Parents of children with a disability have claimed they are the victims of “retaliation” by bodies including schools and the HSE if they complain about how their child not being able to access services.
The claim is included in a new report by academics at NUI Galway, which also features claims from one parent that the HSE would bring care proceedings against her because she was not supposed to have her child with a cognitive disability in the house with her other children – even though the HSE was unable to provide any services or an alternative adequate placement for her child.
According to the report: “For six months the child was moved between Bed and Breakfasts and holiday homes with a social worker, interrupted by stays at home when the HSE periodically removed funding. At one point the parent was told the child could go into ‘out of hours care’ where the child would be left at a hotel or Bed and Breakfast alone without a social worker.”
The Child and Family Agency, Tusla, is now responsible for care proceedings, child and family support services, but the report queries the exclusion of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) from its remit, as it is still under the HSE.
The report, entitled Access to Justice for Children with Cognitive Disabilities, is part of a broader project involving eight other country partners from Lithuania, Slovenia, Spain, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Latvia and the United Kingdom.
It takes information from various sources and examines whether children with disabilities have adequate access to education, justice and other areas, and concludes that in many cases these children and their families are not given adequate services and do not have their voices heard.
Authored by Jennifer Kline and Dr Eilionóir Flynn, both of the Centre for Disability Law & Policy at NUI Galway, the report is also based on 15 in-depth interviews with parents.
According to the report: “Parents consistently spoke of difficulties in accessing the services their child needed to receive meaningful education, healthcare and victim support. Many parents experienced retaliatory actions when they made complaints against a state body for failure to deliver services. Although this is a small sample size it is worrying that parents seeking to remove barriers faced by their children often face further barriers imposed by state bodies as a result.
“One of the more disturbing patterns that came up in the interviews was retaliatory action for making complaints against a school or the HSE. One parent who made a complaint regarding an inaccurate statement in the early intervention report that was to be used in the assessment of needs said that her three children who all had special needs were excluded from HSE services, and the family then had to pay out of pocket for the support they required.
“Another parent who had complained against the school was threatened with litigation so ended up moving her child to a different school. One parent had made a complaint about a child’s assessment of needs and wasn’t receiving services when the child was having serious health effects that the parent reached out again to the HSE for help with the parent was told that she would be reported for child neglect since she was unable to ensure the health of her child.”
One parent interviewed for the report said that she had brought a case to the Equality Tribunal about her child being excluded on the basis of disability from a state funded drama group but had heard no response regarding her complaint since she initiated the process over a year ago.
Other parents told of difficulties in finding mainstream schools for their children with cognitive disabilities and of difficulties accessing appropriate supports and accommodations either from the school directly or through the HSE.