The ninth report of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, focuses on a number of areas including housing rights, cyber protection, children’s digital rights, the operation of the child protection system, sex education for children and young people about consent, and children’s right to play.
The report said the fact 1,500 children are living in emergency homeless accommodation in 2015 was “unacceptable”.
Dr Shannon also raised the issue of a child’s right to be forgotten online.
“The relevance for children of the ‘right to be forgotten’ should be acknowledged, children should be educated about the matter, and it should be understood that the age at which an individual posts information online should be considered a very important factor in decisions about whether to remove an individual’s personal information from sites.
“It must be ensured that children’s access to information is not unreasonably restricted by blanket filters blocking websites which offer education and support. It is vital to take steps to combat cyber-bullying, including through education of parents. However, the importance of dialogue and support for children, rather than simply prohibitions on internet usage, should be part of this education,” he said.
On detention centres, Dr Shannon said the imposition of a sentence of detention should only be used as a “measure of last resort”.
He said, “imaginative community sanctions” should be used more to develop the skills and interests of each individual young offender, while simultaneously benefiting their local community.
Welcoming the report, chief executive of the Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) Gráinne Long said placing children in emergency accommodation, save in exceptional circumstances and for short periods, must become a thing of the past.
“The ISPCC has long recommended that children should be placed in emergency accommodation for a short time only, and that this is not a permanent response to homelessness. The Special Rapporteur has stated that this temporary solution is in breach of international law, something the ISPCC has believed for quite some time. We need to remove it as an option permanently, by giving all homeless children the right to suitable temporary accommodation, advice and assistance,” she said.
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone described the report as a “blueprint” for child protection in Ireland. “The report of the Child Protection Rapporteur is always an important moment to focus on the need to bring a children’s lens to every area of Government policy,” she said. “The report covering 2015 is no different and I have brought its contents and recommendations to the attention of my cabinet colleagues. While progress has been made on many issues, there are others which require action. Each minister and department must take a lead for their own areas of responsibility.”