Hanafin announces the Publication of the Ombudsman for Children Bill
“The Bill is a great step forward in protecting the rights and welfare of our children,” she said. Both the National Children´s Strategy and the Programme for Government contain a commitment to the establishment of an Ombudsman for Children.
Functions of the Ombudsman
The Ombudsman will have two main functions:
- To promote the rights and welfare of children
- To examine and investigate complaints against public bodies and against schools and voluntary hospitals.
“The remit of the Ombudsman for Children will cover such public bodies as health boards and local authorities and I am particularly pleased to include schools and hospitals, most of which are classified as voluntary bodies. This should lead to more openness and transparency in the State´s interaction with children,” the Minister said.
Content of the Bill.
The Bill provides for the Ombudsman for Children to be appointed by the President. The Ombudsman for Children will be independent in performing the functions which will be assigned.
In promoting the rights and welfare of children the Ombudsman for Children can, amongst other things, provide advice to the Government, encourage the development of policies, practices and procedures to promote children´s rights and welfare, highlight issues that are of concern to children and monitor and review the operation of legislation insofar as it refers to children. The Ombudsman will also have regard to the U.N Convention on the Rights of the Child.
With regard to examining and investigating complaints, the remit of the Ombudsman for Children extends to public bodies, schools and voluntary hospitals. Complaints can be made by a child, a parent of the child or a person who has either a personal or professional relationship to the child concerned and is considered a suitable person by the Ombudsman for Children. Before investigating a complaint a parent of the child must be informed. The action complained of must be one which is taken in the performance of an administrative function.
The Ombudsman for Children can investigate, make recommendations and seek a response to a complaint.
The Ombudsman will have regard to the best interests of the child taking into account the age and understanding of the child when promoting the rights and welfare and when investigating complaints. Due consideration must be given to the child´s own wishes.
“The Ombudsman will ensure that policies and practices will be informed by the needs of children and that consultation will promote the safeguarding of their rights and welfare”. Minister Hanafin said.
“I am confident that the Ombudsman for Children will be an additional voice in the interests of children, along with the voluntary organisations, the Minister for Children and of course the children themselves”.