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Monday 22 January 2018

School bullies, hospital waits top children's watchdog list

Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon at the report launch. Photo: Maxwells
Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon at the report launch. Photo: Maxwells

Jane O'Faherty

Bullying in schools and waiting lists for children for hospital procedures were among the top complaints sent to the national children's watchdog in 2015.

The Office of the Children's Ombudsman (OCO) received 1,639 complaints last year, an all-time high in its history.

Speaking at the launch of the OCO's annual report, Children's Ombudsman Dr Niall Muldoon said there had been an 8pc rise in complaints on 2014's figures.

Education accounted for 45pc of the complaints raised with the children's watchdog, while 14pc related to health.

"We received complaints about waiting lists for services including hospital procedures, mental health services, speech and language therapy, and psychology," Mr Muldoon said.

"Many parents also highlighted the challenges of obtaining services for their children, especially children with disabilities," he added.

One complaint in the education category concerned a boy whose photo was taken by another child on a school trip.

The picture was then posted on social media, along with an offensive comment.

The boy's school dealt with the incident at the time, but his parents claimed they had not been given an adequate explanation about why they were not informed immediately after it occurred.

An investigation found the school provided an apology and rationale to the parents without delay, but the OCO ensured the school revised their mobile phone policy.

In health, the OCO investigated the case of a girl who waited almost three years for treatment for recurring ear and throat infections.

The girl had developed stomach problems due to antibiotic overuse in treating the infections. The OCO found the girl had been adversely affected by the administrative actions of the HSE.

Other complaints related to Family Support Care and Protection, justice and housing.

Meanwhile, the OCO also raised concerns about "considerable delays" in receiving vital information from Tusla.

Nuala Ward, the watchdog's director of investigations, said it needs information from Tusla in order to make decisions in its investigations.

"When we get delays, it's frustrating for the children, for the families, and it's frustrating for us, because we really wish to resolve matters quickly for children," she said.

She added that the OCO had contacted Tusla's CEO and Children's Minister Katherine Zappone in relation to the matter, and expected improvements in the next year.

A Tusla spokesperson said it is aware of "occasions where delays have occurred due to a range of factors, including the complexity of cases."

But they added that the agency had improved its system for monitoring complaints since 2015.

Irish Independent

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