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Ombudsman for Children launches national investigation into child protection

Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, has announced the launch of a systemic investigation into the implementation of the Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children.

The investigation will focus on the Health Services Executive, which is the statutory agency responsible for the implementation of the Children First Guidelines and the Department of Health and Children/Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMCYA), which is responsible for monitoring this.

The Children First Guidelines, adopted in 1999, are directed at a wide audience of individuals and agencies. They place a specific obligation on the HSE to operate local level guidance and procedures which comply with the basic aims and objectives of the Guidelines.

Recently, information about the implementation of Children First has emerged through complaints and investigations undertaken by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office which raises serious concerns. Coupled with the ongoing concerns about child protection previously raised by the Ombudsman for Children, and the disturbing results of a recently published review which was undertaken by the OMCYA, the Ombudsman for Children has decided to launch an independent, systemic, national investigation into the operation of Children First.

Emily Logan said:

“It is important to note that this is just the start of the investigation and we have not reached any conclusions on these matters. However, as the Children First Guidelines are non-statutory guidelines, I am concerned about the partial or non-implementation of these guidelines by the HSE and how this could result in systemic deficits in the management and care of children. As the person with statutory responsibility for promoting the rights and welfare of children living in Ireland it would be remiss of me not to make my concerns known at this stage.”

The Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002, gives the Ombudsman for Children the authority to undertake investigations of her own volition. The purpose of this ‘own motion investigation’ is to provide a measure of independent oversight into this area to ensure the promotion of the rights and welfare of children in very vulnerable situations.

The HSE, OMCYA and Minister for Health and the Minister for Children have been informed of the commencement of the investigation.

Emily added:

“The Ombudsman for Children has an independent statutory remit and we are anxious to work constructively and effectively with those agencies we investigate. We look forward to an early response and co-operation in this very important circumstance.”