EPIC, Empowering People in Care is the only independent organisation in Ireland which works with, and for, children and young people in the care system or with care experience. A core part of the work of EPIC is the provision of an individual advocacy and support service to this cohort. The policy development undertaken by EPIC seeks to create positive change for children and young people in care and with care experience at a systemic level.
EPIC is also informed by our Youth Councils, which consist of children and young people with care experience. Our Youth Councils act as a consultative group that informs the EPIC Board and staff on specific issues and supports our policy, research, and advocacy work.
All of EPIC’s work is grounded in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), particularly Article 12, which provides for the child’s right to be heard and to participate in decision-making.
EPIC acknowledges the progress made by the state in enhancing the rights of children and young people in care or with care experience, both directly and indirectly. The enactment of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2022 has made further progress for children and young people in care engaging with the courts and legal system, most notably by placing the appointment of Guardian Ad-Litem (GAL) on a statutory footing but also the requirement to have the views of the child expressed and considered in proceedings in Section. 5, which we hope to see commenced soon.
We believe the establishment of specialised Family Courts offers an opportunity to rethink how the views and participation of children and young people that are subject to child and family law proceedings can be sought in spaces that are safe and welcoming.
Tusla’s Child and Youth Participation Strategy 2019-2023 highlights the specific need for child-informed practice and requires the agency to ensure the views of children are ascertained and given due weight.
Against this backdrop, we welcome the progression of the National Framework for Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-making and look forward to seeing the commitments of government. It is our position that for the strategy to be meaningful, it must involve all states services and government departments that interact with children and young people.
Read the full Submission (PDF)