Ombudsman demands action over ‘desperate situation facing so many vulnerable children in Ireland’

Dr Niall Muldoon expresses ‘despair and concern’ at Child Law Project report that highlights State failings

Dr Niall Muldoon, the Ombudsman for Children, said 'we cannot accept any more excuses' over failures to provide adequate protection for vulnerable children in State care. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, has expressed “despair and serious concern” at the latest reports published by the Child Law Project.

The reports detail the concern of judges hearing the cases of children and young people with complex issues who do not have a secure place to live or access to services.

The last volume of case reports demonstrated “the desperate situation facing so many vulnerable children in Ireland today”, Dr Muldoon said on Monday.

The volume contains 70 reports of court proceedings regarding children in care, highlighting ongoing concerns about the lack of appropriate placements for vulnerable children, the lack of special care places for vulnerable young people and the complexities in cases involving migrant children.

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It was “not only judges that are worried”, the Ombudsman said, adding that he had heard from social workers, social care workers and guardians about “their real fear for the welfare of these children”.

The shortage of appropriate placements for children, in foster, residential and special care, was “not a new phenomenon” but the required funding and human resources “have not been progressed due to a combination of Government intransigence and neglect of this sector”, he said.

“We have to ask ourselves, how have we fallen so far as a country that we appear unable to provide a highly vulnerable child, in the care of the State, with a safe and stable place to live?”

“We cannot accept any more excuses. What we need is a strong, fully funded action plan by the State to meet the needs of children in care,” he said.

Foster carers needed to be given more financial and professional support, and there was an “urgent need” for the Government to formalise kinship care in Ireland, Dr Muldoon said.

He also expressed serious concern that the Child Law Project has not been recommissioned, and fears that this indicated “the shutting down of open communication between the courts and the public in relation to children in care”.

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The Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) said it was also “extremely concerned” at the content of the latest report from the Child Law Project.

Its members called for “urgent action across Government ... to halt this spiral of poor practice and to build trust in the care system”.

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson is a reporter for The Irish Times