The annual report for the Ombudsman for Children’s Office has revealed that they dealt with 1,639 complaints in 2015, arise of 8%.
The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, published the report for 2015 (available at bottom of article) outlining the range of complaints made by, or on behalf of children, across education, health, justice, housing and more.
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.”
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.
Mr Muldoon said: “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."
He said this was especially evident in their report which spoke directly to children and young people about their experiences.
He said: “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, and 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."
He revealed that child protection was the next biggest concern.
He said: “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."
Third on the list of worries in connection with children was the health sector.
Mr Muldoon reveald: “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."
In 2015 an Oireachtas working group on protection processes recommended that the remit of the Ombudsman be extended to Direct Provision.
Mr Muldoon said: "This still has not taken place.
“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.
“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."