THE OMBUDSMAN FOR Children has reported a significant increase in the number of complaints made to it last year.
In its annual report for 2011 published today the Ombudsman said that there were a total of 1,491 complaints to its office last year, an increase of 22 per cent on 2010.
Most complaints – 76 per cent – came from the parents of children with nearly half of all complaints relating to education matters including issues such as specials needs resources in schools and transport.
Thirty-two per cent of complaints related to health (a fall from 37 per cent in 2010), five per cent related to justice matters and four per cent to housing and planning issues. Twelve per cent of complaints were classed as ‘other’.
Professionals such as school principals or teachers, social workers and solicitors were responsible for nine per cent of complaints, five per cent of complaints came from extended family, with concerned adults, a child or young person and ‘other’ making up the rest.
Ombudsman Emily Logan said that in contrast to previous years there had been a shift in how many public bodies responded to recommendations and requests made of them by the Ombudsman.
She said in a statement: “Often at annual report launches, I am compelled to report on resistance my Office has encountered in the course of our investigations.
“While we encountered pockets of resistance, in 2011 in particular I noticed a significant shift in how public bodies responded to my recommendations at all levels.
In the course of investigations we regularly hear about insufficient and limited resources, but this year a number of public bodies were willing and open to making the systemic changes that I have recommended.
“These are very simply that public bodies consider the child when they are making decisions that can sometimes have a profound impact on that child’s life.”
Speaking to Newstalk’s Breakfast programme, Logan said that her office tended to pursue cases where there was likely to be systemic change as a result of its work.
She highlighted the case of 16-year-old girl in the Munster area who was refused enrolment to a Catholic ethos school which remained defiant even in the wake of correspondence with the Ombudsman.
Logan said at the time that this was “wholly unacceptable” but said today that as a result of her office highlighting this case there had been a commitment from Education Minister Ruairí Quinn to bring forward legislation on school enrolment.
“We’re trying to select cases which will deliver change for more children. So the individual case can be very powerful in terms of delivering systemic change,” she told Newstalk.
In her report, Logan notes that the views of the child are not being respected systemically in Ireland and highlighted some concern that there were still examples of where the best interests of the system was more valued than the best interests of the child.
Speaking later on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Logan said that there had been a “very positive response from public bodies in relation to our work” and said that in many cases this was because of “significant changes to personnel” in these bodies.