‘Social services shortcomings being identified’

An independent review into the deaths of 23 children who were in contact with HSE social services last year shows that some children need to be taken into care earlier, Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said.

While seven of the record number of deaths were the result of natural causes, nine were the result of suicide. Six deaths were caused by accidents and there was one homicide.

Most of the children or young people were living with families who were known to child protection services. A small number were either in the care system or in after-care.

While the National Review Panel concluded that none of the deaths were attributable to the actions or inactions of the HSE, there was evidence of weaknesses in management and social work practice.

“We need to be intervening earlier and some children need to be taken into care earlier than they have been,” said Ms Fitzgerald.

Asked if enough was being done to address the shortcomings identified in the HSE’s social services, Ms Fitzgerald said it was a work in progress.

“We have come from decades of very poor quality services, so we are not going to change them overnight, but it is right that we have a proper vision for them; that they need to be improved and that we identify the shortcomings,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald said an inspection report on child protection and welfare services in the HSE Dublin mid-Leinster area by the Health Information and Quality Authority, showed standards were increasingly being met.

She said it was critical to identify serious child protection issues, particularly neglect, and this was being addressed within the HSE where training was under way because cases of neglect had been missed in the past.

She said some of the cases showed terrible problems caused by addiction and the services needed to be more sensitive to the needs of children in families where the parents had addiction problems and there wasdomestic violence.


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