THE social services system is badly dysfunctional and children will be seriously abused or die as a result, the Dáil has heard.
Fine Gael spokesman on children Alan Shatter said it was inevitable that in 10 or 15 years’ time, an inquiry would be established to investigate how the current system was allowed persist.
He also claimed that, because of weaknesses in the system, suspected child abuse cases were not being properly investigated in Cork. Citing statistics to support his case, he said: “Child abusers who go and live in Cork are more likely to be allowed to abuse their children continuously for years because no one will ever properly investigate it.”
Mr Shatter criticised the media for overlooking the glaring problems that existed in the social services, saying social workers found it very difficult to have their voices heard.
“I believe the position today remains a national scandal. We have a seriously dysfunctional system with social and childcare workers who are overworked and under extraordinary pressure. Sadly, not only will children who have been reported to the HSE die and be seriously sexually and physically abused, it is inevitable that in 10 or 15 years’ time there will be yet another commission of inquiry into what occurred in the years 1990 to 2010 and what went wrong.”
Mr Shatter said the HSE had failed to put in place an emergency access system for children in residential care. Another problem was that neither the HSE nor the Government appeared to know exactly how many at-risk children had been reported to the social services. In addition, guidelines on child protection were not being applied uniformly, he said. Citing 2006 statistics, he said there had been 2,203 reports of possible child abuse in the Dublin-mid-Leinster area, which generated 1,546 genuine concerns, with the ultimate proportion of confirmed cases of abuse at 27%. In the southern HSE region, by contrast, there were 2,556 reports of child abuse, but only 728 generated concern and the proportion of confirmed cases of abuse was just 7%.
“Based on these statistics, child abusers who go and live in Cork are more likely to be allowed to abuse their children continuously for years because no one will ever properly investigate it. This is a major scandal and a disgrace.” In response, junior minister at the Department of Education, Seán Haughey, said the department planned to conduct a review of its procedures.
“This is an ongoing concern to the Department of Education and Science.”
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