Safe and Protected

Below we present a range of data that provides "snap shots" of how children and young people in Ireland are doing in relation to National Outcome 3: Safe and protected from harm.

Home life for children and young people

  • Within the Growing Up in Ireland National Longitudinal Study of Children the vast majority of older children reported getting on ‘very well’ or ‘well’ with their mothers and fathers, and this was true at both 9 and 13 years of age. Both mothers and fathers reported very high levels of attachment to their infants at 9 months of age. Equally, at age 3 and 5 years, most parents described high levels of warmth and low levels of conflict in the parent–child relationship (Growing Up in Ireland, 2009, 2012, 2013).
  • An ‘authoritative’ style of parenting, which balances controlling behaviour with high levels of warmth, is typically associated with better outcomes for children.  Among 9-year-olds, a majority of both mothers (77%) and fathers (68%) tended towards this approach (Growing Up in Ireland, 2009, 2013).
  • 1% or less of mothers used smacking ‘regularly’ or ‘always’ to discipline their children. Only about half said they ‘never’ smacked their children (Growing Up in Ireland, 2009, 2013). 

Safe and well cared for

  • In 2014, there were 43,620 referrals to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, for cases involving child welfare or abuse, an increase of referrals from previous years (Tusla, 2015a).
  • There were 6,411 children in the care of the state in May 2015. 92% were in foster care (Tusla, 2015b).
  • There were 2,070 admissions to care in 2012, a 7.9% fall from 2009. As in 2011, 62% of children admitted to care in 2012 were on a voluntary basis (Tusla, 2014).
  • The National Audit of Neglect Cases found that parental alcohol misuse was a factor in 62% of neglect cases and that domestic violence featured in almost two-thirds of the sample cases (Health Service Executive, 2012).
  • One in eleven children in Ireland say parental alcohol use has a negative effect on their lives (Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, 2010).
  • 37% of child abusers are themselves under 18 years of age and there is a consequent need for an appropriate therapeutic response to children and young people who perpetrate abuse (Rape Crisis Network, 2013).
  • 12,018 people under 15 years were discharged following an admission to hospital for injury, poisoning or other external cause in 2012 (Economic and Social Research Institute, 2013).

Crime and anti-social behaviour

  • 12,246 children and young people (involving 24,069 incidents) were referred to the Garda Diversion Programme in 2011. 25% of children who were referred to the Programme were female while 75% were male. Public order (29%), theft and related offences (24.9%) and damage to property and to the environment (10.4%) constitute the three main categories of offences for which children and young people were referred (An Garda Síochána, 2012). [1] 


  • As of September 2015, 31.4% (1,571) of the total homeless population (4,999) are children in 738 families. This represents a growth of 81.6% in the child homeless population since January, when the total amount of children was 865, living in 401 families (Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, 2015).  
  • In 2011, 26% of the homeless population in Ireland were under 25 years. Of the 980 under 25 who were homeless then, 20% (199) were between the ages of 0-4. 35% (339) were between the ages of 20-24. There was a gender divide in the homeless population, with more males (53%) than females (47%) in this age category being homeless. The national average for male / female homelessness is 67% / 33% (Central Statistics Office, 2012).

Community safety

  • Almost one-third of mothers of 9-year-olds felt it was not safe to walk alone in their local area after dark; 9% felt it was not safe to play outdoors in their local area during the day; and 42% felt there were no safe parks, playgrounds and play spaces in their local area (Growing Up in Ireland, Special Report, 2013).
  • 90.8% of young people reported feeling safe in their communities, although there is regional variation with the figure dropping to 84.9% in Dublin (Department of Children and Youth Affairs, 2012)
  • When compared with other children, Traveller children, immigrant children and children with a disability and/or chronic illness were less likely to report feeling safe in the area where they live (Department of Children and Youth Affairs, 2012).
  • 24% of mothers reported that their 9-year-old child had been bullied in the last year, but a substantially higher percentage of children (40%) described ‘being picked on’ in the same period (Growing Up in Ireland, 2009). 
[1] For 2013 data see press release on the 2013 Annual Report of the committee appointed to monitor the effectiveness of the Garda Diversion Programme. Report not published yet.

Click here for data sources and references.


Find out more:

How healthy are our children and young people?

Want to find out more about how children and young people are doing in education?

What about poverty or employment?

What do we know about diversity and children and young people's sense of belonging within society


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