Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath said he was “absolutely horrified” at the latest revelations involving a teenager in the Cork/Kerry area which follow on from the ‘Grace’ scandal in the South-East and a similar scandal in the West.
“I’m going to find out the exact facts of this case and I will be demanding answers. I’ll be talking to Tusla and the HSE,” Mr McGrath said.
“I would have major concerns about what happened to that young person.
“We have to have answers, we have to have the truth and above all we have to ensure that young people with intellectual disabilities are protected.”
The latest case was revealed by RTÉ Radio’s This Week programme and centres on allegations made by a relative of a foster carer about sexual abuse in that carer’s home.
Two children were removed from the home as a result of the allegations, but a 19-year-old with intellectual disabilities was left behind and only removed in February this year.
This young person was in the home since 2003, but neither Tusla nor the HSE would say when the allegations were received or when the other children were removed, except to say that these events happened prior to 2016.
No investigation has been launched by the HSE or Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, into the management of the 19-year-old’s care because the allegations of abuse did not involve this young person.
Fergus Finlay, chief executive of children’s charity, Barnardo’s, however, said: “If a placement is considered unsafe for two people, it must be considered unsafe for everybody involved.”
He said an inquiry was needed into the case and that it could be added to the terms of reference yet to be drawn up for the commission of investigation due to be set up to probe the Grace case.
“At the heart of it is a young person allowed to be at risk and we need to know by whom and for what reason,” he said.
“I would urge the minister to ensure that those terms of reference are sufficiently flexible so that they can examine a range of issues and if there are other cases that need to come forward there should be a three month period with loose terms of reference to allow for a gathering of that data.”
Emily Logan, former children’s ombudsman and now chief commissioner with the Irish Human Rights Commission, said the case was “deeply disturbing”.
“It’s also very hard to comprehend how two other children would have been removed from that home yet the young person with the intellectual disability would have remained in that environment.”
It is understood Tusla removed the two younger children while the HSE stepped in to find a new placement for the 19-year-old, who was technically an adult, but the extent of communications between the two is not clear. Both said it was their policy not to comment on individual cases.
Outgoing minister James Reilly said last week there were 6,398 children in care, 5,950 of them in foster homes, and 447 did not have an allocated social worker.