The Ombudsman for Children

What is an ombudsman?

An ombudsman is a person who has been appointed to investigate complaints about services and organisations to make sure your rights are upheld and respected. Ombudsmen are independent, free and impartial.

There are different ombudsmen with responsibility for investigating complaints about different services and organisations. For example, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) deals with complaints from the public about members of the Garda Síochána (the Irish police force). The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman investigates complaints about financial service providers and pension providers.

The Ombudsman for Children

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) promotes the rights and welfare of children and young people under 18 years of age living in Ireland. It investigates complaints made by children, or on behalf of children, about services they receive from public organisations in Ireland, such as schools, local authorities, the HSE, or Tusla.

The Ombudsman for Children in Ireland is a statutory office established under the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002.

How does the OCO promote the rights and welfare of children?

The OCO highlights issues that concern children, and monitors and reviews legislation, Government policies, and how they affect children. The OCO advises Government, and other organisations delivering services on behalf of the Government, to help make sure laws and policies respect children’s rights.

The OCO also supports and encourages children and young people to find out about their rights and how they can be protected and realised.

Making a complaint

The OCO complaints service is free and independent.

Before making a complaint, you must contact the organisation directly and go through their complaints procedure. It is important that you wait for a final decision or reply to your complaint.

If you are not happy with the response from the organisation, you can make a complaint to the OCO. You can also make a complaint to the OCO if the service has not responded to your complaint when the service said it would.

In most cases, the complaint must be received by the OCO within 2 years of the action or event in order to investigate.

Which bodies can the OCO investigate?

The OCO can investigate complaints about public bodies in the Republic of Ireland providing services or making decisions about children and families, or organisations providing services on behalf of the State.

Who can make a complaint?

Anyone can make a complaint to the OCO. The OCO can accept complaints from children and young people under the age of 18, and also from adults on children’s behalf.

Most complaints come from parents but people working with children such as residential care staff, social workers and teachers also make complaints on behalf of children. If a parent is not making the complaint, the OCO must inform one parent that a complaint is being made.

How to make a complaint

You can make a complaint in different ways.

  • You can fill out an online complaint form.
  • Or, you can print off a copy of the complaint form document (pdf) and post it to the OCO at the Ombudsman for Children’s Office, Millennium House, 52-56 Great Strand Street, Dublin 1. The form can also be emailed to ococomplaint@oco.ie
  • Or, you can call Freephone 1800 20 20 40 and ask for a complaint form to be sent to you. A caseworker can also go through the form with you if you need help.

The complaint form is also available in the following languages:

You should include any documents you sent or received from the service you made the complaint to, and give the reasons why you are not satisfied with the outcome of your complaint. If the OCO needs more information, they will get in touch with you.

The Ombudsman for Children is not able to investigate complaints where legal proceedings have already started.

Appealing a decision by the OCO

If you think that the OCO decision on your complaint (after it has been investigated) is incorrect, you can appeal the decision. You can find out more about the appeals process on the OCO website.

Further information

Ombudsman for Children

Millennium House
52-56 Great Strand Street
Dublin 1
D01 F5P8
Ireland

Tel: +353 1 865 6800
Locall: Freefone 1800 20 20 40
Email: oco@oco.ie

Page edited: 18 January 2023