27 Oct 2015
Top UN Body Learns about Children in Ireland from Children’s Rights Alliance
A UN top body will put a spotlight on Ireland’s children’s rights record in January 2016 for the first time in nearly ten years. The Children’s Rights Alliance has prepared a civil society report ‘Are We There Yet?’ to help the UN in its task. This report gives an honest, bird’s eye view of what life is like for children in Ireland and outlines where their rights are not being protected.
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, says: “Our report asks the niggling question: are we there yet? The truth is that we’ve a lot to be proud of since Ireland last met with the UN. Our report covers the many positive reforms that have occurred for children over the last ten years. While many children are happy and safe, our report shows the gritty reality that too many others are experiencing serious breaches of their rights and points to areas where Ireland could be doing much better.
Linked to a soaring child poverty rate is the scourge of homelessness. We signal the worrying child welfare risks that are associated with homelessness and a lack of family-friendly accommodation. No child should ever experience homelessness, yet there are over 1,500 children living in emergency accommodation for long periods. Nearly the same number of children is living in the direct provision system, many of whom face similarly serious challenges to their welfare and development. Housing is a bedrock for children and families, yet in one year alone, women and children experiencing domestic violence were denied access to refuges on 3,500 occasions – where were they supposed to go?
Ireland is moving in the right direction with extending free GP care to all children under the age of 12. However, more needs to be done about mental health. There are over 3,000 children on waiting lists for mental health services against a backdrop of a high youth suicide rate. Certain groups of children can be more vulnerable: a survey found that 1 in 5 LGBT young people had attempted suicide. Bullying is a particular issue for these children and shockingly, 4 in 10 LGBT young people reported having heard homophobic comments from their own teachers. The endemic nature of bullying is demonstrated by the more than 8,000 calls on the issue received by Childline in 2014.
Ireland is trailblazing in its efforts to protect children from smoking and tobacco-related harm – in contrast to our stilted action on alcohol misuse. The truth is we can face our national alcohol misuse problem by taking action on commitments already made in this area. Ireland ranks in shameful second place of 194 countries for alcohol binge drinking for those aged 15 and over. Add to this the fact that many children are surrounded by adults who misuse alcohol with 1 child in 10 experiencing at least one harmful incident a year as a result of someone else’s drinking. Alcohol misuse in families is also the reason that children are taken into care in a significant proportion of cases.
Obesity is a serious issue with 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 5 boys now overweight in a study of 5 to 12 year olds. Yet, how can it be that Irish primary schools have fewer hours of physical education than our EU counterparts and food costs more in Ireland than in other countries? Obesity is a complex issue that is often linked to food poverty and children from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be overweight. Concerted, cohesive Government policy is urgently needed or else we are condemning our children to a life of obesity and all the life-threatening risks that are associated with it.
When a child is charged with a criminal offence they can be held in detention on remand until they are tried by the Court. We scrutinise the fact that in 2013 only one in three children detained on remand was later imprisoned upon conviction. Knowing that entering child detention and prison is a life changing event, this raises a serious question on whether or not detention is used as a measure of last resort.
We ask how child victims of sexual abuse are experiencing such intolerable delays in getting necessary therapeutic support. This has escalated to a situation whereby the main service provider, CARI, had a waiting list of 30 families this year who are in dire need of child sexual abuse counselling.
We probe the multi-faceted problems that many Traveller children face – including an infant mortality rate that is over three and a half times as high as the rest of the population, over-representation in the care system, sky-high school drop-out rates and wholly inappropriate accommodation. All of this means that too many Traveller children are prevented from reaching their full potential. We can’t be proud of how we treat children in Ireland until these trends are reversed.
The countdown is on and it’s just 65 days until Ireland’s examination in Geneva this coming January where the State will be carefully scrutinised by the UN to see how children’s rights have been respected under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We look forward to seeing if and how the Irish Government will commit to addressing all the issues we’ve highlighted.”
Notes to Editor
• Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance is available for interview.
• Please use the following hashtag #UNCRC
• ‘Are We There Yet?’ is available on the Children’s Rights Alliance website http://www.childrensrights.ie/content/are-we-there-yet-report-un
• The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will examined Ireland’s progress on implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child during its 71st Session which runs from 11 January 2016 to 29 January 2016. The exact date of Ireland’s examination will be announced shortly.
For further information, please contact:
Emma McKinley, Communications and Development Manager
Tel: 087 655 9067 or (after 1pm) 01 6629400