11th June 2020
Proposed abolition of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs
When the Department of Children and Youth Affairs was established, the decision demonstrated the vision of Government: that growing up in Ireland means you have the best start in life available anywhere in the world – has that vision changed?
Our States long history of failing children and youth, and especially those placed in the care of the State, has only begun to be addressed, and the establishment of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs was an important symbolic and practical milestone on this journey.
Children and young people in care and with care experience, represented by EPIC Empowering People In Care, remain one of the most vulnerable groups in our society. While we, as a State, still don’t collate information on outcomes for children and young people in the care system, despite the recommendation of the Ryan Report (now more than ten years ago) we know from other jurisdictions that outcomes for children and young people in care and with care experience, are generally less favourable than for other children and young people outside of the care system including:
- Mental health and emotional wellbeing
- Educational achievement
- Vulnerability to poor physical health and early pregnancies
- Economic and social disadvantage
- Involvement in crime or substance misuse both as children and adults
Children and young people still have a long way to go in garnering a significant voice in society and, while positive change in attitudes to children and young people has accelerated in the past few decades, the privilege of being a participatory child or young person is still an experience that does not extend to all, and the reality is, it is usually just the voices of the few.
Despite the progress made for children and young people generally since the establishment of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs we, as a nation are far from our guarantee in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, to cherish all the children of the nation equally and the dismantling of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will almost certainly help to ensure that this guarantee remains, more than 100 years later, a distant vision.