Government criticised for failings on Traveller and migrant children in new Report Card

Tanya Ward

The Government has scored a C grade in the Children’s Rights Alliance new Report Card on how it is providing for the State’s young people — but was warned that more needs to be done in a number of areas, including migrant and Traveller children.

Report Card 2014 is the sixth version of the annual review of how the Government is faring with regard to children, and in her foreword to the report the chief executive of the CRA, Tanya Ward, said it had made progress in numerous areas, stating that the “B grades for constitutional rights, education and protection from abuse and neglect are attained for solid progress in these areas.”

But she said: “A number of outstanding issues have been either sidelined or progress is so slow as to be non-existent.”

Areas highlighted as deficient included the child poverty of 9.3%, with 18.8% of children at risk, and adolescent mental health services, as highlighted in yesterday’s Irish Examiner. The CRA said the E grade was based on the continued placement of children in adult psychiatric units and the serious failures in providing adequate standards of care in in-patient adolescent facilities as highlighted in Mental Health Commission inspection reports.

“No longer can we consign children’s rights as the add-on of an enlightened society where resources permit,” Ms Ward said.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland said the F grade for the Government for failing to honour commitments on migrant children made for “very disappointing reading”. It also hit out at delays in progressing the Immigration Residency and Protection Bill.

The CRA said children in direct provision have no experience of normal family life, that they are “blanked out” and that there appeared to be no plan in relation to changing this situation.

The Report Card also referred to issues of mental health for those living in Direct Provision, including the children themselves.

Another area in which the Report Card said the Government had failed was services for Traveller children, in which it received an ‘E’ mark.

Among the shortcomings identified in the report was extra supports in the area of education. Infant mortality rates for traveller children are 3.6 times higher than the rest of the population, something retired High Court Judge Catherine McGuinness referred to as “a disgrace”.

Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay, another speaker at the launch yesterday, said the fact that one in every 11 children in Ireland are living in poverty should be a national scandal and that the Government should be “ashamed”. Mr Finlay said it was “one of the great hidden scandals” and said cuts to child benefit and maternity benefit had made things worse for many families.

Issues regarding children in detention, including on remand, were also highlighted as needing to be addressed by government.

* Full report: www.childrensrights.ie

How they compare

The grades and how they compare to 2013:

* Overall grade: C (same)

* Children’s Rights Referendum: B (down)

* Early childhood care and education: C+ (down)

* Child literacy: A- (up)

* Children with special educational needs: C- (up)

* School buildings: B+ (up)

* Patronage and pluralism in primary education: B+ (same)

* Primary care: C (up)

* Mental health: E (down)

* Alcohol and drugs: D+ (up)

* Child poverty: E- (up)

* Children’s hospital: C+ (up)

* Area based childhood programme: C+ (up)

* Children and the social welfare system: D (same)

* Child and Family Agency: B+ (up)

* Ryan Report implementation plan: B- (same)

* Youth homelessness: C+ (up)

* Children in detention: B+ (same)

* Traveller children: E (same)

* Migrant children: F (down)

* Inequalities in family life: D+ (up)


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