Government down another grade on children's rights

Published date: 
21 Feb 2017

PRESS RELEASE

 

Government down another grade on children’s rights

Report reveals most vulnerable children in Ireland are invisible

 

A report launched today reveals the extent to which children’s rights are not being upheld in Ireland and how some of the most vulnerable children are being rendered invisible.  Report Card 2017 was compiled by the Children’s Rights Alliance, an organisation that holds government to account in respect of their own commitments in A Programme for a Partnership Government and is graded by an independent panel of experts. The overall grade awarded this year is a ‘D+’.

 

Speaking at the launch of the Report, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, Tanya Ward said:

 

“While there has been progress in a number of areas, overall this is the lowest grade in six years. This needs to change.”

 

“In 2016 we have seen significant progress, with advances including the Affordable Childcare Scheme, LGBT+ Strategy, Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill and paid Paternity Leave having the potential to impact positively on a significant number of children’s lives.

 

“However, unnecessary delays in other areas have caused this low grade. Progress of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill has been stalled. Recommendations from the McMahon report are yet to be put into action, leaving girls and boys in Direct Provision without their basic needs met.”

 

The report reveals that certain groups of children are being left behind, particularly ‘Child Victims of Crime’ (‘D’ grade), ‘Children who are Homeless and Living in Poverty’ (‘E’ grade), ‘Traveller and Roma Children’ (‘E’ grade) and ‘Child Refugees and Asylum Seekers’ (‘D-’ grade).

 

Drawing on existing research, Report Card 2017 brings together data from national policy documents and statistical research as well as from Children’s Rights Alliance member records to paint a clearer picture of the status of children’s rights in Ireland.

 

The Report Card reveals how just one 24-hour state service for victims of sexual assault under the age of 14 exists and is located in Galway. The service has had to close temporarily twice in the last two years due to lack of funding. Child victims of crime also face significant delays in accessing counselling support services. One support service in Dublin, the CARI Foundation has reported a 200% rise in families on its waiting list since January 2015.

 

Tanya Ward commented on the findings underpinning this year’s low grade of D for child victims of crime:

 

“A child who has been sexually or physically abused or is a witness to serious abuse often has to wait up to 6 months before being interviewed for court proceedings. 6 months is a long time in the life of a child. For a vulnerable, and at risk child, 6 months is an eternity.”

 

ENDS

 

 

For more information please contact:

Pauline Ní Luanaigh 086 8323 998 or Gearóid Rennicks 085 877 1386

 

Editor’s Notes

 

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. 

 

The Report Card is available for download at

http://childrensrights.ie/resources/report-card-2017

 

Report Card 2017 - Highlights, Lowlights and in Between

 

Highlights

 

Affordable Childcare

 

-  The Government receives a B-  in this area - the highest grade in the Report Card.

-  The most important development for children in 2016 was that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone TD secured an additional €19 million to establish an affordable childcare scheme. The scheme has the potential to make childcare more affordable and to lift families out of poverty.

-  We have some of the highest childcare costs in the European Union. And the introduction of this scheme will mean that every child in the country under the age of 3 can benefit.

-  It is also important because we know that about 26 per cent of one parent families are living in consistent poverty with their children. This will help them get into the workplace which can be challenging because of the high costs of childcare.

 

Parental Leave/Income Supports

 

-  The Government receives a C+ in this area.

-  Another positive in 2016 was the introduction of paid Paternity Leave for fathers and partners. A father can now take two weeks off and will receive a social welfare payment. The payment can be taken at any time within the first six months of a child being born.

-  In the last four months of 2016, there were 4,572 paternity benefit claims.

 

Online Protection for Children

 

-  Another highlight is the fact that we have strengthened our laws protecting children online. The Seanad just passed the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015. That legislation will make it easier for to prosecute people who try to groom children for abuse using the internet and social media.

-  The Bill also closes out loopholes in our laws which should lead to more prosecutions of people who view images of child abuse.

-  The context here is that eleven per cent of the young people surveyed (aged 11-16) said they had seen or received sexual messages online over the past year. The same number had been asked to talk about sexual acts with someone on the internet.

 

LGBT+ Strategy

 

-  The Government receives a C+ in this area

-  There is an estimated 29, 000 LGBT+ young people in Ireland.

-  LGBT+ teens surveyed were four times as likely as other teens to suffer from severe or extremely severe stress, anxiety and depression while a third of LGBT+ teens had attempted suicide. Self-harm was also prevalent among this age group with 56 per cent of children reporting that they had self-harmed.

 

Somewhere in the middle…

 

Primary Care

 

-  GP Care: The Government has committed to extend free GP care to under 18s, subject to negotiation of the GPs. This is a big success story – over 360,000 children already get free GP care under this scheme but the Government has not been able to deliver this commitment in its first seven months and is only beginning negotiations.

-  Domiciliary Care Allowance: The Minister for Health secured funding in Budget 2017 to extend the medical care to families in receipt of Domiciliary Care Allowance. This costs associated with healthcare for children with severe disabilities can be very high for families. Budget 2017 earmarked the funds for it but the legislation to give effect to it has not been published yet.

-  Public Health (Alcohol) Bill: The Government published the Bill in 2015 but it has not yet passed through the Oireachtas. This is important for children because we have a serious problem with alcohol related harm and binge drinking in Ireland. And this starts in the teenage years. A recent found that about 50% of young people between the ages of 13 and 17 years are drinking at least once a month. And young people are exposed to huge levels of advertising aimed at normalising and glamourising drinking. The Bill introduces restrictions in term of minimum pricing and the Bill also puts restrictions on advertising in sports grounds for events where the majority of competitors and participants are children.

 

Lowlights

 

Homelessness

 

-  The Government receives the joint lowest grade of an E in this area.

-  There is a child homelessness epidemic. There were 2,549 children in homeless accommodation by the end of 2016. This compares to 1,616 children in December 2015. This represents a 55% increase.

-  One parent families account for 65 per cent of homeless families and more than a quarter of the same group lives in consistent poverty.

-  Families are living in one room, children often have not where to crawl. Parents are travelling across the city to try and keep their children in school. They often have nowhere to cook so they are feeding their children fast food and running out of money. Members are telling us that children are arriving at school in dirty clothes.

-  Some families are living in unhygienic and unsafe conditions with used syringes left in bedrooms, insect infestations, mould and damp causing respiratory issues, significant overcrowding and children being kept awake due to noise from surrounding pubs and clubs.

 

Traveller and Roma Children

 

- The Government receives the joint lowest grade of an E in this area.

- This Government, like its predecessors, has simply not done enough and has not published promised Strategy on Travellers.

- Traveller and Roma children continue to experience discrimination and disadvantage.

- A Traveller child is 3.6 times more likely to die in infancy.

- 56 per cent of Travellers live in overcrowded accommodation. Significant number of Traveller households in mobile or temporary accommodation with no access to adequate water and sanitation facilities or safe and appropriate play areas.

- Traveller children leave school an average of five years earlier than non-Travellers. The removal of specialised educational supports for Traveller children a few years ago including the Visiting Teachers Service for Travellers (VTST) has resulted in negative impacts for school completion.

 

Child Victims of Crime

 

-  The Government receives a D grade in this area.

-  Irish law does little to protect the rights of victims of crime, adult or child although there is a Victims of Crime Bill moving through the Oireachtas.

-  An important EU Victims Directive to strengthen rights of victims and their family has not been transposed into domestic law.

-  The only specialist sexual assault unit for children and young people under 14 exists in Galway – It provides forensic examinations and designed for young people. In 2015-16, this service has had to temporarily close twice, most recently due to lack of funding. Total cost of providing the 24 hour service in Galway is just €212,000.

-  Child victims face significant delays in accessing counselling support services; for example the CARI Foundation in Dublin had a waiting list of 95 children in December 2016. This is an increase of over 200 per cent since January 2015.

-  Child victims also face delays in their case proceeding through the courts. The most recent Garda Inspectorate Report from 2014 found delays of up to six months in the interviewing of child victims or witnesses of sexual or physical abuse or serious neglect.

 

Child Refugees and Asylum Seekers

 

-  The Government receives a D- in this area.

-  There has been slow progress to date in fulfilling commitment to resettle and relocate unaccompanied minors. Key recommendations for children in McMahon Report remain unimplemented. 

-  There are 1,098 children living in Direct Provision.

-  Despite their promises, the Government did not introduce national standards for Direct Provision centres in 2016. Children in Direct Provision are the only group of children in Ireland who are denied the right to make a complaint to Ombudsman for Children.

-  There is no dedicated child protection strategy for Direct Provision accommodation despite significantly higher child protection referral rate to Tusla of children in Direct Provision compared with the general child population.

-  The Government committed to accepting 4,000 refugees by the end 2017 under it relocation and resettlement programme but only but only 14 young people were relocated to Ireland by the end of 2016. This is against the context of more than 10,000 young people arriving in Greece  and Italy in the first half of 2016.

 

Mental Health

 

-  The Government receives a D- grade in this area.

-  This is despite the fact that a new Youth Mental Health Taskforce has been established and is working well. However, its focus is more on developing the emotional well-being and resilience of young people.

-  There are long waiting lists for children seeking an appointment. 2,080 children are waiting for an appointment with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. Of these, 170 waited more than a year – up almost 20 per cent on the previous year.