New out of hours service for children ‘shambolic’

A GARDA association has described as “shambolic” the country’s new out of hours emergency service for children at risk.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) is highlighting cases where, they claim, both the HSE and a private company which runs the out of hours service, Five Rivers Ireland (FRI), failed to intervene.

The AGSI claim:

* In one case, gardaí had to put a 17-year-old girl into a women’s refuge and a 13-year-old girl into hospital after both the HSE and FRI did not provide emergency accommodation

* In a second case, a girl, aged 16, had to be kept overnight in a garda station after FRI declined to provide an emergency foster carer.

The cases took place recently in the south of the country.

AGSI spokesman Sergeant Willie Gleeson said: “There have been a few occasions where Five Rivers have refused to nominate an emergency foster carer. They didn’t turn around with help or advice. They left it to us to deal with.

“We have a situation where a private company is, in effect, directing and ordering a state organisation, the gardaí. We have responsibility for the children and they are telling us what to do. It’s a ludicrous situation.”

The out of hours service for outside greater Dublin was set up last June.

Under the system, FRI provides 10 “places of safety” – emergency foster care.

Sgt Gleeson said that in the first case they rang the HSE during office hours, but claimed the HSE did not provide any assistance.

He said gardaí then contacted FRI, who, he claimed, said they had already placed the girls with an emergency foster carer.

“They said ‘No, these people were placed before and there were problems, we’re not nominating another’. We said ‘what do we do now, what advice?’ There was none.”

Sgt Gleeson said if FRI don’t provide emergency care, gardaí are left “holding the baby”.

He said the cases “highlight the shambolic state of our health and childcare services”.

He said: “They [HSE and FRI] know gardaí can’t wash their hands. Their attitude is ‘you’re the gardaí, it’s your problem’.”

HSE and FRI said they would not comment on individual cases.

A HSE spokesman said, generally, placements are deemed “inappropriate” when the child already has a care placement.

He said in these cases, the gardaí, in consultation with FRI, return the child to the care placement. He said “in all cases” the FRI social worker “provides information and advice to gardaí”.

Sgt Gleeson said they were seeking urgent meetings with Children’s Minister Barry Andrews and the Garda Commissioner “before a tragedy occurs”.


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