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Children in Care

Nine children in care or known to HSE died by suicide last year

Another child was murdered while in HSE aftercare.

Updated 11.06 pm

NINE CHILDREN WHO were in care or ‘known to the HSE’ died by suicide last year.

Figures released by the National Review Panel today show that 23 children and young people who were in care, aftercare or known to the HSE died in 2012. The previous year, there were 15 deaths of children and young people reported.

Eleven of the children who died last year were male and 12 female. The vast majority (18) were living with their own families but known to child protection services. Three were in care at the time, while two were in aftercare.

At nine, the highest number of unexpected deaths was from suicide. One person was murdered.

Of the 23 who died, seven were aged between 17 and 20 years old; six between 11 and 16; two between six and 10; four between one and five years old and four under the age of one.

Other causes of death included road traffic accidents and natural causes.

In its report today, the review panel gave an overview of all child deaths between 2010 and 2012 and published seven case studies.

During the three year period, suicide remained the greatest cause of death other than natural causes.

Altogether 60 child deaths were notified to the panel over the three years, 16 of which were suicides.

According to the report, seven of the victims were female and nine male. Only one of the victims was in the care of the HSE at the time of the suicide. Three were in aftercare services. The youngest child was 13 and the eldest 19. The age groups most represented were 15 and 16.

“The significant proportion of young people known to the services who took their own lives adds to concern about what has been acknowledged as a widespread national problem and affirms the need for all staff to be competent in identifying and responding to indications of suicidal ideation,” commented chairperson Dr Helen Buckley.

In March 2010, the National Review Panel was tasked with reviewing cases where children who are in the care of the state, or who have been known to child protection services die or experience a serious incident. Its main function is to determine the quality of service provision to the children or young person prior their death or experience a serious incident.

Releasing the details today, Dr Buckley said, “The National Review Panel recognises that the review process is difficult and painful, particularly for the bereaved families, but also for others who knew and worked with the children and young people who died.

“We are very grateful to all those who shared their experiences and insights with us. Their inputs have informed the conclusions reached in the reports, and have contributed to the learning points identified within them.”

In her forward, Dr Buckley said the reviews are helpful in identifying policy gaps and promoting learning.

“For example, the overview of cases presented in this report has illustrated the consequences of failure to intervene early in cases of child neglect, partially because the Social Work Departments were challenged in their capacity to deal with the pressure of work referred to them.”

Two areas which need immediate remediation were the sharing of information between services and the quality of child protection assessments.

She also noted that one of the most challenging issues to emerge is the resistance of some young people to services that could have been helpful to them. This highlights the need for practitioners to develop creative ways of engaging the clients, she added.


  • Samaritans 1850 60 90 90 or email

  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634

  • Console 1800 201 890

  • Aware 1890 303 302

  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email

  • Childline 1800 66 66 66

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