Homeless teen’s complaint about lack of HSE support

A 16-YEAR-OLD who had been availing of HSE out-of-hours/crisis intervention services contacted the ombudsman.

One of her parents had died and the other lived in another jurisdiction. Due to family difficulties she said that it was not viable for her to live with her remaining parent. She initially paid for lodgings with friends.

When this broke down, she moved to live with her 19-year-old sibling, to whom the HSE provided aftercare. After a few months, this placement also broke down and the 16- year-old became homeless, accessing HSE out-of- hours services.

She heard of the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) in her school and complained to it about a lack of support from the HSE, especially difficulties in getting social work support and having her phone calls returned. She explained that she felt alone and unwanted.

INVESTIGATION: The OCO directed the young person to relevant support groups and also initiated an examination of the case.

In their response, the HSE outlined their attempts to reunify the child with her parent, which the child refused. In the seven-month period from the time the HSE became aware that she was on her own to the time she began to access the out- of-hours services, this included five phone calls to various parties and two meetings. The HSE also wrote a letter to renew the child’s medical card.

While the HSE explained to the child that it would be usual to contact the social services from the other jurisdiction to facilitate the reunification, there was no indication that contact took place to either assist such reunification or to establish if this was appropriate, given the child’s claims that she had been abandoned there on several occasions.

No action appears to have been taken to check if the placement with the 19- year-old sibling was suitable.

OUTCOME: During the OCO’s investigation, the child initiated legal proceedings with the help of support groups, on foot of which she moved from out- of-hours accommodation to HSE-supported independent living. Nonetheless, the details of the case raised concern about the level of support provided to the young person by the HSE.

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