Wednesday, 3 February 2021
Reappointment of the Ombudsman for Children: Motion
This February will mark 12 months since the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in Ireland. On 12 March 2020 schools throughout the country closed. Dr. Muldoon has said time away from school has left children and young people devoid of school, hobbies, sports and access to close friends. It has been a long and tortuous road for many; for our most disadvantaged and vulnerable children it is doubly so. For those with special needs, the safety, routine and discipline of school is far more than education. It offers a pathway for them to grow and learn socially, which is vital if they are to reach their full potential. It is imperative that the Department of Education works with the education partners, public health officials and other relevant stakeholders as a matter of urgency to build on previous planning and put in place a clear comprehensive contingency plan that provides children and their families with the clarity they need now and for the future.
It is about time leaving certificate students were told what is being put in place for them. The battle on the future of the leaving certificate has gone on far too long. It took too long last year for a decision to be made and it is inevitable that a decision will have to be made this year. It could have been made sooner than now. How is it we are still making the same mistakes this year?
I hope Dr. Muldoon will be able to work closer to issues affecting young people in general, like access to beaches and safety for our children. A lady in west Cork has been fighting with me for several years. She sees the need for proper structures to be in place to keep people safe, especially children with disabilities. She wants people kept safe in west Cork near the beaches and so on. That is something we never looked at or never really cared to invest time in. Perhaps the Ombudsman for Children can do that.
I look at organisations like Jack and Friends in Bandon, an autism centre ran by volunteers with no staff. The founders receive no payments for the work they do to support families with children with autism on a daily basis. We need to have a stronger concentration on organisations and this focus needs to be given to these people who give of their time. I know that Claire, Samantha and others in Bandon do phenomenal work on a voluntary basis. I urge the Minister and the Ombudsman for Children to look at and fund these organisations, including Jack and Friends in Bandon. They are taking much of the burden off the State.