Including children with intellectual disabilities in UNCRC – Ireland goes before the Committee in Geneva this week

Inclusion Ireland has worked with civil society organisations and the Children’s Rights Alliance, to ensure that children with intellectual disabilities will be included in representations to the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Committee this week. A delegation from Ireland will present on Tuesday 23rd January and Wednesday 24th of January in Geneva. The Children’s Rights alliance issued an alternative report called “Are we There yet” in which it details the impact on children of the lack of rights and supports in many areas of Irish life. The key areas of concern Inclusion Ireland have for children with intellectual disabilities include:

No representative advocacy for children with intellectual disabilities
Most children with an intellectual disability in Ireland do not have access to independent advocacy services and supports causing children and their families to struggle to navigate a complex system through health, social care, education and services and supports. Children must engage with multiple teams to access the services they need. There are little to no wrap-around supports which could contribute to the holistic development of each child so they can have their rights upheld. Opportunities for children with intellectual disabilities to participate in decisions and matters that impact on them and have their voices heard are too limited, they are often overlooked and forgotten

Difficulty accessing inclusive education
The EPSEN Act 2004 is currently under review, many parts of it have not been commenced and some provisions contained in it go against UNCRPD which Ireland ratified in 2018. Human rights instruments have moved on since 2004 and we must change education to make it fully inclusive for all.

2% of pupils (16.000) are access their education through special schools and special classes. The majority of these pupils have an intellectual disability. In special schools there is no access to career guidance, limited choice of subjects, and often no formal examination or pathway to achieving certification within the framework of the current curriculum. This leads to low expectations as to what can happen after education in terms of further education and training and opportunities for employment.

Many children travel over an hour each morning to go to their special schools, when there are often multiple mainstream schools closer to home. This level of travel can have substantial detrimental effects on both the physical and mental health of the child.

Children with an intellectual disability are still experiencing seclusion and restraint in school. Children can be secluded from the classroom or restraint, in a number of forms, used at school which precludes children from accessing their right to education. It should be noted the Irish authorities have not yet published long awaited guidelines on seclusion and restraint which will provide much needed direction in the education sector on this important issue.

Lack of children’s therapeutic services
Children are experiencing falling through the cracks due to lack of access to mental health services for children with an intellectual disability. The level of Mental Health Intellectual Disability (MHID) services remains at 33% for Adults and 12% for Children and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH-ID) of what was envisaged by the previous mental health strategy “A vision for change”

Children also experience a severe lack of therapeutic services Inclusion Ireland conducted a Parent survey with more than 1000 families and found:

Over 50% of the families of children surveyed are not in receipt of any service.
Many parents reported that their child spent a significant time on a waiting list for services. 85% wait for more than a year.
Tamara Byrne, self advocate and youth affairs spokesperson for Inclusion Ireland says; “For a long time adults with intellectual disabilities didn’t have their voice heard. People thought we couldn’t speak up. People often think that about young people too but they deserve to have access to advocacy, inclusive education and therapeutic supports so they can have the same rights as everyone else and be the best they can be”.

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