Human Rights Council 30th Session

Tomorrow the Human Rights Council session takes place. During this process the report on Ireland’s recent UPR will be adopted. We made a submission to this process through Edmund Rice International with the support of Br Brian Bond.  During the session NGOs have the opportunity to take the floor and deliver a 2 min statement. Through the good offices of Brian and Edmund Rice International we have secured such a slot which just 20 NGO’s have been given access to. Below is a presentation of the issues we have raised. Special thanks to Jennifer Hough for her work in helping us put this together.
The proceedings tomorrow will be streamed live at
Keep an eye out for our statement!
.The Cork Life Centre caters for children between the ages of 12-18 years who for various reasons have not thrived or coped in a mainstream educational setting. The Centre and its staff offer our students 1:1 tuition in the core Junior and Leaving Certificate subjects and supports them in their preparation for State Examinations. Through a holistic approach to education, the Centre endeavours to provide students with an open and accepting environment encouraging them to reach their full potential; to learn vital social and life skills; to develop positive trusting relationships with peers and staff; and to support them with issues and challenges they may face through the provision of counselling and through outreach work. The work of the Centre is not officially recognized as an alternative educational setting by the government, and is funded minimally by the Department of Education and Skills. This is in spite of working under a proven model with a high rate of successful outcomes for young people.


It has been evident for decades in Ireland that a significant cohort of children is not able to access mainstream education and therefore leave early. The response of the Irish government to this problem has been wholly inadequate. While the  ‘Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools’ (DEIS) iniaitive seems a good scheme, the reality is that a large percentage of early school leavers are coming from DEIS schools.

Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. It promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits.[1]

Research over the past two decades has linked early school leaving in Ireland with a range of negative future outcomes for children. Despite a range of interventions to address school non-completion, approximately 14% of students (as of 2007) continue to leave school without completing their education every year.[2] The National Economic and Social Forum stated that “early school leaving is among the most serious economic and social problems the state must address.”[3] The 2007 Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Science identified early school leaving as a priority issue.[4]

As with other economic, social and cultural rights, the full realisation of the right to education can be hampered by a lack of resources and can be achieved only over a period of time, particularly for countries with fewer resources. This is the reason why some State obligations are progressive, for instance, the introduction of free secondary and higher education.[5]

No matter how limited resources are, all States have immediate obligations to implement the following aspects of right to education:

A lack of resources cannot justify inaction or indefinite postponement of measures to implement the right to education. States must demonstrate they are making every effort to improve the enjoyment of the right to education, even when resources are scarce.[6]

Furthermore, young people enrolled in our Centre may have spent time in state care, juvenile justice or hospital system due to mental or physical health issues. Within these systems young people have limited educational opportunities.

Many studies[7] have now demonstrated that children in care are far more likely to become involved with justice systems than other children. As Taylor notes, “this has long been the case.”[8] There are many reasons why children in care are more likely to offend, and while this is an area that is still under investigation[9], contributing factors appear to be: parents with histories of substance abuse, incarceration and/or mental health issues; children who experience multiple care placements while in care; children with mental health and/or substance abuse problems; children with low school attendance and performance issues.[10]

The concept of shared responsibility is one that must be explored for these young people. Collaboration between professional systems – children’s services, education, mental health support, substance misuse provision, youth justice and so on – is essential to ensure that positive outcomes can be achieved (Herz et al 2012).

In Scotland, The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 introduced the concept of Corporate Parenting to legislation for the first time. Corporate parenting ensures a shared approach is taken by all State agencies to children in care.

Corporate parenting is founded on the principle that the local authority, collectively with other relevant services, should have the same aspirations and provide the same kind of care that any good parent would provide for their own children.

‘The role of corporate parent is not restricted to the Social Work department of the local authority but applies to all departments and agencies, who should recognise their own responsibility to promote the welfare of looked after [children and] young people and ensure that their needs are adequately addressed...”[11]

It is recommended that the State consider a holistic legal response to marginalized young people as outlined above.

It is further recommended that the State:

  • consider raising the minimum legal school leaving age to 18.
  • provide entry levels into trades through apprenticeship schemes and programmes for young people up until the age of 18 years.
  • offer alternatives to its present ‘one size fits all’ model for education


Provision for the Mental Health Needs of Children In Ireland

The capacity of the current child and adolescent mental health system to cater for the needs of children is a source of serious concern.  According the Annual Report of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health CAMHS (2014) , 14% of children were waiting more than 12 months to access CAMHS services.[12] More than 2,500 children and adolescents were on waiting lists for mental health services at the end of September 2014, an increase of 24 per cent from the previous year.[13]

A further indication of the lack of capacity in the adolescent mental health system is Ireland’s practice of sending children abroad to access services. In 2013 health authorities spent about €3.5 million on care places abroad.[14] From our experience we are aware that this practice can cause significant distress to young people and impede their development considerably, due to separation from their families, peers etc. The lack of suitable intervention is a growing issue which is not allowing young people to access their education.

Alternative care is a protective measure that ensures children’s interim safety and facilitates children’s return to their families where possible.[15]  According to the UN, non-family based care (eg. residential care) in particular “should be limited to cases where such a setting is specifically appropriate, necessary and constructive for the individual child concerned and in his/her best interests”.[16]

In particular, such alternative care placements should ensure that children can maintain regular and meaningful contact with parents, family and friends; receive appropriate education, vocational guidance and training, medical care, and enjoy freedom of thought, conscience and religion and access to leisure activities; and access programmes that prepare them in advance to return to their communities, with full attention given to them in respect of their emotional and physical needs, the family relationships, housing, schooling and employment possibilities and socio-economic status.[17]

UK research has noted that health and youth justice services are not working effectively together to respond to these children.  “High numbers of children who offend have health, education and social care needs, which, if not met at an early age, can lead to a lifetime of declining health and worsening offending behaviour,” the research notes.[18]

An extensive Irish report into the mental health of young people in care found that professionals from social work, youth justice, mental health and education all viewed the system itself as contributing to the trauma experienced by children and young people in State care and the youth justice system.[19]  One of the professionals interviewed noted as follows:

“The single biggest impact on kids’ mental health and trauma, which is – I prefer trauma because that’s what they’ve been through in my experience – is the system itself.”[20]

Citing UK research,[21] the report notes that “creative ways of developing trust and building relationships may be necessary in order for the therapeutic process to begin.”[22] This is because young people who have experienced considerable trauma may feel that it is safer not to trust adults and may reject the therapist for much longer than other young people.

According to participants, the system traumatises children particularly by failing to provide appropriate, stable placements and mental health supports for them. These failures escalate the level of need, as does the lack of early active intervention. The report goes on:

“Professionals also believed that the system itself is disturbed by the nature of the experiences of the children and young people in its care, as well as by their behaviours. These include self-harm and aggressive and sexualised behaviours, which it was noted, are frightening to carers and to the system. Professionals noted that traumatised and vulnerable children project anxiety and risk, yet there is inadequate support and training for staff working with them. Professionals also experienced the system as chaotic and lacking in scrutiny and accountability.”[23]



It is recommended that the state:

  • Undertake a national review of the mental health needs of young people.
  • Provide greater supporrt for the National Education Psychological Service (NEPS) and local CAMHS services to enable the management of long waiting lists.
  • Provide beds specifically for young people with mental health needs within the childrens units of all major hospitals.
  • Abolish the practice of sending young people abroad to access mental health services.
  • Revise the age at which young people are deemed adults in Ireland’s mental health service.



[2] McGarr, Jennifer 2010, Early School Leaving: An Exploration of the Factors Contributing to School non-Completion,  Dublin Institute of Technology. Available from:

[3] Joint Committee on Education and Skills 2010, Staying in Education: A New Way Forward, Houses of the Oireachtas. Available from file:///Users/intern/Downloads/20100525.pdf.

[4] Joint Committee on Education and Skills 2010, Staying in Education: A New Way Forward, Houses of the Oireachtas. Available from file:///Users/intern/Downloads/20100525.pdf.


[6] Ibid.

[7] Jonson-Reid, M., & Barth, R. P. (2000). From maltreatment report to juvenile incarceration: The role of child welfare services. Child Abuse and Neglect, 24(4), 505–520.

Jonson-Reid, M., & Barth, R. P. (2000). From placement to prison: The path to adolescent incarceration from child welfare supervised foster or group care. Children and Youth Services Review, 22(7), 493–516.

Johnson, K., Ereth, J., and Wagner, D. (2004). Juvenile delinquency among children involved in a child maltreatment investigation: A longitudinal study. Madison, Wis.: Children’s Research Center.

Ryan, J. P., Marshall, J. M., Herz, D., and Hernandez, P. (2008). Juvenile delinquency in child welfare: Investigating group home effects. Children and Youth Services Review, 30, 1088–99.

See also: Blades, R., Hart, D., Lea, J., & Willmott, N. (2011). Care — A stepping stone to custody? The views of children in care on the links between care, offending and custody. London: Prison Reform Trust.

[8] Taylor, C. (2006) Young People in Care and Criminal Behaviour, Jessica Kingsley.

[9] “Although the literature establishing maltreatment as a risk factor for delinquency is sizable, less attention has been given to what characteristics among maltreated youth increase individual probabilities to commit delinquency. In other words, not all children who experience maltreatment become delinquent, so what are the factors that mediate the impact of maltreatment on delinquency?’

Addressing the Needs of Multi-System Youth: Strengthening the Connection Between Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, at 15.

[10] See: Ryan, J. P., Marshall, J. M., Herz, D., & Hernandez, P. M. (2008). Juvenile deliquency in child welfare: Investigating group home effects. Children and Youth Services Review, 30(9), 1088–1099.

Widom, C. S., Schuck, A. M., & White, H. R. (2006). An examination of pathways from

childhood victimization to violence: The role of early aggression and problematic

alcohol use. Violence and Victims, 21, 675−690.

Dannerbeck, A. & Yan, J. (2011). Missouri’s crossover youth: Examining the relationship between their maltreatment history and risk of violence. OJJDP Journal of Juvenile Justice, 1, 78-92.

McAuley, C., & Davis, T. (2009). Emotional wellbeing and mental health of looked after children in

England. Child and Family Social Work, 14, 147-155.


[12] Edwards, E 2014, ‘Over 2,500 Children on Waiting Lists for Mental Health Services’, The Irish Times, 13 February. Available from:

[13] Edwards, E 2014, ‘Over 2,500 Children on Waiting Lists for Mental Health Services’, The Irish Times, 13 February. Available from:

[14] O’Brien, C 2015, ‘State Spends €3m a Year Abroad for Care of Young People’, The Irish Times, 9 July. Available from:

[15] European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and Council of Europe, Handbook  on  European  law  relating  to  the  rights  of  the  child (2015) at at p. 95.

[16] United Nations, Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (2010) UN Doc. A/RES/64/142 at 21.

[17] Guidelines of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on child-friendly justice (Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 17 November 2010 at the 1098th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies) at p. 24.

[18] Newman, R., Talbot, J., Catchpole, R., & Russell, L. (2012). Turning young lives around: How health and justice services can respond to children with mental health problems and learning disabilities who offend. London: Prison Reform Trust. Available at:

[19] Children’s Mental Health Coalition, Someone to Care: the mental health needs of children and young people in the care and youth justice systems, Available at:

[20] Children’s Mental Health Coalition, Someone to Care: the mental health needs of children and young people in the care and youth justice systems, Available at:

[21] Young Minds (2012), Improving the mental health of looked after young people: An exploration of mental health stigma. London.

[22] Children’s Mental Health Coalition, Someone to Care: the mental health needs of children and young people in the care and youth justice systems, Available at:

[23] Children’s Mental Health Coalition, Someone to Care: the mental health needs of children and young people in the care and youth justice systems, Available at:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s