• Fergus Finlay has argued that one object of the referendum on children's rights will be to give children an independent voice advocating for their best interests.
At present this is the single most important statutory function of HSE social workers in making court applications to protect children. Their interests require that any court proceeding relating to their welfare should produce an expeditious decision based on a professional assessment of their needs.
Lengthy court hearings may only reduce the all too short time available to help children before they reach 18.
If social workers are failing in this duty to advocate for children, that failure should be identified and resolved. If not, the difficulties it creates will continue to have negative consequences for children throughout their lives in care.
Fergus Finlay suggests that independent advocates be appointed as a matter of course in children's cases. This may achieve nothing more than delaying essential decisions required for the immediate welfare of vulnerable children.
Carraroe, Co Sligo