Emily Logan announced the consultation process yesterday amid concerns in her office that the HSE is overusing and extending a provision of the Childcare Act that places out-of-home children in an emergency intervention service.
Ms Logan said she wants to hear from as many out-of-home children as possible in the coming months. Out-of-home children are defined as those who sleep rough, whose usual night residence is a public or private shelter, emergency lodging or B&B that lacks the other characteristics of a home and/or intended for a short stay.
In 2008, 718 children — 351 boys and 367 girls — were housed in crisis intervention services, which is a specific service for Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow.
Under Section 5 of the Childcare Act, if a child is homeless but not in care, it “shall take such steps as are reasonable to make available suitable accommodation”.
Ms Logan cited one case in which a girl was in this situation for 10 months without many of the provisions that would be available to a child in the care system proper, such as a care plan, allocated social worker or access to aftercare.
“There is an overuse and extended use of Section 5 of this act. We should look at how they [the HSE] are using this emergency provision.”
Ms Logan told the HSE of her intention to investigate the matter in May. The HSE responded with a commitment to address concerns.
The Office of the Children’s Ombudsman (OCO) has since shelved the investigation but will use the consultation process to speak with children about their experience of being out of home, while the HSE will report to Ms Logan on their steps to improve its use of the provision.
The OCO has the option of pursuing an investigation and Ms Logan said the consultation process would take a few months.