THE Government needs to enact laws to bring teachers accused of behaving inappropriately towards children before a new teaching council, the Children’s Ombudsman has claimed as the children’s body saw a rise in complaints made to it.
Emily Logan made the call as she launched her office’s latest annual report which showed that it received 10% more calls last year than in 2007.
The Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) received 810 complaints last year and has already said it has seen a marked increase in the first six months of this year following controversy over child abuse allegations in the Cloyne Diocese and publication of the Ryan Report.
Almost three-quarters of the complaints came from parents and extended family members of children, while 15% of complaints came from professionals such as teachers and social workers. However, some complaints came from children themselves, with the youngest child to contact the OCO last year aged just 8-years-old.
Almost half the complaints related to educational issues, including special needs allocations and school transport, but also mechanisms for handling inappropriate behaviour towards children in school settings.
Part V of the Teaching Council Act could be enacted, Ms Logan said, which would mean teachers facing allegations of misbehaviour could have their cases heard, in a similar manner to how nurses are brought before An Bord Altranais.
As it stands, she said there were “administrative and legislative deficits”, with boards of management having little option but to reinstate teachers.
The report notes the Department of Education is currently working on developing a complaints procedure, with the OCO involved in an advisory capacity and having met with the Teaching Council.
The second largest category which prompted complaints was health (34%), including waiting lists for treatment, the adequacy of HSE services and child protection issues.
The remainder of complaints were split between justice issues, such as concerns about court proceedings and juvenile justice, and other areas such as difficulties with local authorities, housing, and social welfare payments.
Less than 2% of complaints related to hospitals, a situation described as “remarkable” in the report.
Ms Logan said other issues made her feel “uneasy”, such as the lack of independent inspections of care facilities, and the lack of aftercare services for vulnerable children, and she stressed the need for a referendum to enshrine the rights of the child in the Constitution.
She also said there was a need for a child death review system, and said in many cases, resources were not an impediment to progress.
Focus Ireland backed Ms Logan’s claim that gaps in law, policy and practice mean some children remain vulnerable in society and are not receiving the full support of the State.
It said it had drafted a series of proposed amendments to the Child Care Act 1991 to secure a legal right to aftercare and these have been submitted to the Office of the Minister for Children.