Sunday, January 25, 2009
With Irish society still reeling with the full disclosure of the disturbing details of the Roscommon incest and child abuse case, it is imperative now that we close all loopholes that limit the states capacity to react to suspicions of neglect for the benefit of all our children.
One such legislative barrier is the provision within the 2000 Education Welfare Act which states that the functions of the National Educational Welfare Board are limited to children between the ages of six and sixteen. Crucially there is no statutory requirement for children to be enrolled in school before the age of six, which in effect means that teachers, principals and NEWB officers are powerless to intervene in a case of chronic absenteeism of a child who is enrolled in a school under that age. At that most important developmental stage in a child's education, the infant years, the NEWB has no statutory grounds to intervene in a case of serious absenteeism which many educators point to as an indication of child neglect.
It is clear now that this legislation must be amended to ensure that wherever a child is enrolled in a school that the powers afforded to the NEWB under the Educational Welfare act can be enforced, regardless of the child's age. Such a change would ensure that those in the school community and those charged with the responsibility of monitoring school attendance can make the maximum difference at the earliest opportunity.