Last week, the Minister of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) led the Irish delegation that appeared before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, Switzerland. Joined by officials from several government departments, the Minister answered questions from the Committee concerning disability services, new legislation, equality and inclusion of minority communities in society
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and Ireland
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by Ireland in 1989 and ratified in 1992. The Convention contains 41 articles and each details a different type of right. These rights are ranked in order of importance but can be grouped together under four themes: survival rights, development rights, protection rights and participation rights.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child is a body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention. All states that have ratified the Conventions are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how it is being implemented.
The Irish government submitted its combined fifth and sixth report to the UN under the Convention on the Rights of the Child in February 2022. This report outlined what Ireland was doing to protect the rights of children since the previous report in 2016.
Children’s Rights Alliance alternative report
Following the submission of this report, the Children’s Rights Alliance published an alternative report, Are We There Yet? in response to the Irish submission. This report covered topics such as civil rights and freedom, violence against children, children with disabilities, basic health and welfare and education.
This report discussed the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) and how it has helped support pre-school children with disabilities through a child-centred, progressive model. However, the report pointed out that it is only available to children over the age of two years and eight months. The report urged the Committee on the Rights of the Child to recommend that Ireland should develop a long-term plan for inclusive education.
Traveller and Roma communities
The alternative report also discussed the participation of children from the Traveller and Roma communities in Early Years. The report pointed out that there is a need for practical support for Roma and Traveller children to access Early Years care and education. According to official data, 17% of services have a Traveller child in their service. Just 7% of services report having a Roma child. A a total of 1,866 Traveller children and 507 Roma children attend Early Years services. This represents 1.8% and 0.5%, respectively, of all children attending Early Years services. Organisations that support families from these communities have found that they are often unaware of the publicly-funded schemes that are available. Roma and Traveller families can face other barriers, such as low literacy levels, which makes completing the necessary paperwork more difficult.
The alternative report implored the Committee on the Rights of the Child to urge the Irish State to set about specific measures to improve access and outcomes for Traveller and Roma children in Early Years care and education.
During the hearing before the Committee, the Minister noted a few ways in which Ireland was enhancing the rights of children. These included the success of the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) in Early Years settings and the provision of hot meals to similar services. The Minister also recognised that there was a need for better data regarding children and that the State had to do better for both children and adults with disabilities.
Hearing and next steps
Members of the Committee commended Ireland on AIM and its success as well as how the country has improved overall access to Early Years care and education. However, members also pointed out that Traveller children with disabilities were particularly vulnerable and one member was worried that due to the breadth of the work that the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth undertakes, there was a risk that children’s issues could be lost in the mix and forgotten about.
The hearing concluded on Wednesday, 25 January 2023. The Committee will now compile a report for Ireland with observations and recommendations on how the State can improve the implementation of the Convention.
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