Ombudsman for children to focus on public bodies

An expert group set up by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office to investigate areas of concern affecting children is due to deliver its report by the end of next month.

Ombudsman for children to focus on public bodies

The newly appointed children’s ombudsman, Niall Muldoon, said that the group had been speaking with focus groups and with other agencies and organisations which worked with children to determine the key areas of concern that impact on children.

One focus for the group, which is chaired by University College Cork law lecturer, Ursula Kilkelly, is the manner in which public bodies and the decisions they make can adversely affect children and their welfare.

The group has been working since last December and has used a database of complaints made to the office over the past decade — totalling almost 10,000 — as well as reaching out to other organisations such as Barnardos and Empowering People In Care. Mr Muldoon, who prior to taking on the role as ombudsman had worked as a director of investigations in the Ombudsman for Children’s Office, said: “We we are trying to get a baseline as to what the issues are.

“It is just as important to see what is working well as it is to see what is not.”

Mr Muldoon said that a key aspect of the project was to look at the issues raised by children and their families in the contexts of constitutional rights of children.

News of the impending report comes amid growing discussion on the Child and Family Relationships Bill, and the children’s ombudsman warned all sides in the debate to employ sensitivity as he said children were also taking a key interest in developments.

Mr Muldoon also stressed the support of his office for the existing law that the minimum age for marriage is 18, in keeping with international standards, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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