CHILDCARE staff who failed to take six children out of a home where they suffered years of neglect and sexual abuse are only now to be investigated by the HSE after the full horrors of the case were published yesterday.
The report into the Roscommon Child Care Case found that local care staff in the HSE, the Western Health Board as it was then, repeatedly failed to prevent the litany of neglect and abuse.
Last night the HSE admitted that the case, treated as one of child neglect, should have moved into a default position where the children were taken into care, but did not until revelations of sexual abuse emerged in 2004.
That was despite a series of failed meetings with the family and concerns being raised by relatives and neighbours over the state of the children, from head lice and dirty clothes to a toddler seen crawling out the front door of the family home.
Following publication of the report, the HSE issued an “unreserved and unequivocal” apology to the six children and said an audit into recent neglect cases in HSE West will be extended to two other areas — HSE South and HSE Dublin/Mid-Leinster — after admitting there were other cases causing concern.
Minister for Children Barry Andrews also apologised to the children, admitting: “State interventions focused on the needs of parents and not the children.”
The report, carried out by Norah Gibbons of Barnardos on behalf of the HSE, shows the family first came to the attention of the HSE in 1989 after the birth of their first child, but a social work file covering the period prior to 1996 went missing and was never found.
A “plethora” of staff were involved with the family over the years, yet repeatedly failed to step in even though both parents appeared to have serious problems with alcohol.
Only in September 2004, when one of the children alleged sexual abuse by the father, were interim care orders placed on the children. The parents of the six children were jailed following separate court appearances, the mother for seven years and the father for 14.
Four of the children were interviewed for the report, but two of the children are opposed to the report’s publication.
The report was published only after a High Court decision by Mr Justice John MacMenamin, in which he praised the courage of the children, repeating what he had been told by one of them: “We just want to be normal kids.”
Local health manager HSE West Bernard Gloster would not say how many staff involved in the case were still working for the HSE. He said a “separate process” would begin to see if any staff member had a case to answer and stressed that new training programmes were being introduced in childcare cases.
On the failure to protect the six children, he said there had been “a level of hope” locally that a family support approach would work. The report criticises that approach and recommends a raft of measures, including that the HSE’s child welfare and protection services operate consistently across the country underneath a national director and support clinical team.
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