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Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman
State Care

Reports about welfare of children in State care deleted amid GDPR concerns

Peadar Tóibín TD described the Minister’s actions as “impossible to comprehend”, saying that the decision is an example of “GDPR overreach”.

THE DEPARTMENT OF Children has said it deleted reports pertaining to the welfare of children in State care due to concerns that processing the information would breach data protection regulations.

In May, the retired Judge Dermot Simms emailed the Minister, attaching four reports that expressed concern about children taken into care by Tusla.

Three out of four reports were deleted – a move which has been branded “crazy” by Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín, after he requested the information through a parliamentary question.

In a statement today, the Department said that Minister Roderic O’Gorman “shares the judge’s concern” but it “did not have a legal basis” to keep or process the information in the reports.

“Following consideration of the Department’s statutory responsibilities in relation to data protection, the Department formed the view that it did not have a legal basis to process the personal data contained in three of those four reports, and those reports were subsequently deleted from the Department’s records,” it said.

“The Department must discharge its statutory responsibilities under data protection legislation in relation to the processing of personal information.

“While the Department could not process three of the reports which were attached to the judge’s correspondence, the substantive issues to which the reports related were set out in the correspondence itself.”

It added that O’Gorman will continue to work with Tusla and others to ensure vulnerable children “receive the best possible service”.

“The care and welfare of children is a priority for Government, with a particular focus on those who are most vulnerable including children in the care of the State. The issues referenced in the judge’s letter are the subject of ongoing engagement between Tusla and the officials in his Department.”

‘GDPR overreach’

Earlier this week, Tóibín described the Minister’s actions as “impossible to comprehend”, saying that the decision is an example of “GDPR overreach”.

“The Minister is directly responsible to ensure the safety of children in state care. A retiring judge stuck his neck out to bring very serious matters to the attention of the Minister for Children,” he said.

“I have had much contact with social workers on the ground who are very concerned about [Special Emergency Accommodation], in particular in relation to the astronomical amount of funding devoted to them, the lack of vetting procedures and qualifications of staff and the level of care to children in emergency accommodation.

“Following these concerns I asked the Minister if he would furnish me with copies of the reports. This week he replied saying that on foot of GDPR concerns three out of the four reports have been deleted upon receipt by his Department.

“This is crazy stuff – the idea that rather than acting on the very serious allegations and disclosures made by Judge Simms and the reports attached, the Minister instead opted to delete the correspondence.”

Tóibín accused the Minister of using GDPR “as cover for a lack of action”.

“The Minister, it seems, is deleting correspondence from a retired judge even though the children are anonymised in the reports, citing GDPR.

“Our care system is at breaking point – and Aontú believes we need better funding for voluntary care providers, much stronger regulation of Special Emergency Accommodation, better pay for foster families, more foster families and more social workers.”

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