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rights of the child

UN rights committee 'seriously concerned' over children in Ireland experiencing homelessness

The UN Rights of the Child Committee published observations on Ireland today.

THE UNITED NATIONS Committee on the Rights of the Child has said it is “seriously concerned” about the large number of children in Ireland living in poverty and experiencing homelessness. 

On 24 and 25 January, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman led a delegation of officials from Government Department for a hearing before the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva. 

The experts of the Committee expressed admiration for how Ireland had received children fleeing Ukraine. 

The Committee today published its concluding observations from two reports on Ireland. 

In the observations, the Committee recognises the positive steps taken by the State since Ireland’s last view in 2016.

However, it also raised some areas of concern and made recommendations to the State and said urgent measures must be taken. 

Standard of living

The Committee welcomed the Social Welfare Bill 2022 and the Housing for All policy, but said it remains “seriously concerned” about the large number of children living in poverty, food insecurity and homelessness. 

The Committee is calling on the State to strengthen its policies to ensure that all children have an adequate standard of living, including by increasing social benefits to reflect the rising cost of living and expanding the school meals programme. 

The State should address the root causes of homelessness among children, strengthen measures to phase out temporary and emergency accommodation schemes and significantly increase the availability of adequate and long-term social housing for families in need, the Committee said. 

The Committee also raised concerns about children of ethnic minority groups who do not have access to child benefit payments due to the habitual residence condition. 

Mental health

The Committee welcomed the adoption of a mental health policy in 2020 but added that it is “seriously concerned” about insufficient and inadequeate mental health services for children. 

It said it is also concerned about long waiting lists for children seeking mental health services, with some waiting for more than a year for an appointment. 

The placement of children with mental health issues in adult psychiatric wards was also an issue of concern. 

The Committee is urging the State to “ensure the availability of therapeutic mental health services and programmes for children”. 

This includes significantly increasing the resources allocated for the implementation and monitoring of the mental health policy and ensuring that the number of qualified professionals, including child psychologists and psychiatrists, is sufficient ot meet children’s mental health needs in a timely manner. 

Last month, an interim report into an independent review of the provision of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Ireland found that a large number of children and teens seeking mental health treatment don’t receive necessary follow-up care. 

Violence

In relation to violence, the Committee said the State should ensure that children have access to legal support and confidential and child-friendly complaint mechanisms in schools, foster care settings and emergency accommodation for the reporting of all forms of violence and abuse. 

It also said the State should take vigorous measures for preventing, investigating and prosecuting the exploitation of children online.

The State should ensure that child victims of past abuse by clergy and in Magdalene Laundries, mother and baby homes, reformatory and industrial schools have access to justice, the Committee said. 

These are just a glimpse at some of the recommendations made by the Committee. The rull report can be read here

Commenting on the Concluding Observations, Minister O’Gorman said that Ireland is a “strong supporter” of the UN Treaty Body system. 

“We greatly value the role that Treaty Body Committees continue to play in highlighting human rights issues in Ireland and as essential monitors of the States’ implementation of the core international human rights treaties thereby helping to generate change,” O’Gorman said. 

“I welcome these observations and I will be exmaining them in detail, along with colleagues right across Government.”

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