Thursday 21 September 2017

Children in care put own lives at risk, says report

Potentially lethal incidents at HSE centres

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

FIVE vulnerable children were involved in potentially life-threatening incidents after being sent to HSE-run care centres last year.

The incidents included self-harm and fire-setting and a case where a child went missing for several weeks.

Records obtained by the Irish Independent also show high levels of children absconding or going missing from the centres.

Some 275 cases were recorded of children going missing, many of whom were considered "at risk".

And there were 97 cases where children absconded after being detained for their own welfare on foot of High Court orders.

The records also show that gardai are regularly called to help staff deal with incidents, while property damage is a recurring problem.

Details of the incidents have emerged as the Government proceeds with plans to remove child protection from the HSE and set up a new Child and Family Support Agency.

HSE records show there were five "serious incidents" in care units last year when children were at risk of sustaining a "potentially life-threatening injury or serious and permanent impairment of health, wellbeing or development".

The incidents involved children sent to high-support units at Crannog Nua in Portrane, north Dublin, Rath na nOg in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, and La Nua in Kilkenny, as well as special care units at Coovagh House in Limerick and Gleann Alainn in Cork.

The units are for very troubled children with severe behavioural problems and are seen as a last resort after other interventions such as interaction with social workers and placement in foster homes have failed.

High-support units are open residential centres caring for highly vulnerable children needing intensive intervention, while special care units are secure residential centres in which children are detained on foot of a High Court order due to a risk to their life, health, safety, development or welfare.

There are 24 high-support beds and 17 special care beds in the country.

HSE records show children absconded – defined as going missing after being detained on court orders – from the 10-bed Ballydowd special care unit in Dublin 34 times last year, while there were 85 instances of property damage and garda assistance was called on 12 occasions.

In contrast, the Gleann Alainn unit, which has four beds, had only two absconsions last year.

Coovagh House, which has three beds, had two absconsions.

Of the non-secure high-support units, the six-bed Rath na nOg had the highest number of children going missing last year, with 148 recorded cases.

Records show garda assistance was called 40 times, while there were 14 instances of property damage.

The six-bed Crannog Nua high-support unit had 107 cases of children going missing, including some considered at risk. Garda assistance was called upon 13 times last year.

Clodagh House in Portlaw, Co Waterford had 47 recorded cases of children absconding last year, and two were listed as being missing for a period.

The four-bed La Nua high support unit in Kilkenny had 10 absconsions.

All of the children who absconded or went missing were subsequently located and returned to their units.

Irish Independent

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