Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth | Rights of Children within state institutions and legislation
To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the extent to which he is satisfied that the rights of children are adequately protected by all institutions of the State which might have a responsibility if any situations have emerged to the contrary; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To ask the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth the extent to which the rights of children are protected and upheld equally and in all situations in accordance with legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Children’s rights, and their enjoyment of these rights, are of paramount importance to my Department, and indeed across Government. The importance of child-centred policies and protections represent a core value in our society which wants children to flourish and see a brighter future. There is no doubt that we must work towards ensuring this future and empower children to voice what kind of future they want.
Ireland remains firmly committed to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), a major international human rights treaty that sets out the specific rights of children. The UNCRC was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 and Ireland ratified it in 1992.
The UNCRC has four key principles:
- all the rights guaranteed by the Convention must be available to all children without discrimination of any kind (Article 2);
- the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children (Article 3);
- every child has the right to life, survival and development (Article 6); and
- the child’s views must be considered and taken into account in all matters affecting him or her (Article 12).
The articles of the UNCRC are wide-ranging and cover a number of areas including health, housing, social security, education, leisure and play, child protection and welfare, criminal justice, international protection as well as access to information and participation in decision-making. Ireland is required to submit regular state reports on measures it has taken to progress the implementation of rights under the Convention, with the most recent report submitted in February of this year. Subsequently the State delegation has to appear before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for an oral examination which is anticipated to take place in January 2023.
My Department is currently developing the next national policy framework for children and young people. The new policy framework will take a rights based approach, aligned to the UNCRC in its principles and implementation measures. The blueprint for the framework was published in August and the framework itself will be published early next year. This timing will allow us to identify any gaps following the hearing before the UNCRC Committee in January 2023.
The holding of a Referendum on children’s rights was an important commitment of the Government. As you are aware, the 31st Amendment, inserting Article 42A into the Constitution was signed into law on 28th April 2015. The fact that the Amendment now stands as part of our Constitution represents a considerable and symbolic advance in the identification of children as individual rights holders in our country.
The Children First Act 2015 clearly sets out the child safeguarding obligations of organisations providing services to children. The Act places a number of statutory obligations on organisations that provide relevant services to children, including to keep children safe from harm, to carry out a risk assessment and to develop a Child Safeguarding Statement (CSS) that outlines the organisations’ policies and procedures that are in place to manage any risks identified. The Act also specifies categories of mandated person, who have a statutory duty to report child protection concerns to Tusla, where the concern is at or above a threshold of harm as defined in the Act.
The Children First National Guidance operates side by side with the Children First legislation and sets out best practice and procedures that should be in place for all organisations providing services to children. For example, organisations providing services to children should also consider appointing a designated liaison person in keeping with best practice in child safeguarding. This person acts as the resource person for any staff member or volunteer who has child protection concerns and liaises with outside agencies.
When a referral of suspected child sexual abuse is made to Tusla, a social worker undertakes an initial assessment to ensure the safety of the child and to establish any further risk posed by the person alleged to have abused the child. Tusla may take action to protect children by informing a person’s employer or other third parties further to the outcome of an assessment, or on receipt of the information where there is an immediate and serious risk. Where an organisation believes a crime may have been committed, this should be reported to An Garda Síochána.
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