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Record number of complaints show complexities of children’s lives

Ombudsman for Children’s Office dealt with 1,639 complaints in 2015 across education, health, justice, housing and more

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, today (Wednesday) published his Annual Report for 2015 outlining the impact the office has had in dealing with 1,639 complaints made by, or on behalf of children, across every sector. The report also details the work done to promote children’s rights and to ensure that the voice of the child is represented in Government legislation.

“2015 was another record year for the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO), with an 8% increase in the number of complaints received and successful interaction with 850 children and young people. The range of issues dealt with by the OCO emphasises that children’s lives cannot be compartmentalised, that problems can be complicated and that cooperation between all departments is vital to solve problems.

“The work of the OCO in 2015 showed that there is still a long way to go in ensuring that children’s rights in Ireland are fully implemented, and that a significant change is still needed at a Government level to promote a child centred approach in all departments.

“This was especially evident in ‘A Word from the Wise1, a report generated by the OCO for the UNCRC2 which spoke directly to children and young people about their experiences. One 16-year-old boy with an acquired brain injury expressed his frustration when he said ‘I can’t believe the struggle mammy needed to go to just to get the services I needed put in place’.

“Once again education, at 45%, was the subject of the largest number of complaints received by the OCO in 2015. We examined complaints across a wide range of areas of education affecting children, but the majority specifically related to schools.

“It is my view that the autonomy afforded to Irish schools means that the Government has not been able to exercise the necessary responsibility and oversightIt is time to recalibrate the balance between the autonomy of schools and the oversight by Government to advance and protect children’s rights within the education system.

“In 2015, 25% of complaints received by the OCO related to Family Support, Care and Protection, making it the second highest category. The management of child protection concerns were the most regularly raised issues.

“In dealing with these complaints we experienced repeated and significant delays by TUSLA, the Child and Family Agency. We raised this issue with TUSLA and intend to monitor it closely, as it is unfair to children and others that come to us with their complaint.

“The health sector was the subject of 14% of our complaints in 2015, up from 11% in 2014. We received complaints about waiting lists for services including hospital procedures, mental health services, speech and language therapy, and psychology.  Many parents also highlighted the challenges of obtaining services for their children, especially children with disabilities.

“It has been a longstanding position of the OCO that all children, including those in the Direct Provision system, should have access to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office. In 2015 an Oireachtas working group on Protection Processes agreed with our view and recommended that the remit of the OCO be extended. This still has not taken place.

“At the end of 2015 Oberstown Children Detention Campus was still not fully operational. In light of recent events at Oberstown, I remain deeply concerned about the impact this is having on the young people in Oberstown, as well as the knock-on effect on the 17 year olds still being detained at Wheatfield Prison.

“Children’s rights in Ireland is an unfinished project. I will continue with my team to liaise with all departments and public organisations, to work towards an Ireland where all children and young people are actively heard and respected, so that they can experience safe, fulfilling and happy everyday lives.”



Aoife Carragher
Ombudsman for Children’s Office
087 148 4173/ 01 865 6800

Notes to Editor

  • Read the Annual Report 2015 in full here.
  • The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is an independent statutory body with an overall mandate to promote the rights and welfare of children under the age of 18 living in Ireland.
  • The Ombudsman for Children’s Office’s work to promote children’s rights includes supporting children and young people, to find out about children’s rights and how those rights can be respected, protected and realised.
  • The Ombudsman for Children’s Office also advises Government and others to help make sure laws and plans affecting children and young people respect children’s rights.
  • Among the Ombudsman for Children’s core statutory functions is the independent and 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.
  1. A Word from the Wise is a collection of real life stories told by children themselves in their own words. The Ombudsman for Children’s Office presented these stories to the UNCRC in 2015.
  2. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 in recognition of the specific rights and vulnerabilities of children and to promote greater protection of children around the world. Ireland ratified the Convention in 1992.