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Report on deaths of children in State care shows 'systemic failure'

The report by the Independent Review Group set up to examine the deaths of nearly 200 children in care and young adults known to child protection services will be published this week.

File photo
File photo
Image: AP Photo/Michael Probst/PA

AN INDEPENDENT SENATOR has said that leaked excerpts from a report into the deaths of nearly 200 children and young adults either in THE care or known to the State over a ten year period point to a “systemic failure”.

Jillian van Turnhout, the former CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance, says that she is worried by the contents of a story in today’s Irish Independent.

The story carries details of the report of the Independent Review Group on Child Deaths which is expected to be published on Wednesday.

The Minister of State for Children, Frances Fitzgerald has already said that the findings, which she received in the final report in March, are “harrowing and horrific”.

The report, which examined the deaths of 196 children in care and young adults known to child protection services between 2000 and 2010, found that the majority did not receive an adequate child protection service.

It also said that there were delays, poor incomplete records, no care after children turned 18 and a lack of co-operation between agencies involved in the provision of care and support.

It also calls for an independent investigiation into several high-profile deaths of children in the care of the HSE or who were known to the agency.

Van Turnhout said that while she had not yet seen the report, the story in today’s Irish Independent indicated a “systemic failure” within the HSE which was “extremely worrying”.

“My understanding is that it details errors and poor practice by HSE staff and social workers. Every one of these numbers in the report is a child and this report has been looking at many deaths that could have been prevented,” she told TheJournal.ie.

She said that it was important that the publication of the report on Wednesday did not mark day one of a process of reform but that measures have been put in place since the findings were passed to the Minister.

Van Turnhout said that there needed to be more co-ordination between people and agencies involved in the care of a child.

“If you take it from child’s perspective, if you are being dealt with by a litany of people, the children don’t have a constant presence,” she said.

“I know that if you talk to children in care they will talk of 20 plus social workers being assigned to them in a matter of a few years.

“We have to put a value on stability for children and knowing that somebody is there. That’s what we all expect in our own lives and yet we think in a different way when we deal with children in the care of state and I don’t accept that.”

Van Turnhout said there was a great urgency to establish the Child and Family Support Agency and to hold the Children’s Rights Referendum this year.

She added: “We really do need to ensure that each child is allocated somebody who will have direct responsiblity to make sure that that child is looked after and that they know that they can talk to somebody about things.

“The referendum has to happen this year. Children are constantly being pushed aside. My patience has now run out,” she added.

Read: Independent report on deaths of children in state care to be published ‘shortly’

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Hugh O'Connell

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