Tuesday 23 January 2018

Recession no excuse for cuts, says child watchdog

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

THE Children's Ombudsman has warned the recession should not be used as an excuse not to provide proper facilities for youngsters and families.

Almost half of all complaints to the Children's Ombudsman relate to education issues, including special needs resources or the actions of a teacher.

Emily Logan's annual report found the core principles of best interests and respect for the views of the child are still not being respected systemically in Ireland.

She welcomed the forthcoming referendum on children's rights as a chance for Irish people to make their voices heard and said Ireland has a chance to be a leader on children's issues worldwide.

However, she warned the referendum was not "the end" but merely the beginning of a long-term goal to have the principles of the new constitutional wording embedded in every piece of legislation or policy written concerning children, bringing about a new culture in terms of the way children and families are treated in this country.

The report found almost 1,500 complaints were lodged with the Ombudsman's office in 2011 -- an increase of 22pc on 2010.

Health represented 37pc of cases, down 5pc on 2010, while justice issues represented 8pc of cases -- down 3pc. Parents continue to be the principal advocates for their children, submitting 76pc of all complaints.

Ms Logan criticised public bodies for using the recession as an excuse for not providing proper services, adding that many of the cases are not related to money. She said that while we may have lost our economic sovereignty, we had not lost the ability to "make choices".

And she claimed industrial relations issues and the stock answer of 'insufficient resources' often prevented services being provided to children and families. Meanwhile, Ms Logan yesterday expressed grave concerns about the welfare of young people in St Patrick's Institution.

A group of about 25-30 17-year-olds remain in the institution, which shares grounds with Mountjoy. Funding has been secured for the redevelopment of the Children's Detention Centre at Oberstown, near Lusk, to allow it to cater for 17 year olds.

Describing St Pat's as an "awful prison", Ms Logan pointed out that the UN has criticised Ireland for its continued incarceration of children. "The young people themselves have expressed concern for their safety there," she added.

Irish Independent

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