Barriers to the realisation of rights of children with disabilities

The rights of the child are universally set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, while the Rights of Children with disabilities are further fortified by the UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The OCO report highlights the unfortunate lack of representation within the law and policy considerations that directly affect these children. While much work has been done over recent years to attempt to overhaul the law regarding children in order to give them a voice and place the best interests of children at the forefront of thinking in the mind of the legislator. This has been achieved to an extent in theory with the introduction of the best interest principle in many pieces of legislation such as the Child Care Act 1991, as amended. The Ombudsman has noted that the same consideration has not been extended to protecting the rights of children with disabilities despite the State’s constitutional obligation, under article 42A, to uphold these rights and ensure the rights are implemented into their daily lives by not creating any policy that may obstruct or impede those rights. The constitutional obligation and array of legislation, such as the Equal Status Acts 2000-2018, showcase that in theory the state has provided a broad outline of protection for children with disabilities, however the report makes it clear that these protections are not sufficient in practice and thus, overhaul of the law in this area is needed.

The OCO highlights a number of barriers that they believe are the cause to the lack of protection of rights for children with disabilities. The report notes that while the legal framework exists, it is insufficient and inconsistent in its discussion of disability, while the inclusion of age limits on services rather than need based calculation has been a highly criticized feature of the law in this area for some time, a prime example of this is school for people with disabilities ending at the age of 18 with no consideration of the needs of that person. The report also notes that the States lack of coordination in relation to the implementation of children with disabilities rights as a barrier, they highlight that it creates a lack of focus on the actual children that are being failed by the State.

Finally, the report noted potential avenues for correction of errors and inclusion of children with disabilities in the law that affects them, one of which is of course amending the current legislation to comply fully with the UNCRC. The other suggestion in the report involves redefining and reorganising the administrative model.

Check out the OCO report here.

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