Wednesday, 6 February 2019
Children's Rights: Motion [Private Members]
I thank my colleagues on the Labour Party benches for tabling the motion. Although we have tabled an amendment to it, we are behind its principle and vision. No matter what we hear from the other side of the House, there is no doubt that the health system is failing too many young people. It is not just me or any other member of an Opposition party who is saying this. In his report last year the Ombudsman for Children spoke about having received almost 2,000 complaints highlighting the stark failure of the HSE and Tusla to act in children's best interests. The number grows every year.
The issue is not just one of health but also education. It is about every Department working together to ensure young people will have the best start in life in order that they can become the best they can be.
The Ombudsman for Children also spoke about his serious concerns about how suicidal young people accessed emergency services. As a member of the Joint Committee on Future of Mental Health Care, some of the most stocking statistics and stories we heard were related to young people who desperately needed the intervention of child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS, and the lack of a response from the system. The final figures we received for November showed that 2,568 children were still awaiting assessments and that 295 had been left waiting for longer than one year. These are particularly shameful figures.
In modern Ireland it is unacceptable that almost one in four children experiences ongoing deprivation and that 105,000 children are living in consistent poverty. This experience of poverty and deprivation has a profound impact on every child's ability, immediately giving a child a disadvantaged start in life. It is important that children with disabilities, for example, undergo appropriate assessments and interventions within the first five years of their lives to help them to navigate what will be a difficult world. At the end of October, 36,531 people were waiting for speech and language therapy, most of whom were children, while 6,531 children had been waiting for longer than one year for their first assessment for occupational therapy. In the light of these shocking figures, much more needs to be done, including providing greater support for parents in their caring roles.