Friday 24 November 2017

Children crying out for help in Wexford and across country



FIFTY complaints were made on behalf of young people living in County Wexford to the Ombudsman for Children in 2015.

The Ombudsman's Office said the numbers of complaints from the county were broadly in line with national figures which show 'there is still a lot to be done for children in Wexford and across the country'.

A lot of the complaints were in connection with school issues 'such as bullying and professional misconduct', however, there were no specific cases cited.

The Ombudsman's office received 1,639 complaints in 2015 across education, health, justice, housing and other issues.

In his annual report for 2015, the Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon outlines the impact the office has had in dealing with complaints made by, or on behalf of children, across every sector.

The report 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 eight per cent increase in the number of complaints received and successful interaction with 850 children and young people.'

There were no figures for Wexford for 2014, so it was not possible to compare the two years.

'By inviting schools into our office, and by travelling the country, we are meeting more children and young people from all over the country, including Wexford. It is clear that children are dealing with a range of issues and that cooperation between all departments is vital,' Mr Muldoon says in the report.

'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.

Mr Muldoon said this was especially evident in 'A Word from the Wise'1, 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 per cent, 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 oversight. It 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.'

Mr Muldoon said that in 2015, 25 per cent 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.'

Mr Muldoon said it had been a long-standing 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,' he said.

'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.'

Wexford People

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