Molly case: Lack of co-ordination between HSE and Tusla resulted in 'insufficient' support

Molly case: Lack of co-ordination between HSE and Tusla resulted in 'insufficient' support
Children’s Ombudsman Dr Niall Muldoon

A report will be published today on the support given to a child with a disability who was abandoned at birth.

It comes after a complaint was made to The Ombudsman for Children by the child’s foster carer.

The report, due for publication later this morning, centres on the Molly case - that is not the child’s real name. The child has Down Syndrome and severe autism and was abandoned at birth

The Ombudsman for Children carried out an investigation into a complaint made on behalf of Molly, who is now a teenager, by the child’s foster carer about the level of support and services being provided by Tusla and the HSE.

Speaking ahead of the publication, Dr Muldoon said: “Molly is dependent on her foster carers in all areas of her care, including feeding, toileting, bathing, and dressing. She requires a wide range of therapies and services.

"Her foster carer complained to the OCO about the level of supports and services being provided by Tusla and the HSE. Although Molly brings joy and positivity to their home, her foster carer was struggling financially and emotionally to deal with her needs.

“We investigated Molly’s case and found that there was a lack of co-ordination between the Tusla and the HSE which meant that services and supports provided were insufficient.

“We also found that this is a problem facing many children with disabilities in care. In 2015 there were 472 children with a diagnosed moderate to severe disability in foster care, representing approximately 8% of the foster care population in Ireland.

“Following our investigation Tusla has committed to undertake a systemic review of the supports and services being offered to children in their care with a moderate to severe disability. They will also identify these children to the HSE to facilitate care planning and joint working for these children.

“The HSE has committed to include vulnerable children in state care in their performance indicators under Progressing Disability Services, and to ensure that any assessment procedures consider their specific vulnerability as child in care.

“The Government has also committed a total of €10m new funding for the HSE National Service Plan for 2018 which provides funding for respite supports and services."

Dr Muldoon said that the investigation was important in highlighting the struggles of vulnerable children and said that the system must support these young people to help them to reach their full potential.

He welcomed the commitments made by the HSE and Tusla.

Jim Gibson, Chief Operations Officer, Tusla
Jim Gibson, Chief Operations Officer, Tusla

Tusla welcomed the report and said that it accepts the recommendations adding that many are currently being implemented.

Jim Gibson, Chief Operations Officer, Tusla said: “Tusla accepts the recommendations made by the Ombudsman for Children, and acknowledge that improvements are required in the co-ordination of services for children with a moderate or severe disability.

"In this case Tusla staff advocated strongly for the child to receive relevant supports and I welcome the recognition by the Ombudsman for Children of this continuous effort.

"Our equity of care principle means that all children are treated equally, they are assessed based on their individual needs with appropriate supports put in place, whether they have behavioural problems, a disability or face another challenge.

"I have considered the report in detail, and the recommendations are currently being implemented, beginning with the individual supports being provided in this case. I will monitor their progress on a regular basis.

"Foster carers are the backbone of our child protection system, they open their homes to children who can’t live with their own families, and provide an environment where the child can flourish.

"It’s crucial that they receive the necessary supports to allow them to provide a loving, effective family environment for the child or young person.

"The development of the joint working protocol with the HSE is an example of Tusla and the HSE’s commitment to interagency collaboration in the best interests of the children we work with, however there is always room for improvement and we recognise that there is a clear need to make services for children with a disability more responsive to the needs of the child, and that the additional needs that result from the disability may place extra demands on the carers.

"External governance and assessment is important for the Agency, and it helps us to continue to develop and improve our services.

"In this regard we would welcome further engagement with stakeholders and Government departments to examine the best way to deliver services for children and young people with a disability.”

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