Nearly half of complaints to children’s ombudsman concern education

Office concerned over ‘slow pace of change’ around young people’s mental health

Education continues to be the most complained about issue for children according to the Ombudsman for Children’s latest annual report.

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) received 1,503 complaints last year, a decrease from 1,622 complaints the previous year. Almost half (49 per cent) of the complaints related to education, up from 42 per cent in 2018.

Of those complaints, 75 per cent related to schools, 17 per cent to the Department of Education and Skills and 4 per cent were associated with other educational agencies such as the National Council for Special Education and the State Examinations Commission.

The report also revealed that 20 per cent of complaints related to family support care and protection, a reduction from 24 per cent in 2018.


The proportion of complaints received by the OCO that related to the health services also decreased last year from 16 per cent in 2018 to 14 per cent in 2019.

The Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon said the rise in the percentage of complaints relating to education shows "there are still many children and families who are unhappy with the way the education system is supporting them".

“In 2019, 5 per cent of the complaints we received were about housing, representing no change on the previous year,” he said.

“Access to suitable housing was the main issue raised, which includes local authority housing allocation, suitable housing for children with disabilities, emergency homeless accommodation, medical priority allocation and general transfer issues.”

Dr Muldoon said the office remains concerned about the “slow pace of change” to improve law, policy and provision in the area of children and young people’s mental health.

“From my perspective as Ombudsman for Children, key issues for children and their rights that I want to see Government and the State pursue during 2020 include making tangible progress on putting in place a mental health system for children that is fit for purpose and upholds children’s right to the highest attainable standard of mental health,” he said.

“I would also like to see the homelessness crisis addressed as a matter of urgency, ensuring that meaningful steps are taken on the issue of enumerating the right to housing in our Constitution. New political commitments to address and indeed end Direct Provision are welcomed and I hope that these will be honoured in the quickest possible time frame.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times