December 16, 2009


THE HUMAN rights of almost 250 children were “shockingly violated” last year, according to a coalition of 38 campaigning organisations.

The Children’s Mental Health Alliance said the inadequacy and inappropriateness of mental health services for children were destroying lives and leading to the deaths of some children.

The chairwoman of the group, Jillian van Turnhout, said the delivery of child mental health services and supports must be made a political priority.

“In a shocking violation of their human rights, nearly 250 children were treated in adult in-patient units in 2008 because there were no child or adolescent places,” she told a press conference in Dublin to announce the setting up of the new alliance.

“More than 3,000 children face unacceptably long waiting lists for mental health services, there is patchy service provision across the country, responses to that fail to meet basic needs and a lack of focus on early intervention that could prevent future problems.”

The coalition has been brought together by Amnesty International and the Children’s Rights Alliance.

Executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, said it was well within the power of the Government to deliver on these, and that it had a moral obligation to do so.

“Failure to do so will cost more in the long run. There will be a human cost.”

He said the suicide rate here in the 15-24 age bracket was fourth-highest in the EU.

“The immediate implementation of these demands will truly make a difference to children.”

He said the coalition would next year update members and the public on progress.

Fine Gael’s spokesman on children, Alan Shatter, said at yesterday’s launch that the coalition’s campaign was “badly needed”.

“It is extremely frustrating in Leinster House beating the drum on these issues and getting promises which aren’t delivered.

“Young people are dying who shouldn’t be. It’s not too dramatic to say that.”

The deaths of young people such as Tracey Fay in 2002 and David Foley in 2005, as a result of drug overdoses while in HSE care, could be attributed to “wholly inadequate” provision for their mental wellbeing . He called on the HSE to publish the reports of the investigations into these deaths.

Audrey Deane, social justice and policy officer with the Society of St Vincent de Paul, called for “leadership” from the HSE on children’s mental health and described as “disgraceful” the “ping-ponging between the National Educational Psychological Service and the HSE community health services when it comes to children’s mental health”.

Key demands: alliance wants action 

The Children’s Mental Health Alliance is making four demands of the Government, to be delivered in the next two years. These are:

  • an end to the use of adult inpatient beds for children;
  • the provision by schools of mental health services when needed;
  • the provision of forensic mental health services to children with mental health difficulties who come before the courts; and
  • a mental-health assessment framework for all children in care.