Children’s Ombudsman backs judge’s call for ‘whole of Government’ approach to vulnerable children

‘We’ve been pushing for many years for inter-agency across State co-operation for these children who are particularly vulnerable,’ he said

The Children’s Ombudsman, Dr Niall Muldoon, has endorsed comments from former District Court judge Dermot Simms about the necessity for a “whole of Government” approach for at-risk children.

In a strongly worded letter last month to four Government ministers, Tusla, the State Claims Agency and the Ombudsman for Children while he was still on the bench, former judge Simms said he had the “utmost concern for the immediate predicament and welfare of children ... in the care of the State”.

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Dr Muldoon told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland on Tuesday that he has shared similar concerns for a number of years. Two years ago his office wrote to the chief executive of Tusla regarding children under-12 who were in care. Tusla had a policy that children under-12 do not go into residential care, but at that time there were 61 such children.

His office also became aware of teenagers at risk with very complex situations and complicated issues who were not being dealt with properly.


“We’ve been pushing for many years for inter-agency across State co-operation for these children who are particularly vulnerable. You’re only talking about 300 maximum and some of them, maybe 200, would be more complex within that. So, again, it should not be beyond our capability to do much better service,” he said.

Dr Muldoon said that the judge’s letter was very significant about the need for a whole of Government approach. He believes disability services, mental health services, primary care, the Garda, Tusla and the Department of Education should all be involved. Another issue of concern was unregulated placements, sometimes in hotel rooms, when there are no places available for children in emergency situations.

“So there’s no therapy, there’s no access to comforts and safety. That’s the short-term scenario. And again, they can end up there for weeks, unfortunately, and it’s obviously a very expensive scenario as well.”

The issues have been known about for five or 10 years, he said.

“We should have been buying the buildings. We should have been investing in our infrastructure rather than hiring in. The private setting took off because of the financial economic crisis that we had. And what we find was rather than paying pensions and salaries, we would pay higher prices to private enterprises.”

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a reporter