Irish Child Policy Must be Reformed – Policy Institute Study

Posted on: 18 June 2002

The neglect of childhood as a policy issue needs to be remedied, according to the author of a study – Children’s Rights – Whose Right? A Review of Child Policy Development in Ireland – launched Tuesday, 18 June in Trinity College’s Policy Institute.

Children represent one-third of the country’s total population, but remain under-represented as a social group in policy making. Author Nóirín Hayes calls for the revaluation of the place of children in Irish policy-making and recommends a move from the reactive welfare model of child policy to a proactive rights-based model.

“The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Ireland in 1992, offers a framework within which such a move could be planned, implemented and evaluated. This presents Irish policy makers with a valuable organisational framework to bring children’s issues to the fore within a rights-based context,” explained Nóirín Hayes.

Recommendations for action include three key areas:

  • Governance with respect to children – a senior Minister without portfolio with specific responsibility for cross-cutting issues should be appointed. In the first instance this Minister should take over responsibility for children and for progressing the National Children’s Strategy across all departments.
  • Protection and promotion of children’s rights – the Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002 should be amended to acknowledge the responsibility of the proposed Office of Ombudsman for Children to protect children’s rights as well as to promote them. Current exclusions within the Act – including children of refugees and asylum-seekers, and children in detention – should be removed so that the Ombudsman for Children can protect and promote all children’s rights.
  • Participation of children in matters affecting them – mechanisms should be developed to give children a direct voice in future national partnership agreements and the government should allocate funding to research and evaluate mechanisms to enhance the real participation of children in matters affecting them at local, regional and national level.

The publication, which is the 9th Blue Paper in the series ‘Studies in Public Policy’, was launched by the Director of the National Children’s Office, Ms. Frances Spillane. This series, published by Trinity’s Policy Institute (known informally as the Blue Papers), aims to bridge the gap between the academic and professional policy communities and makes a real difference to public policy debate in Ireland. The study was undertaken while Nóirín Hayes was a Visiting Research Fellow at The Policy Institute.