Child and Family Agency must act as ‘good parent’, according to Children’s Ombudsman

The Ombudsman for Children has said the Child and Family Agency will have to tackle “systematic problems” in providing services for children — including those in care.

Child and Family Agency must act as ‘good parent’, according to Children’s Ombudsman

Emily Logan made the comments as she provided a copy of a new report conducted by her office, A Meta-analysis of Repetitive Root Cause Issues Regarding Children in Care, to the Oireachtas.

Ms Logan said 10% of the 900 complaints dealt with by her office in the past decade related to children in the care system and that some issues raised years ago still existed in parts of the system.

The report highlighted areas of concern, such as protection of children in care, where concerns included taking two years to investigate a sexual abuse allegation and the Children First guidelines not being implemented in one area until late 2012.

Other areas of concern included poor quality of information, the accuracy of information, file management, and accessibility of files, all of which, according to the report, “impacts retrieval of information therefore social workers and the Child and Family Agency are left exposed”.

The report also highlighted the number of cases in which no social worker was allocated for long periods of time and where there were difficulties with case transfers, “as well as irregular supervision [for example a child without a local social work service for seven years”.

The report also stated: “In both this analysis and through other cases OCO [Office of the Children’s Ombudsman] have investigated a number of concerns about multi-agency responsibilities for children in care. These include issues in relation to mental health provision, education provision, and housing difficulties.

“There needs to be a recognition of corporate parenting role across all government departments and state agencies and all relevant service providers.”

Echoing the view, Ms Logan said: “Where systemic problems have been identified with the operation of legislation or provision of services to children, it should not be necessary for quasi-judicial bodies such as the Ombudsman for Children’s Office to investigate the same problems repeatedly.

“In preparing this meta-analysis and laying it before the Houses of the Oireachtas, we have alerted the responsible body, the Child and Family Agency, to the issues which must be addressed. While the agency is still in its infancy, the response to my recommendations has been positive to date.”

* Read the full report at www.oco.ie

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