A “totally substandard” arrangement under which a vulnerable intellectually disabled adolescent is being accommodated in a Bed & Breakfast and makes a five-hour round trip daily to school cannot continue, the president of the High Court has said.
The arrangement has been described as “unsafe and unsuitable” for reasons including that, although the owner of the B&B has been Garda-vetted and is supportive of the youth, the transient users of the premises, including homeless users, are not vetted.
The youth's court-appointed guardian had said there was a suspicion another male in the B&B may have attempted to "groom" the youth.
The 18-year-old was in a care placement until it broke down late last year after which he was placed in the B & B with some supports from a Tusla aftercare worker. He was made a ward of court early this month.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly, who was told on Wednesday funding has now been provided for a more suitable arrangement, stressed the HSE will have to urgently come up with a better placement and listed the matter to return before him on Friday.
Catherine Ghent, a solicitor representing the youth's court-appointed guardian, last week secured liberty from the court to bring applications, if necessary, against the Ministers for Health and for Children and Youth Affairs aimed at getting funding for a suitable placement. Those are not now proceeding because funding is being made available.
Today Maria Dillon, a solicitor representing the HSE, said funding has been found for an alternative placement and efforts are continuing to identify a long term placement. A "tentative" offer of a place had been made and she hoped to know more about that by Friday, Ms Dillon said.
A commitment was also been made to provide a short term respite arrangement even though that would discommode others seeking respite.
Ms Ghent said a lot of work had been done in relation to funding and she appreciated Ms Dillon was awaiting responses.
Given the very serious concerns about the current situation, she had hoped to have an identified placement and a timescale for that by Friday, she said. The B&B is not an appropriate service, it’s “not even a service”, she said.
Teresa Blake SC, for the youth’s parents, who were in court, said they are very concerned about the B&B arrangement and the risks involved and believe he needs a more secure placement and a structured care environment. The parents support the tentative placement offer and it is good that the HSE has indicated that may become a reality, she added.
The parents' concern is about a “lack of planning” in relation to their son but they believed a short term respite arrangement, if put in place now, would ease the immediate difficulties, counsel said.
The mother, she added, would like to be involved with the office of the general solicitor for wards of court in relation to plans for her son and a “template” should be put in place for engagement with the family, she said.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Kelly said the B&B arrangement is unsatisfactory for many reasons, including the “extraordinary” five-hour daily commute to school. The arrangement is “totally substandard” and he would not permit it to continue.
The court’s medical visitor’s report speaks for itself, he added. While the owner of the B&B had been Garda-vetted, the transient users of the B&B are not “and who knows what might happen”, he said.