Tusla and HSE at odds over foster care abuse case

Tusla and the HSE will give contradictory accounts of how a teenager with an intellectual disability came to be left with a foster carer, accused of sex abuse, for up to 21 months after children in the foster home were removed for their safety.

The agencies are to be called in for questioning by Disability Minister Finian McGrath amid growing concern over the level of communications and co-operation between them.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, insisted yesterday that it could not intervene to remove the teenager when it made the decision in May 2014 to remove the two younger children.

It said the third person was aged 19 and therefore an adult and the responsibility of the HSE.

Jim Gibson, the agency’s interim chief operations officer, told RTÉ radio: “At the time that we removed the two children, we made direct contact with the HSE and strategic partners involved in the disability services and we requested a meeting with the HSE to discuss the matter.”

He said while the alleged abuse dated back some time and did not involve either the children or the 19-year-old, Tusla felt there was a risk to the children and the risk “would be exactly the same for that vulnerable adult”.

He added: “As far back as 2013 we had engaged with the HSE highlighting that this vulnerable adult would be ageing out of our service and we needed to make plans for ongoing care planning and placements for this person.”

The HSE said later that it disputed some of what Mr Gibson said, and appeared to rebuke Tusla for speaking about the matter publicly.

In a statement, it said: “Certain essential aspects, as described by Tusla, contradict the HSE’s information on and understanding of this matter.”

It continued: “The HSE is preparing a detailed briefing for the newly appointed minister as to its role since it became aware of allegations relating to the former foster family in this case.

“It would be inappropriate for either the HSE or any other body involved in this case to discuss in public this matter until the minister has been fully apprised of the facts.”

Mr Gibson also said that prior to the case coming to public attention, Tusla and the HSE at local level had agreed to a joint review of the case. However, the HSE indicated that it knew of no such review.

The Irish Association of Social Workers said there is a need for clearer structures of communication and responsibility between all agencies.

Chairman Donal O’Malley said it is also time to review the working of the safeguarding teams set up by the HSE to handle expressions of concern about vulnerable adults.

“This service was rushed through last year in the wake of Áras Attracta,” said Mr O’Malley.

“It would be important to see how is this service meeting the needs and how is it going to continue to meet those needs in the future.”


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