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Government stalls while children continue to suffer

THE publication of the HSE’s Roscommon childcare case documented yet another litany of abuse, total neglect, and failure to hear the voice of the child.

Minister for Children Barry Andrews says he is “particularly concerned that the views of the children were not listened to”.

The ISPCC is calling now for the Government to step up put child protection at the top of their agenda and yet they continue to stall while more children suffer.

Clearly the Government isn’t listening; not listening to children or to those who try to protect their interests.

In the past few years the ISPCC has been calling for three things:

nThe holding of a children’s rights referendum

n Putting Children’s First guidelines on a statutory footing

nProviding an out-of-hours social work service for children

None of these calls has been heard by the Government and all of them would go a long way towards protecting our nation’s children and ensuring their rights are recognised.

If there is any doubt about how serious the Government is about protecting children, then may we suggest two very simple tests:

nFor the Government to renew its commitment to holding the long-awaited referendum on children’s rights and finally naming a date. We are told the Government and the attorney general are now reworking the proposed wording by the joint committee, but no timescale has been set and certainly no date named. Surely the disclosures of the past number of years have shown us all only too clearly that the starting point in any attempt to make children’s voices heard must be constitutional.

nFor the Government to implement the Ryan report recommendations placing Children’s First guidelines on a statutory footing, holding a children’s rights referendum and providing an out-of-hours social work service. Until we have all three in place, vulnerable children will continue to go unheard.

It is time for the Government to listen.

Every day the ISPCC listens to children. Through our Childline service we will today receive about 2,000 calls. The subject of these calls will vary widely from child to child.

But there will be one overwhelming theme — children with no one to listen to them.

If no other good comes from this awful Roscommon case let it become a landmark for systemic change in Ireland.

Let it become the moment we stopped talking about listening to children and actually did something about it.

Ashley Balbirnie

CEO

Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Lr Baggot Street

Dublin 2


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