February 21, 2024
Shocking new report shows widespread violation of children’s human rights – Pauline Tully TD, Sorca Clarke TD and Kathleen Funchion TD

Sinn Féin spokespersons on Disability, Education and Children, Pauline Tully TD, Sorca Clarke TD and Kathleen Funchion TD, have reacted with shock and outrage at the complete failure to protect the rights of children with a disability in Irish classrooms.

Speaking this morning following the publication of Inclusion Ireland and AsIam’s survey, they called on the government to immediately publish and implement the long-awaited guidelines and regulations on the use of seclusion and restraint in Irish schools.

Teachta Tully said:

“Today’s report is shocking in the extreme. The levels of physical restraint, mechanical restraint and, most alarmingly, chemical restraint are something from a different age.

“I cannot comprehend that in 2024, children are being restrained in classrooms with such levels of physical force they come home with bruises. To learn that up to 35% of disabled children have experienced some form of seclusion, that children have been locked alone in sensory rooms, is difficult reading.”

Teachta Clarke said:

“I echo AsIam’s calls for a ‘rigorous, child-centred, rights-based system of training and regulation’ programme for teachers and schools to better prepare them to understand and meet the needs of Autistic and neurodivergent children.”

Teachta Funchion said:

“There is little doubt that this report shows clearly there is a lack of robust guidance and regulation and that it is having a detrimental impact on children with a disability. The complete lack of safeguards for children and vigorous child protection regulations is evident in all of the testimonies.”

Deputy Tully added:

“Unfortunately, many of the testimonies contained in this report are not news to parents of children with autism, they are a lived reality for thousands of families across the state.

“Guidance and regulation is needed without delay which protects children and young people and complies with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).”

Deputy Clarke added:

“I don’t think anyone could stand over the results of this survey, they show a sizable cohort of children do not enjoy equal rights, and are being marginalised because of a lack of guidance from government coupled with a lack of training for staff.

“The personal testimonies of parents are particularly difficult to read, children have the right to be educated in a safe environment that is tailored to meet their needs and respond to those needs in a humane and dignified manner. I do appreciate this work is difficult and demanding, and there is no doubt our schools are better places for all children because of inclusion. And this is down to the thousands of special education teachers and SNAs all across the state that are 100% dedicated to the children in their care. But they need support and guidance – the Government is failing them.”

Deputy Funchion pointed to the Government’s statutory duty to uphold the rights of all children, adding: “The State is clearly failing on all fronts; they are failing children in the provision of equal access to health care, access to CAMHS, they are failing children in direct provision, as also highlighted by the Ombudsman for Children and Children’s Rights Alliance recently and failing children with a disability.

“Children deserve better.”

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