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Report criticises HSE response to child neglect cases

The review of almost 100 cases found the extent of neglect was poorly documented in many social workers’ initial reports.

Image: Child neglect image via Shutterstock

THE HSE HAS come in for criticism following the publication of a report which details cases in which children were left without an allocated social worker, despite numerous reports of neglect.

The independent review of neglect cases focused on three areas – Roscommon, Waterford and south east Dublin. 96 cases involving more than 300 children were considered by the reviewer, who made a number of recommendations on how to better safeguard the young people involved.

Of the cases examined, 45 were deemed to have adequate safeguards in place, 29 were found to require further assessment and intervention, while 17 were deemed to need immediate action.

It was found that in many cases, official reports compiled by social workers were “not sufficiently evidence-based” while others others lacked a summary of previous interventions with the families and their outcomes. The report adds:

The use of chronologies would have helped to demonstrate the chronic, pervasive and longstanding nature of the neglect of some children.

Inclusion of the actual dates when children were left unattended, missed school days and incidences of teachers reporting children “presenting as smelly and dirty” would all have helped build a better picture of the impact of neglect, the report states. In addition, it finds that “the language used in professionals’ reports did not always fully convey the full horror of  children’s living circumstances”. The report adds:

Words such as “dirty” and “unhygienic” do not adequately describe the situation endured by some children in homes where beds were saturated in urine, there was no heat, there was dog excrement in the living room and bedrooms, a worker’s shoe stuck to the carpet, mouldy food had adhered to kitchen counters and the toilet was black with dirt and excrement.

Amongst the recommendations is a need for greater inter-Departmental communication and “dialogue with the judiciary about thresholds for statutory and legal intervention to protect neglected children”. The report was completed last year, and published yesterday.

Reacting to the report, Roscommon TD Denis Naughten said it was clear from the findings that the issue of neglect was not being given the priority it deserves within the child protection services, the courts or the Gardaí. The independent deputy said:

This audit sets out a programme of actions to be taken and this must happen without delay or postponement due to lack of funds; vulnerable children need action and they need it now.

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