Child protection chief not told of other report

THE Government-appointed Special Rapporteur on Child Protection has confirmed he did not know about a confidential report outlining serious failures in child and family services.

Geoffrey Shannon’s report was published last week, while Fine Gael yesterday published a Strategic Review of the Delivery and Management of Children and Family Services carried out by PA Consulting for the HSE.

Fine Gael’s children’s spokesman, Alan Shatter, questioned why Mr Shannon had not been given a copy of the earlier report, particularly when Mr Shannon’s report stated that an independent national review of the current child protection system should be carried out. Mr Shatter said it was a case of “the right hand not doing what the left hand is doing”.

Mr Shannon said yesterday: “I can confirm that I did not receive it (the PA Consulting Report) and I have not read it.”

The PA Consulting report is dated last October and Norah Gibbons of Barnardos said she understood Mr Shannon’s report was submitted to the minister for children’s office last September. But last night the minister’s office said the final report was completed in December.

There has been no information from the HSE or PA Consulting as to how much the confidential draft report by PA cost, but the report does outline a series of problems within the childcare system and makes a series of recommendations.

Norah Gibbons said Barnardos had been interviewed for the PA Consulting report and, while she understood it was for the HSE, she said: “I think as much information as possible that can go into the public domain should go into the public domain, especially this kind of information that has to do with structures and services delivery.”

She said some positive steps had been taken but said: “The other reaction I have is are we again shoring up and tinkering with a system that simply isn’t working. Should child and family services be within the system that is the HSE?

“We need to pull these two things apart or, if it does stay in HSE, it has its own clear line of authority.”

The report also highlights a failure to properly implement the Children First guidelines, and the Children’s Rights Alliance said the gaps included the absence of a section on family support and a limiting of the grounds for reporting child protection concerns.

Meanwhile, in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Andrews said that, in situations where a child has been placed with a relative on an emergency basis, there was evidence that full assessments of families have not occurred following an initial assessment.

The minister said that was “unacceptable”, as was the fact that 16%, or about 815 children in foster care, do not have an allocated social worker.

The Government and HSE could come under more pressure in the coming weeks as the Office of the Ombudsman for Children confirmed it is due to publish her report into the implementation of the Children First guidelines, possibly next week.

* To read the report visit www.letthelightin.ie

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