More questions for HSE on care of children

The conclusions of the HIQA report that some children are unsafe in Special Care Units makes for very sobering reading.

It seems that hardly a month goes by without some revelation or other relating to HSE care of children.

Just last week it was confirmed that some 200 children have died in the last decade while in state care.

In October we got the grim details of the Roscommon child care case and we also discovered that almost 800 children ended up homeless and in need of emergency accommodation last year

The system is badly flawed in a number of significant respects. For instance, while HIQA is responsible for inspecting the various centres, including High Support Units and Special Care Units, the number of inspectors is clearly inadequate. The work that HIQA does is very valuable, but their resources are stretched too thinly.

The failure of the HSE to ensure that all staff are properly qualified is a problem in special care units, just as it is in other areas. In Coovagh House for example, it was found that 20 of 109 staff were unqualified. In addition, thanks largely to the recruitment moratorium, these facilities are also forced to rely on agency staff, rather than recruit badly-needed care workers.

While I welcome the appointment this week of a national director for childen’s services, the outstanding HIQA recommendations such as the publication of a national strategy for special care; the appointment of a monitoring office for special care units; and a review of national governance of special care services, need immediate attention

The Child Care Amendment Bill which is making its way through the Oireachtas will provide for some protection to children in care. The Bill should be prioritised ahead of some of the more frivolous pieces of vanity project legislation that are in danger of clogging up the system in the lead up to the dissolution of the Dail.