A United Nations human rights body has described mental health services for children in Ireland as “insufficient and inadequate”, and raised concerns about the long waiting lists for children seeking help.
The UN Child Rights’ Committee (CRC) monitors states’ adherence to the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
On Thursday, the committee issued its findings on seven States: Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Mauritius, New Zealand, Oman, Sweden, and Ireland.
In its findings on Ireland, the committee said it was “seriously concerned” at mental health services for children, particularly children with mental health issues being placed in adult psychiatric units. The body also highlighted the “detrimental” impact of racism and discrimination on the mental health of children of ethnic minorities in Ireland.
It asked the Government to ensure the availability of therapeutic mental health services for children and develop a designated support service for children of minority ethnic groups, especially those who have experienced racial discrimination.
The CRC recommended that the State strengthens the National Suicide Prevention Strategy and its other efforts to prevent suicide and self-harming behaviours among children, especially within the Roma and Traveller community. It also called on Ireland to address the root causes of suicide and self-harming through psychological, educational and social measures and therapies for children and their families.
The UN body acknowledged that a “large number” of children live in poverty, food insecurity and homelessness, and recommended that Ireland strengthens its policies to “ensure all children have an adequate standard of living and address the root causes of homelessness among children”.
The committee said it welcomes the establishment by the Government of the Anti-racism Committee in 2020, but said it “remains concerned about persistent discrimination against children of minority groups and those in disadvantaged situations”.
Similarly, it welcomed measures taken to combat violence against children, but is concerned about a “high prevalence of violence against children, including sexual exploitation, online violence and bullying”.
It also highlighted low rates of reporting, prosecution and conviction in cases of violence against children, and severe delays and inconsistencies in related investigations.
The UN body noted with “deep concern” the barriers faced by some groups of children in accessing birth registration, and made a number of recommendations on removing legal barriers and enacting legislation to simplify the process.
It also highlighted some positive actions taken by the State since the last review in 2016, particularly the commencement of the Children First Act, Children and Family Relationships Act, and the Irish Sign Language Act.
In a statement, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman welcomed the observations, saying Ireland is a “strong supporter” of the UN system.
“We greatly value the role that Treaty Body Committees continue to play in highlighting human rights issues in Ireland and as essential monitors of States’ implementation of the core international human rights treaties thereby helping to generate change,” he said.
“I welcome these observations and I will be examining them in detail, along with colleagues right across Government, with a view to addressing them to the greatest possible extent in the forthcoming new national policy framework for children and young people 2023-2028.”