Vital dataon children in care unavailable

THE HSE has told an Oireachtas Committee that it cannot provide figures for the number of children in care who go missing; have a drug problem; have been assaulted or have harmed themselves.

The HSE’s former chief executive, Prof Brendan Drumm, and other senior HSE figures appeared before the PAC on June 10 and were asked for follow-up information on a number of areas.

A detailed response has now been provided to the committee, but not all the figures are present as the HSE has admitted they have not been collated.

“We note the request for specific information in relation to children in care who may from time to time be absent without authority (missing), have a drug problem, been the victim of an assault or have attempted suicide,” it said.

“The HSE does not collect this data on a routine basis, however that is not to say that such issues do not occur or are not attended to. In response to the request from the committee, the HSE will consider further the possibility of collecting these and other variables.

“As explained to the committee the nature of the paper-based systems and the retrospective period being examined would make it almost impossible to identify a variable such as parasuicide in the children in care population over a 10-year period.”

The response provided to the PAC also states that each HSE area operates its own system in relation to how it gathers such information, but that the HSE “recognises that there is a need to have a standardised system”.

“The HSE is advancing the progress of the National Child Care Information System, which will address this and other information deficits,” it said.

The HSE has stressed that urgent cases are prioritised, even in instances where cases are awaiting the allocation of a social worker.

“In the current year the HSE is endeavouring to develop a measurement for unallocated cases through the monthly performance review meetings with the national director integrated services directorate: performance and financial management, and the regional directors of operations,” it said.

Last October the HSE carried out a national foster care audit and in its response to the PAC it said that an action plan 2010 has been formulated to address the deficits uncovered by the audit.

“The targets on this action plan are ambitious but are commensurate with the importance and urgency which the HSE places on providing fostering services that meet the regulations and standards in every respect,” it said.

“Achievement of some of the targets will depend on the successful filling of the additional social work posts approved by the minister for 2010 and on the retention of social workers up to the approved employment ceiling levels.”


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