'Failure to address alcohol abuse harming vulnerable children'

Society’s failure to address alcohol abuse is harming vulnerable children, according to the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Geoffrey Shannon.

Dr Shannon has been looking back at his report last year on the use of section 12 powers by the Gardaí.

He describes one incident where a baby was taken from its mother under section 12 of the Childcare Act, when she was found drunk at a fast-food outlet.

"The female was slapping the child hard, dragging the baby child across wet ground, throwing the baby into the air in a carefree manner causing concern," said Dr Shannon.

Dr Geoffrey Shannon

One year on from publishing his report into the use by Gardaí of section 12 powers, Dr Shannon says Ireland still has a problem with alcohol.

"Failure by society to comprehensively address alcohol as a fundamental threat to the proper functioning of families leaves the child protection system dealing with insurmountable consequences," he said.

Among the main recommendations yet to be acted on include the introduction of a 24-hour social work service and better cooperation between the agencies which protect children; Tusla and the Gardaí.

The ISPCC is calling for the urgent introduction of that 24-hour social work service for vulnerable children.

Each year, around 700 children are taken from their families under section 12 of the Childcare Act.

ISPCC chief Grainia Long has praised the Children’s Minister for starting to make changes, but says there’s more work to do.

"It is really important that this report does not sit on a shelf and that this report is implemented in full," said Ms Long.

"We need to ensure a 24-hour social work service and we need to see where we are now in terms of the plans for that.

"I know Tusla are making progress in terms of increasing the amount of social-work hours that are available to the Gardaí in terms of section 12 but the ISPCC has always said that's not good enough.

"We need to see, in our view, a fully comprehensive 24-hour service where social workers are available to all children, not just those most at risk."

- Digital desk

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