Children in care had no social worker

The Ombudsman for Children and Hiqa are to be asked to investigate why the Child and Family Agency left children in state care without an allocated social worker for more than three months this year.

This follows District Court judge Alan Mitchell instructing the children’s guardian ad litem, Sarah Treacy, to refer the case to Ombudsman Emily Logan and Hiqa.

At a family law court sitting in Ennis, Judge Mitchell said it is “a matter of serious concern and unacceptable” that the children have been left without an allocated CFA social worker from February of this year until now.

Judge Mitchell said that he has requested the guardian ad litem — who provides an independent voice for children in family law proceedings — to refer the case to the two agencies as there was insufficient reason for the non-allocation by the CFA “and the court finds this practice was not in the best interests of the children and may have adversely affected the children”.

The senior social worker with the CFA, Tina Wiseman, told the court she shared Judge Mitchell’s concerns in relation to the children and similar cases where children have been left without an allocated social worker describing the situation as “scandalous”.

Ms Wiseman said that, due to staffing difficulties over the past 18 months in Clare, “we have quite a long unallocated case list”.

Ms Wiseman said the children’s designated social worker was redirected in February due to prioritisation of resources.

She said that, as team leader, she took on the children’s case when unallocated but has not been able to see the children since February and has instead relied on Ms Treacy and the children’s psychologist for information.

Ms Wiseman said: “I can’t stand over what has happened and at the end of the day, the children are in state care.”

Judge Mitchell gave his instruction to Ms Treacy when making a care order that the children remain in State care until the age of 18 after finding that the children have been neglected recording that “their health, development and welfare has been and is likely to be avoidably impaired or neglected”.

Judge Mitchell made the order on application from the CFA — the children’s parents were not present or legally represented in court.

Judge Mitchell commended Ms Wiseman “for not trying to defend the indefensible”.

Ms Wiseman confirmed to the court that a social worker has now been allocated to the children.

Judge Mitchell said that Hiqa and the Children’s Ombudsman getting involved “may, at the end of the day, highlight deficiencies nationally and locally and something will have to be done. It can’t be allowed be continue in the manner it has happened in this case.”

He added: “We had a children’s referendum, but there needs to be resources to ensure that full facts are presented and necessary protections are in place.”

The court was told that Clare CFA social workers have written to the chief executive of the CFA, Gordon Jeyes, and the Minister for Children to express their concerns over the service’s continuing problems.

Judge Mitchell adjourned the case for six months.

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