Report: Few parents prosecuted for child neglect

Very few parents are prosecuted for criminal neglect despite coming to the attention of gardaí for drug and alcohol abuse, a report examining the management of neglect cases reveals.

Neglected children often had to experience another form of maltreatment, such as physical or sexual abuse, before being removed from home, according to Lynne Peyton, a consultant in children’s services and social care.

Ms Peyton’s report was carried out on behalf of the HSE. It was completed in Apr 2012, but only released it in the past week.

It highlights serious deficits in the HSE’s management of neglect cases in Roscommon, Dublin South East, and Waterford, and found the thresholds for allocation of neglect cases to social workers were too high.

Ms Peyton said language used in professionals’ reports “did not always fully convey the full horror of children’s living circumstances”. While substance misuse was a factor in over 60% of families surveyed, Ms Peyton said there was “limited evidence of this being addressed within the HSE’s mental health and addiction services”.

Jennifer Gargan, director of EPIC, a charity which represents children in care, said: “It is frightening but not surprising that for many families the circumstances for children did not improve despite the involvement of statutory services.”

Gerry Murphy, director of the Irish Primary Principals Network, said he was concerned it had taken the HSE 14 months to release the findings.

Aidan Waterstone, the national specialist with the Child and Family Service in the HSE, failed to clarify the reason for the delay in an RTÉ radio interview yesterday.

He said while the HSE was “very challenged”, they had a “very dedicated and motivated workforce of social workers, children workers and others”, and they were working on addressing the issues raised in the Peyton Report.

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