14 Jan 2016
Day of Reckoning – UN Scrutiny on Children’s Rights in Ireland
Today, the Children’s Rights Alliance is leading a delegation of over 20 NGOs in Geneva to witness a leading UN body examine Ireland’s treatment of children.
This is the first review of Ireland’s children’s rights record in nearly 10 years by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The State’s delegation is being led by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. James Reilly, TD, along with 15 senior officials across key government departments. The Ombudsman for Children and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission are also present.
Speaking from Geneva, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, says: “Today is the day of reckoning. The UN Committee’s job is to shine a torch on Ireland to see why some children don’t reach their full potential.
There have been many achievements since Ireland last met with the UN Committee. The Constitution was amended to strengthen children’s rights – this was a big talking point of criticism the last time around. There is now a Minister for Children and Youth Affairs with full Cabinet status and a dedicated agency, Tusla, for children and families. All of these things are undeniably welcome and positive steps. Ireland has almost all the infrastructure it needs to make this country one of the best places in the world to be a child. At the same time, for many children in Ireland, life is tough. The grim reality is that these children are being failed.
The UN Committee will likely focus much of their attention on vulnerable children. One child in every nine lives in consistent poverty with disproportionally high rates among one-parent families. Poverty has a detrimental impact on a child’s life chances across many areas of their life including their health, mental health and their educational attainment. The State must make firm commitment to comprehensively address this.
Linked to child poverty is the scourge of homelessness. 1,638 children are homeless, a figure that has risen by 90 per cent during 2015 so that children now account for almost one-third of the homeless population. Proper housing provides the foundation for a child to live, sleep and do homework. Spending a year in a single hotel room with your parents will not provide this foundation. We know that there are achievable solutions to this problem and look forward to hearing the State’s response.
As a group, Traveller and Roma children experience sky-high school drop-out rates, wholly inappropriate accommodation, are over-represented in the care system and have an infant mortality rate that is over three and a half times as high as the rest of the population. We cannot be proud of how we treat children in Ireland until these trends are reversed. In essence, we must grant recognition of Traveller ethnicity, address the dire accommodation shortage and reverse the cruel cuts to dedicated education supports.
Over 1,300 children live in Direct Provision. These children experience very high rates of poverty, high referral rates for child protection and welfare concerns, and they have no access to an independent children’s complaints mechanism. We eagerly anticipate the State’s response to questions about this group. As an immediate step, we call for the implementation of the recommendations of the Working Group on Improvements to the Protection Process (McMahon Report) towards vindicating their rights. This must include an immediate increase to the Direct Provision Allowance bringing it to the recommended rate of €29.80.
We have the highest EU rate of youth suicide amongst girls and the second highest rate amongst boys. Yet, our mental health services are in crisis – 2,309 children are on a waiting list for an appointment, of whom 1,319 have been waiting for longer than three months, and 214 have been waiting for more than a year. In addition, over a quarter of children admitted to mental health facilities in 2015 were admitted to adult in-patient units. Often they have no say in their care and treatment and this must end. We need to see a commitment to address waiting lists, end the treatment of children in adult units and establish an independent advocacy service for children experiencing mental health difficulties.”
The Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 100 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. We change the lives of all children in Ireland by making sure that their rights are respected and protected in our laws, policies and services.
For a comprehensive media pack, interview bids or any other information contact:
Communications and Development Manager
Children’s Rights Alliance
Mob: 087 655 9067
Tel: 01 6629400
Notes for Editors
• The Examination takes place today, Thursday, 14 January 2016 in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland from 9:00 – 12:00 and 14:00 – 17:00 (Irish time). It is broadcast live online at www.treatybodywebcast.org
• The Children’s Rights Alliance is co-ordinating the civil society media response
• Join the debate on Twitter #UNCRC
• ‘Are We There Yet?’, Children’s Rights Alliance Parallel Report to the UN is http://childrensrights.ie/resources/are-we-there-yet-parallel-report-ire...
• ‘Picture Your Rights’, a report by young people on their rights in Ireland is http://www.childrensrights.ie/resources/picture-your-rights-report-un-co...
• The Children’s Rights Alliance ‘Submission to the UN on the Replies of Ireland to the List of Issues’ is http://www.childrensrights.ie/resources/childrens-rights-alliance-submis...