Alcohol Action Ireland notes the publication of ‘An Audit of the exercise by An Garda Síochána of the provisions of Section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991’. The audit, and published report, was conducted and produced by the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr. Geoffrey Shannon. It examined 591 cases in 2014 where the Gardaí exercised emergency powers under the 1991 Act, to remove a child to a place of safety having believed ‘there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child’.
In a significant number of cases (91), reviewed as part of the audit, it was evident that alcohol abuse was a significant factor. Additionally, the audit also highlighted cases where the child removed were themselves under the influence of alcohol.
These disturbing findings further highlight the impact of alcohol related harms on our children, and the need to implement measures that can protect children from such harms.
The report outlines the need for a significant change of culture and makes a series of recommendations including – Drug and alcohol abuse place an insurmountable burden on the State agencies and must be viewed as a key risk indicator in terms of child protection.
Alcohol Action Ireland also applauds Dr. Shannon’s media remarks when commenting on his hopes for a broad government response to his report:
” … what it [the report] does demonstrates is how corrosive alcohol is, and what we see is that the biggest challenge facing society is the adverse consequences for the welfare of many children posed by alcohol. Drug and alcohol abuse, are key features of this report, and have a very damaging effect on children, and the failure by society to address alcohol as a fundamental problem, places insurmountable burdens on the child protection system, so it’s not just about Tusla or the Gardai. It’s about society, and our ambivalence to alcohol and substance misuse”.
For over 500 days the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill – a progressive piece of legislation designed to significantly and positively alter Ireland’s harmful relationship with alcohol – has languished in the Oireachtas and faced inordinate delay.
The Bill contains a range of measures designed to work together to reduce alcohol consumption in Ireland so reducing alcohol related harm. It will protect children, families and communities from alcohol related harms and create an environment that supports a low risk approach to individual consumption.