor how the State and its public bodies treat children and young people. I will continue to pay close attention to the provision of child protection services, through the complaints and inquiries to my Office and through the oversight policies, practices and procedures in the State. I will endeavour to use my mandate to its maximum affect for all children and young people in Ireland, and vulnerable young people in particular, some of whose experiences prompted this report.”
Note to Editors:
Summary of the Report by the Ombudsman for Children to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health & Children on Complaints Received about Child Protection in Ireland.
Child abuse remains a reality for many children living in Ireland today. According to the SAVI report of 2002, the vast majority of abused children are abused by persons known to them. The SAVI report (Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland), Hannah McGee, Rebecca Garavan, Mairéad De Barra, Joanne Byrne and Roná¡n Conroy, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, at page 177: “in four-fifths of cases of child sexual abuse, the perpetrator was know to the abused person”.
This Report contains a summary and analysis of 61 complaints submitted to my Office by members of the public. In the complaints, the complainants have indicated concerns about the way in which reports of child abuse, in all its forms, have been handled by the relevant authorities. The report highlights the issues of concern raised by the complainants and makes recommendations aimed at addressing the difficulties identified.
The complaints describe the experience of 94 children and young people all under 18 years of age. In terms of geography the complaints are evenly spread across the country with a slightly higher incidence in the Dublin and Southern regions. Of the 61 complaints:
- 29 concerned reports of abuse by immediate or extended family members;
- 22 concerned reports of abuse by members of the local community;
- 8 concerned reports of abuse of children in the care of the State; and
- 2 complainants did not wish to disclose further information.
The task of investigating reports of child abuse lies with the HSE. While my Office does not have a direct protection role in this respect, I do have a role in ensuring that public bodies charged with the protection of children act appropriately. I am also required, under the Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002 to promote the rights and welfare of children and to ensure that legislation, policy and practice in the State are adequate.
By compiling a report under section 13 (7) of this Act, I aim to:
- highlight the main issues of concern brought to my office by complainants;
- give an opportunity to the relevant authority to benefit from that learning; and
- bring positive change for any child who may need child protection services.
The main issues highlighted in the complaints received by my Office are:
- difficulties in accessing services;
- a lack of information and awareness about child protection services; delays and regional inconsistencies regarding interventions;
- a lack of adequate support after disclosures of abuse; a lack of respect for the voice of the child, a perceived lack of accountability; and
- a reluctance to intervene in family separation contexts.
A review of the “Children First” guidelines, and an awareness raising campaign on child sexual abuse have recently been announced by Mr Brian Lenihan, Minister of State with Responsibility for Children. Reviews of the guidelines have already been undertaken and, in light of the complaints received by my Office, I consider that a comprehensive evaluation of child protection services provided by the HSE is required. Anything less than a comprehensive review of child protection policy, practice and procedure will fall short of what is required to put things right.
There is a real need for the announced nationwide publicity and awareness campaign on child sexual abuse; however, I think such a campaign should extend to raising awareness about all forms of child abuse and not just sexual abuse. I would also encourage the HSE to involve children and young people in the preparation of any campaign from the outset. In planning the campaign, the different language needs of children and adults in a fast changing multicultural Ireland should be addressed.
- 9 March 2006
- Type: Press Release