Care system needs immediate attention

The Government implementation plan in response to the Ryan Report, due to be completed next month, must contain concrete commitments to make changes to our current care system so that no children are put at risk again.

The situation as highlighted in today’s Irish Examiner is clearly in need of urgent need of the attention from the Government.

The care 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, there are only seven inspectors in place.

The work that HIQA does is very valuable, but their resources are stretched too thinly. In addition, in the absence of the commencement of the relevant section of the 2007 Health Act, they do not have any powers of sanction in relation to centres that fail to meet requirements and standards.

There are also serious problems with the implementation of vetting procedures that are in place and while lip service is paid to the need for a substantial Garda vetting system, the fact of the matter is that it is failing to meet requirements.

The failure of the Government to provide for a formal inspection process for residential facilities for children with special needs is inexcusable, and must be addressed in any implementation plan that the Government publishes.

The most important lesson the Ryan Report teaches us is accountability, and this must be at the heart of any future reforms. No institution is above the law. Every institution must be examined, inspected and held to account for what it does.