THE Government and the opposition led the criticisms of the HSE last night after an independent report found serious failures in its approach to children in foster care.
Minister for Children Barry Andrews said the findings of the reports by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) that the HSE had failed in its statutory obligations was “unacceptable”.
That view was echoed by Fine Gael Children’s Spokesman Charlie Flanagan, although he also criticised the minister for “shirking responsibility”
Mr Andrews said it was not good enough that the HSE only found out about some of the serious problems in its system because the authority informed them. “It is unacceptable that compliance with basic regulations should vary so wildly. While there are examples of very good support and practice (particularly in Dublin North LHO), there are many examples of very poor management and delivery in the two adjacent LHO areas,” he said.
The Government this week gave approval to the authority to prioritise the inspection of child protection, but added the HSE now had to move to an internal auditing system to avoid similar future failures.
As for the management and operational failings uncovered in Dublin North West and North Central, he said: “These are not solely legacy issues. They stem from an a la carte approach to statutory obligations and the Children First Guidelines.
“I have repeatedly stressed to the HSE at board and senior management level the need to prioritise the provision of statutory entitlements to children in care. To engender any level of public confidence, accountability at management and operational level must be forthcoming.”
Mr Flanagan said the authority’s criticism of the HSE in the reports was damning. “It describes the fostering services in two Dublin areas as being ‘in a state of crisis at the time of the inspection’,” he said.
“HIQA’s report is a clear indictment of the HSE, its failure to fulfil its statutory obligations and its failure to respond to ongoing concerns. The HSE is out of control and the minister in charge of it continues to shirk responsibility for it.”
Spokesperson for the Irish Association of Social Workers Declan Coogan said the reports highlighted the failure to provide adequate and safe care of the children by not allocating a social worker to every child in care.
Jennifer Gargan, director of the Irish Association of Children in Care, said: “We know that many children in foster care receive excellent care. However, the practice of placing children with any family, even with relatives, without undertaking thorough vetting and assessment is unsafe and does not meet the required standards.”
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