The Children’s Rights Alliance warmly welcomes today’s publication of the Third Report of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, authored by Geoffrey Shannon. As Government appointed Special Rapporteur, Mr. Shannon is tasked with identifying gaps in Ireland’s child protection laws and systems, and submitting an annual report to the Oireachtas. His third report is a comprehensive, careful and considered analysis of the child protection landscape in Ireland which makes a series of important recommendations for reform.
Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive of the Alliance, said: “Mr. Shannon’s three Special Rapporteur reports and the Government’s Ryan Report Implementation Plan provide a clear road map for how we must reform our laws and services to ensure we can truly say Ireland is a country that values and protects children. Today’s report is the latest in a series of reports that clearly shows what needs to be done. But we repeatedly fail to heed this advice. Reports without implementation are meaningless, and we risk being left frustrated and depressed in the wake of the next child protection scandal by the knowledge that it could have been prevented. We know the problem; we know the solution; we now need to put our energies into action.
The Special Rapporteur mechanism is an important and valuable one that needs to be utilised to full effect, and, as intended. The recommendations contained in today’s report are not pie-in-the-sky aspirations; they are real and concrete proposals that the State must act on. The Alliance urges the Oireachtas to capitalise on the timely opportunity that now exists to debate the report and its recommendations. Furthermore, we call on Government to demonstrate its accountability on the fundamental issue of child protection by taking active steps to implement the report’s recommendations.”
The report’s recommendations include:
- Establish independent, statutory inquiries to respond to suspected fundamental failings of child care system. Such inquiries should be public unless circumstances preclude this.
- Carry out an independent national review of our current child protection system to identify the primary child protection concerns and areas needing reform, including child deaths.
- Place Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children on a statutory footing. Prior to this step, the Guidelines should be amended to introduce a differential response model into our child protection system.
- Establish a Committee on Child Welfare and Protection within the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to oversee inquiries into serious child protection failings.
- Ensure all care facilities receive independent and thorough inspections, including residential centres for children with intellectual disabilities and for separated children. Where necessary, legislation to provide for this must be enacted.
- Place guidelines for the appointment, role and qualifications of guardians ad litem published by the Children Acts Advisory Board on a statutory footing; and establish a regulatory body for guardians ad litem.
- Reform our laws and court practice in relation to sexual offences against children.
Mrs. van Turnhout added: “The Alliance is concerned that the absence of legislation to place Children First on a statutory footing continues to leave children vulnerable to abuse and neglect. The Ryan Report Implementation Plan commits to drafting legislation by December 2010 to provide that all staff employed by the State and in agencies in receipt of Exchequer funding will have a duty to comply with these Guidelines. The deadline for delivery of this commitment is the end of this year, and so, if it is to be met, a Bill must be drafted without delay. The Bill should be published with enough time to allow for consultation with relevant stakeholders, including professionals working with children and non-governmental organisations.”
For further information, please contact:
Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive
Tel: (01) 662 9400 / 087-2333784
Notes to Editor:
This is Geoffrey Shannon’s third report since his appointment in 2006, along with Professor Finbarr McAuley, as a Special Rapporteur on Child Protection.