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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 2°C
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child services

Varadkar: 'There are a lot of good things about being a child in Ireland, but huge deficits too'

In the last two weeks, two significant reports have highlighted serious failings in the care for children in the state.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said that there are plenty of good things about being a child in Ireland, but has acknowledged that “there are huge deficits as well”. 

Varadkar previously said that he was putting children’s issues at heart of his term as Taoiseach, and it was put to him this week that Tusla is now suffering an unprecedented crisis. 

In the last two weeks, two significant reports have highlighted serious failings in the care for children in the State.

On Friday, a review into the provision of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) across Ireland found that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child may have been breached for children with mental illnesses.

The report highlights long waiting lists, a lack of capacity to provide appropriate interventions, “lost” cases, lack of emergency and out-of-hours services, difficulties in accessing primary care and disability services and the absence of monitoring certain medications.

It suggest all of these point to a possible breach of Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by Ireland in 1992.

The Child Law Project published also highlighted issues around safe placements for children in care recently. 

  • Read more here on how to support a major Noteworthy project to examine how children are falling through the cracks of the care system.

The reports were accompanied by a letter from retired Dublin District Court Judge Dermot Simms, who called attention to children in unsuitable emergency placements, as a result of the lack of safe and appropriate places.

“There are lots of very good things about being a child in Ireland,” Varadkar said this week.

“We have one of the best education systems in the developed world and some of the best outcomes for children when it comes to things like literacy.

“Even if you look at areas like paediatric healthcare, there are very good outcomes and very low levels of infant mortality in Ireland, for example. So there are lots of very good things about being a child in Ireland.  

“But there are also huge deficits as well. No politician is unaware or unaffected by the fact that so many people and parents can’t get the  therapies that their children need.” 

The Taoiseach promised that there would be big focus on addressing child poverty in this year’s budget. 

Cabinet also signed off on the Disability Action Plan this week, with the Taoiseach stating that this would be a key step in the expansion and reform of specialist community-based disability services for children. 

The plan includes aims to expand day services, respite and residential services, personal assistance and home support, as well as multidisciplinary therapy interventions for children and adults. 

Tusla ‘under pressure’

However, the Taoiseach reiterated that “Tusla is under a lot of pressure”, something he has previously said is a big concern for the Government.

“There are just more children than in the past whose parents aren’t able to look after them anymore and the increasing issue of migrant children and unaccompanied children arriving into the state that need our help. That is a real challenge,” he said.

“It is something that we are very much across. Like a lot of things, if it was about signing a check or a statutory instrument, we would do it in the morning. But it’s not.

“It is about finding appropriately skilled people, setting them up properly and making sure that policies are implemented and standards are upheld. That is often the trickiest part but is something we take very seriously.”

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