A Dublin couple, whose son aged 13 has been absent from school for four years, have been warned they risk facing a Garda investigation for neglect and their children could be taken into care.
The man and woman have refused to engage with education and welfare authorities.
They had initially faced prosecution after their elder son, in his mid-teens, failed to return to school from September 2014 to May 2015.
He returned in September last year but additional charges were brought in relation to their younger son’s education.
The Dublin District Court case has been brought by Tusla Child and Family Agency (CFA). The married couple could be fined up to €1,000 and jailed for a month if convicted of breaking the Education (Welfare) Act by not complying with an official warning about school attendance.
The parents claim the child is too ill to attend but they would not allow the CFA permission to verify this with their doctor. They initially signed consent forms but later withdrew their consent. The court heard the boy was taken out of school by his parents after an allegation was made against his teacher.
Gardaí and social services investigated and believe the allegations were unfounded, a senior social worker told Judge John O’Neill.
Attempts were made to interview the child in relation to the claims and “gardaí concluded there was no substance to the allegation”. The teacher has since returned to work.
The mother claims her son has been traumatised, is ill, and cannot return to school.
An education and welfare officer told the court the mother refused to grant permission to contact the family GP to find out if anything is wrong with the child.
The court heard the family would not engage with Tusla and would not attend appointments with school attendance officers. An offer of home tuition could not be followed up on because the parents would not allow the social workers to speak with their doctor about the child.
Social services also have concerns about the parents’ cognitive ability and about the mother’s mental health.
A senior social worker, based in Dublin, said a case conference about whether the children should remain in the care of the parents is the next step. There are child neglect concerns which have been referred to gardaí.
Judge O’Neill heard the 13-year-old has learning difficulties. Tusla is concerned that he has been out of school for four years.
“It is a huge amount of time, he was last in school when he was nine; he is now 13,” the social worker told the court. “Our priority is the fact he has no interaction with peers; he is in the house on a full-time basis, obviously spending a lot of time with his mother, and I have huge concerns for his emotional wellbeing and the impact of that as well.”
Dorothy Ware, solicitor for the CFA, told Judge O’Neill that two more witnesses are to give evidence.
The case resumes in June.
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