The situation at a state-run care home where teenagers used drugs on a daily basis is not unique, Children’s Minister James Reilly has acknowledged.
The minister was responding to concerns raised in the Dáil by Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin after he raised the issue of a “disturbing” Hiqa probe into a Cork residential unit for children where drug paraphernalia was discovered.
“The report shows that the young people concerned are involved in daily illegal drug use and other criminal activity.
“The report is very critical. Inspectors found that all three children were engaged in the use of illegal substances on a daily basis outside the centre. Highlighting a number of deficiencies, inspectors paid particular attention to a contributory factor to the anti-social behaviour of the teenagers, namely, the high rate of absenteeism at the facility.
“In the 24 month period prior to the inspection, more than 300 absences without authority were recorded, of which 87 were classed as “missing from care” episodes. This is a very serious matter.”
Dr Reilly insisted he could not discuss individual cases, but said he took the situation in Cork seriously.
Dr Reilly said in October 2014, 6,454 children were in care, with 93% of them in foster care, but Ireland had a high number of older teenagers in the system.
“Ireland is somewhat unusual in that we have quite a number of 16 and 17-year-olds coming into care. Latest figures from the agency indicate over 14% of young people coming into care in 2013 were over the age of 16…
assure the deputy that the residential care home in question is currently the subject of a review by the agency and the action plan required is currently at an advanced stage with completion due in the coming weeks,” he said, adding that conditions are the centre were “not unique”.
Meanwhile, in the Seanad, Health Minister Leo Varadkar came under fire because a specialist drug was not available to sufferers of a rare blood disorder. Mr Varadkar said that contact was still continuing with the manufacturer, but at current rates the drug would cost €437,247 per year per patient.
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