Call for overhaul of child services

 

Failure to correct the inadequacies of child protection services in Ireland will only serve to compound the “national shame” surrounding the abuse in religious-run institutions, a coalition of children’s charities and victims’ groups has said.

In a joint submission to Government and Opposition parties published today, the groups said the abuses uncovered by the child abuse commission’s investigation had imposed an obligation on the State to come to terms “with the fact that the rights of children were traduced for generations in Ireland”.

“We have to be totally honest about the situation in which too many vulnerable children still find themselves in Ireland, about the lack of family support in times of difficulty, about the inadequacy of child protection and services for children,” they said.

The coalition, which included Barnardos, Cari (Children At Risk in Ireland), Children’s Rights Alliance, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) and the One in Four victims’ group, said resources had to be found to put these things right.

The groups warned: “There will be no excuse if in a future generation a new Commission finds that even with all we know, Ireland is still not a place that values childhood and respects and protects children.”

In their statement, they described the children sent to industrial schools and reformatories as our “disappeared”, and their treatment “as a source of national shame”.

“We will compound that shame if there is a failure to act now, to ensure that no child in Ireland can ever be treated in the same way again,” they said.

The groups called for the adoption of a seven-point plan to improve children protection services as part of the national response the Ryan report.

The plan included a call for the “necessary” resources to be made available so a proper system of child protection – including services outside normal hours – can be put in place.

It also calls for the immediate recommitment by the Government to a referendum on the rights of children, suggesting there should be no summer recess of the Dáil while this issue is outstanding.

The groups want the establishment of a national authority to ensure the implementation of national guidelines on child protection and these guidelines to be put on statutory basis.

The plan includes providing survivors of abuse with well-resourced counselling, support and advocacy services.

There should also be national therapy and assessment service for children who are currently suffering abuse, and national treatment facilities for children, teenagers and adults who have exhibited sexually harmful behaviour must be put in place, as a child protection measure.

In their submission, the groups also highlighted the risks “facing children who are adrift”.

“Child prostitution is real in Ireland, as is homelessness among children. Too many children are missing and intensely vulnerable.”