Analysis or paralysis? Monitory mechanisms for child protection services in Ireland

Child protection and welfare systems are one essential part of a nation state’s approach to protecting and promoting the welfare of children. Keane (2022) argues that we are in a new phase of democracy called ‘monitory democracy’. In this phase, democratic systems develop power scrutinising mechanisms and institutions that focus on public accountability and governance, with this ‘monitoring’ work being undertaken by government institutions and civil society actors. As child protection and welfare systems are entrusted with significant power by governments, they are a significant focus of such monitoring.

The focus of this paper is to examine the strategies and mechanisms adopted by Ireland to monitor the operation, quality and development of its child protection and welfare system. In using the term monitor/monitory, the focus of analysis will be on the Irish system of governance, oversight and monitoring of state-provided child protection and welfare services.

Kenneth Burns is a senior lecturer, Deputy Director of the Master of Social Work course and Director of Practice (social work) at University College Cork. He has worked as a social worker and social work team leader in child protection and welfare. His main research and teaching interests are in child protection policy and practice, staff retention, social media abuse in social work, childcare proceedings in the District Court / voluntary care / informal kinship care, and community-based participatory research.

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