Public bodies repeatedly failing young people

The HSE took 10 months to repair a boy’s walking frame while some children in care could not be reunited with their families because local authorities failed to provide suitable housing.

The findings are included in the latest annual report from the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman (OCO), which claimed that public bodies are repeatedly failing young people, particularly those living in vulnerable circumstances.

Other examples inc-luded children in care not being provided with mental health services because local offices could not agree which area was responsible, while other children had to stay in hospital when they could have gone home because the HSE failed to provide adequate home care supports.

The OCO report shows the ombudsman, Emily Logan, dealt with 1,465 complaints last year, with education issues accounting for 43% of complaints, while health issues — the majority of which related to family support, care, and protection — accounted for 39% of complaints.

The main education issues were the handling of allegations of inappropriate professional conduct; the handling of peer bullying; education policies; schemes and curriculum; expulsion, suspension, and enrolment; and special needs resources. Issues dealt with in the health category included child protection; family support; and community care services.

More referrals were made to the OCO by parents.

The report outlines serious concerns in a number of areas, including lack of communication between Children and Family Services and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Budget cuts are also impacting on children. The report stated: “Frequently, letters refusing applications or requests for services openly advise of regional or national difficulties such as recruitment embargoes, moratoriums and the economy as being the primary reason for refusal.”

Ms Logan also raised concerns about the levels of violence and the conditions in St Patrick’s Institute for Young Offenders and urged a speedy transition of inmates to the new campus in Oberstown.

St Pat’s came under the OCO’s remit last July and since then she has received four complaints.

“Sometimes there is a rigidly inflexible approach to policies that exist,” she said, arguing that bodies needed to put children ahead of other considerations.

Ms Logan has argued for a “best interests” provision in the Constitution that is not limited to the judiciary.

Meanwhile, EPIC (Empowering People in Care) yesterday launched its advocacy service for children in care and care leavers in the South in Cork City.

The service ensures that children and young people have their voices heard on issues that affect their lives and link them with relevant and appropriate service providers.

Director of EPIC Jennifer Gargan said: “Having an office with locally based staff ensures that children and young people can more easily access our services. This is another step in ensuring that the right of children in care to be heard can be supported and known through EPIC’s independent advocacy service.”

*Full report: www.oco.ie

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