A child protection official has said the law should be amended to allow any person with concerns about the welfare of a child to apply to a District Court to get an order to place the child under State supervision or care.

The recommendation is contained in the fifth report by the Government-appointed Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Geoffrey Shannon.

Last month a report on child deaths, chaired by Mr Shannon, showed that the majority of children who died from unnatural deaths were known to the HSE but not in State care.

The report, which was presented to the Cabinet today, was handed over to the Minister for Children in February.

The recent report on child deaths found that 68 of the 112 children who died from unnatural causes, such as suicide, drug abuse, road crashes and unlawful killing, were known to the HSE but living with their families.

It found the HSE had been aware of drug and alcohol abuse continuing in a number of families, yet it closed their files.

At the launch, Mr Shannon said deference to parental rights in some cases impeded intervention.

In his fifth report, Mr Shannon recommends that the law be changed so any person with serious concerns that the HSE is failing in its duty, should be allowed to apply to a district court for an order to place the child under State supervision.

This would apply to children already known to child services.

Mr Shannon said the proposal would apply in exceptional circumstances and the HSE would always be the point of first referral.

Other recommendations in the report include improving support services for families and monitoring HSE care by the courts.

It also recommends that greater family supports should be considered due to the recession.

It adds that financial provisions for children should be included in the Budget.

Mr Shannon noted the shortage of foster placements and said there is evidence children remained in institutional care for up to two years due to this shortage.

The report calls for a review of supports for the children of asylum seekers and says the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be incorporated into Irish law.

It recommends criminal behaviour associated with the Magdalene laundries should be investigated immediately and followed by prosecutions where appropriate.

In relation to the Ryan Report, it recommends prosecutions where necessary.

For the first time, the Rapporteur also recommends a ban on all physical punishment and calls for a referendum as soon as possible.