An investigation published by the Ombudsman for Children found the HSE did not do all it could to protect children left in ‘at-risk’ situations in the sprawling Cork North Lee area.
It extends from Ballyvourney to Youghal, and covers Macroom, Midleton, and Cobh, as well as the city’s northside.
A member of the North Lee social work team complained to the Ombudsman that the concerns of more than 200 at-risk children were not being followed up.
The children had been identified by the HSE as having been abused or at risk of being abused.
The complainant said there was a high number of children at risk because no social worker was available to follow up on concerns. She added that she was unhappy with the response she got from management — that work was being prioritised and children were receiving an adequate service.
The Ombudsman’s report expressed serious concern at the slow response of social services to cases identified in a memo dated July 2011.
An Ombudsman spokes-person said the report identified serious deficits to be addressed by the HSE.
At the time the memo was issued, it was taking between three to seven months for a social worker to be allocated to the cases.
The HSE said the cases were allocated and worked by the duty team and were subject to weekly review.
In a response to the Ombudsman, the HSE said a claim made during the probe — that children were neither screened nor assessed and had no follow-up —was unsubstantiated.
However, the Ombudsman said it was a “serious concern” that cases identified as needing social work involvement were without an allocated social worker for such a lengthy period.
The HSE was also asked for an immediate review of the current referral rate to North Lee immediately.
HIQA issued a draft inspection report and has been asked if it sees itself as having any further role.
An Ombudsman spokes-person said it would meet the HSE at its six-month review and decide if it was satisfied with its response.