Nearly 50% jump in new complaints to Children's Ombudsman since 2010

Complaints related to education, Tusla and homeless children with disabilities

Nearly 50% jump in new complaints to Children's Ombudsman since 2010

Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon launches his first annual report in 2015 | Image: RollingNews.ie

The annual report of the Ombudsman for Children says 1,682 new complaints were made last year.

The Ombudsman, Dr Niall Muldoon, says too many organisations are still not respecting children's rights.

In 2016, the office received 1,682 new complaints about the treatment of children and young people by public services and organisations.

This is a 3% increase on 2015 - and a 47% jump since 2010.

"Making a complaint does make a difference as public bodies generally respond positively to recommendations and improve their services to children and families as a result", Dr Muldoon says.

"However, the number of complaints suggests that public bodies and Government departments still have a long way to go towards fully respecting and promoting children’s rights in the work that they do."

He says education was a factor in the majority of the complaints received, at 46%.

"While this is very much in line with previous years, it raises concerns about the quality of complaints handling in schools. If progressed, I expect the Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill 2016 to strengthen internal complaints procedures in schools."

Tusla

Last year also saw 23% of the complaints received relate to the Child and Family Agency, Tusla.

On this aspect, Dr Muldoon says: "Although Tusla has developed Meitheal, which identifies the needs and strengths of children, I remain concerned that they are still primarily operating as a crisis agency.

"There are clear inconsistencies within the agency both geographically and in terms of how issues are dealt with."

Tusla launched a new Child Protection and Welfare Strategy on Monday.

Detailing the complaints received by the Ombudsman, the director of investigations Nuala Ward says: "Children with disabilities struggling in inappropriate housing were a feature of a number of complaints received in 2016.

"We found that children who are homeless with significant disabilities or medical needs were not always prioritised in the administration of housing policy.

"There is also an urgent need to ensure adequate provision of family friendly emergency accommodation so that normal family routines can be maintained as much as possible."

There were also complaints about the adequacy of supports for children with disabilities and about the experience of some children with mental health issues trying to get help, especially at times of crisis.

Highlighting the importance of hearing children's voices, Dr Muldoon concludes: "This year the OCO commented or gave advice on eleven strategies, policies and pieces of legislation. The views expressed are always informed by the opinions of the young people we interact with, and by the complaints we receive.

"I am more convinced than ever that children's rights remain a crucial issue in Irish society.

"25 years after Ireland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it has still not been fully integrated into law. We must continue to work towards fully realising the rights of the young people of Ireland."

Read the report in full here