Wednesday, 3 February 2021
Reappointment of the Ombudsman for Children: Motion
I too welcome the reappointment of Dr. Niall Muldoon. He has done a stellar job on behalf of children throughout the State and I am glad he is being reappointed. I acknowledge Dr. Muldoon's report in respect of unmet needs in the assessment of needs for children. We note that the figures have not improved significantly since the issuance of that report. I further acknowledge that Ministers are doing their best to create the right environment for assessment of needs to be conducted in a timely fashion, but they will be conscious that there has been much commentary about the number of children who still require an assessment of needs and that the desktop exercises, or 90-minute assessments, are open to legitimate critique. Dr. Niall Muldoon has stated that there needs to be a dramatic increase in resources such that proper assessments can be carried out and the requisite services would follow every child.
We welcome the reappointment of the Ombudsman for Children. We believe that he has been a stout advocate on behalf of children and calm in his delivery of key messages. It is a source of great comfort to parents and families that there is in this office somebody like Dr. Niall Muldoon who speaks truth to power. He has called out the fact that the statutory timeframe for completion of assessment of needs is not being met. I am aware that this a matter the Government is seeking to address. If we are to have ombudspersons in this State, it is only fair that when they issue reports, we respond in a timely fashion to what they are saying in their reports.
Dr. Muldoon has said that there is need for a tenfold increase in resources. We are not seeing any evidence of that yet. Notwithstanding that additional moneys were made available by the former Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Rabbitte, in respect of assessment of needs, there is still a job of work to be done within individual HSE community healthcare organisation, CHO, areas, where there are still massive variations in terms of meeting the needs of children. Ultimately, this is about children. We cannot skimp when it comes to children.
We all welcome the reappointment of Dr. Muldoon. All of us throughout the political system have great faith in him. I join in wishing him well in the next part of his tenure and I look forward to him working with the Houses of the Oireachtas and, in particular, the Joint Committee on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, in respect of his ongoing work and advocacy on behalf of the children of this State.