Two children died in State care this year, report reveals

Two children died in State care this year, report reveals

Two children in State care and 10 more known to child protection services have died so far this year, health chiefs have revealed.

Another young adult recently released from care also died in the first five months.

The total number of deaths revealed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) has already topped 2010 figures, when 11 deaths were reported.

The National Review Panel (NRP), set up to investigate deaths and serious injuries of children and young people known to social services, said it aims to identify weaknesses in policy and practice and ensure steps are taken to develop and improve services in child protection.

Dr Helen Buckley, NRP chairwoman, said: "Our thoughts today are with families of the children and young people concerned.

"The NRP is conscious of the heartbreak experienced by families (and) the impact on all the individuals who knew and worked with the children and young people involved."

The panel published six reports examining the deaths of five young people and one involved in a serious incident, all dating back to 2010.

Three of the deaths followed an accident, one was natural causes and one died by suicide.

Dr Buckley said the panel conducted its work anonymously to protect the confidentiality of the individuals and families concerned.

"There is nothing gained from adding further to their hardship by intruding in their privacy," she added.

The HSE said of the 13 deaths this year, seven were from natural cases, three were suicide, one was a result of a car crash and two were caused by other accidents.

Last year five were natural causes, two suicide, two due to road collisions, one was a drugs overdose and one was caused by another accident. There were 22 deaths in 2010.

Dr Buckley said the review of six cases raised concerns and showed the response of social services was inconsistent and patchy, with complex cases needing inter-agency support to deal with alcohol, drug or mental health issues.

None of the deaths were a result of parental abuse or from a direct failing of the Health Service Executive, she added.

Pressure mounting on social workers resulted in delays responding to referrals, waiting lists for allocation of work, irregular contact with families and early closure of cases because of high workloads, she said.

But Dr Buckley warned more social workers was not the answer and could even make more of a "muddle".

"Child and family services can't take on full responsibility for very complex cases and there needs to be more integration of services at local level," she said.

"It's not entirely a question of manpower, it's a question of requiring a whole lot of different services, youth services, child and adolescent mental health services, addiction services.

"Adding more social workers is only addressing one part of the problem."

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