Children in care moved by HSE ‘to save money’

Some children in residential care are being moved to unsuitable placements by the HSE so it can save money, social care managers have claimed.

The Irish Association of Social Care Management (IASCM) listed a number of instances reported to it by different centres around the country where children were moved, sometimes at short notice, against their wishes.

The IASCM represents care providers in the private, public, and voluntary sector and at a conference in Dublin yesterday, they said decisions appeared to be made “by accountants” instead of being taken in the best interests of children.

The conference heard a number of examples of children being moved, including:

* A 16-year-old in a stable residential placement being moved to a facility four hours away “to save a minimal amount of money”.

* A drug-dealing mother removing her teenage son from his residential placement during an access visit, with the HSE making no effort to have him returned.

* A lack of cover for sick leave and maternity leave meaning some care staff working “an unhealthy number of hours”.

* A 16-year-old referred to as a high suicide risk by staff at an emergency department being refused access to a child and adolescent mental health service on the basis that she was too old.

* A boy with complex needs and who at age 11, was described as a “sexual predator” but who managed to sit his Junior Certificate, only to then be sent to a placement in Britain against the wishes of his guardian ad litem, “because it was cheaper than the 1:1 care we were giving him”.

David Durney of the IASCM claimed that in some cases, a child’s care planning document was not being followed and that “decisions are being made contrary to care plans”.

“Without a shadow of a doubt there is definitely decisions made primarily related to financial cost.”

His IASCM colleague Joanne Condon said it appeared to some care managers that “accounts are making decisions about people in care”.

Yesterday’s conference was addressed by the former governor of Mountjoy Prison, John Lonergan, who said even during the boom, not enough attention was paid to the scenarios faced by vulnerable children.

He said the decision by Michael McDowell, the former justice minister, to close Shanganagh House — formerly a facility for vulnerable young people in shankill in Dublin — was “a disgrace” and that St Patrick’s Institute for Young Offenders “was always a jail”.

He also claimed that in the past, “misfits” in the system sometimes staffed facilities for vulnerable young people despite having no training.

“If you see [these young people] as scumbags or dirt birds or whatever, that’s it,” he said. “You are going nowhere.”

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