Children’s rights groups have warned that many families still have to “fight the system” every day to secure adequate services, just as the foster carers of a girl abandoned at birth vied to get the full range of supports she needed.
A report by the Ombudsman for Children on the struggles faced by the carers of Molly, a teenager with Down syndrome and severe autism, highlighted the sometimes fragmented approach to her care by Tusla and the Health Service Executive, resulting in a case-by-case battle to secure and then maintain services for her.
The report highlighted a lack of co-ordination between the HSE and Tusla, with Ombudsman Niall Muldoon recommending the HSE immediately devise a respite action plan for all children with a disability.
The recommendations — accepted by the HSE and Tusla — will also see both organisations review the services they are providing for approximately 472 foster children with moderate or severe disabilities.
The Irish Foster Care Association (IFCA) was among the organisations to welcome publication of the report, adding that it had long advocated for access to services for all foster children and their foster parents and particularly in cases where it was essential for the well-being of the child and their carers.
IFCA CEO Catherine Bond said: “Co-ordination between governmental agencies is essential so that children in care do not fall between two State agencies, when this happens it is the children that lose out.
"These children are amongst our most vulnerable and additional supports are often required and should be available to ensure these children are adequately cared for.
"Our members tell us every day that they have to fight the system to get services for children in their care and this is not good enough.”
Ms Bond welcomed the commitments made by the HSE and Tusla to improve services and supports for these children, as did the ISPCC.
ISPCC director of services Caroline O’Sullivan said: “This report by the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman demonstrates how essential it is that children’s individual needs are recognised, and that the child protection and health and social care systems support children in all of their needs.
“We welcome the commitment by Tusla to undertake a systemic review of the supports and services being offered to children in their care with a moderate to severe disability.
“The ISPCC wishes to see this review made public and that actions arising from the review are clearly set out and progress on these monitored and made public.
“We welcome also the commitment made by Tusla that they will also identify these children to the HSE to facilitate care planning and joint working for these children.”
The Dr Muldoon, will appear before the Committee on Children and Youth Affairs today to discuss the 2016 annual report issued by his office last year.
Committee chair Alan Farrell said the agenda would also include the complaints process in the Ombudsman’s office, and the impact of the housing crisis on children.
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