Ombudsman for Children Bill introduced in the Seanad
The Minister for Children, Mary Hanafin, T.D., today (Thursday 21 Febraury) introduced the Ombudsman for Children Bill in Seanad Eireann. “The establishment of the Ombudsman for Children is in recognition of the need for an independent person to act as a powerful advocate for children and promote the welfare and rights of the child.” She said.
Minister Hanafin said “Attitudes and perceptions to the role and place for children in our society has changed in recent years and this has led to many policy developments in relation to child care services.” She pointed out that “This Government has invested an additional €171m for child welfare and protection services since 1997 and a further €46m is being invested in 2002.” This level of additional funding continues to provide and support a wide range of developments in this area and emphasises the Government´s determination to put in place effective strategies and services to promote and protect the welfare of children.
The Ombudsman for Children Bill should be seen in this context. The Programme for Government and the National Children´s Strategy both contain a commitment to the establishment of an Ombudsman for Children.
The Ombudsman, who will be independent of Government 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.
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 set up structures to consult with children, ensuring that the views of children are taken into account when policies and legislation are being considered.
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.
“The introduction of an Ombudsman for Children is a further step along the road to providing our children with quality services and letting their voice be heard” said the Minister.
It is envisaged that the Bill will pass second stage in the Seanad today.