Tuesday 11 May 2010
By Jillian van Turnhout
“The Children’s Rights Alliance welcomes today’s report by the Office of the Ombudsman for Children based on an 18-month investigation into the implementation of Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children. The Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, has produced a critical report that clearly exposes the gaping holes in our child protection systems and the ways in which children’s best interests are failing to be prioritised at the most basic levels. The report itself makes 11 findings of ‘unsound administration’ against the relevant public bodies and 22 recommendations to improve the system. All in all, it confirms the Alliance’s worst fears that the State child protection systems are wholly inadequate.
“This report undoubtedly confirms the value of the Office of the Ombudsman for Children and the crucial role it plays in shining a light on inadequate and failing public services. The rights and needs of children are of paramount importance, yet this report starkly demonstrates that our child protection systems are built on nothing more than ‘unsound administration’, highlighting that half of the local health offices either do not have proper local procedures in place, or have only very recently drawn them up. Many State Child Care Managers do not have guaranteed rights to information on child protection cases and, in many parts of the country, they are charged with serious responsibilities without the authority to act. In the meantime, the Child Protection Notification System is only held locally and cannot be accessed on a 24-hour-basis by other relevant authorities. There is a failure to audit case files and, in one region, the screening of child protection reports were taking an average of 21 days to be conducted, while the initial assessment was taking an average of 95 days.
The report clearly points to the need for greater transparency and the Alliance repeats its call for adequate resourcing for child protection, and independent representation on the monitoring mechanism so as to ensure greater public confidence in our child protection systems. The Alliance has, for a number of years, raised concerns in this area. We now call on Government to put the Children First revised guidelines on a statutory footing and to ensure that all organisations working with children are obligated to put children’s rights and needs first.”
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