Thursday 19 October 2017

Judge slates HSE over 'home alone' boy

Tom Tuite

A JUDGE has slated child protection services saying they "have lost the plot" after hearing that a young boy has been living "home alone" and "committing crime to get money for food".

The boy, who is in his mid-teens, appeared at the Dublin Children's Court today charged with attempting to break into a car after he was arrested on Tuesday night.



Judge Conal Gibbons was told that the boy's parents are not available to care for him and currently not residing with him; he has been living home alone; another relative tried to look after him but they had a row, and the teenager is “committing crime to get money for food”.



Judge Gibbons said he did not have the power to detain the boy for his own welfare but he issued witness summonses for the teen's social workers to compel them to come to the proceedings which resume today.



The judge granted bail to the boy after hearing that an older sibling, who has just reached adulthood, would take him for the night and look after him.



When the case first came before the judge today, a garda objected to bail. The court heard that sometimes the boy had stayed with one extended family member but “there was an altercation last night, he is no long willing to look after him”.



Judge Gibbons heard that the boy's social worker had told the arresting garda earlier that all that could be offered to the teen was “out of hours service” – a form of emergency hostel accommodation.



This service can be accessed by going to a garda station in Dublin and enquiring which of the city's hostels has a free bed.



That offer was described by the judge as shocking and unacceptable and he added that the HSE was aware the boy was “at risk”.



Defence solicitor Gareth Noble said that when arrested, the boy had been living at his family home and was “residing alone”.



Social services did not send anyone to attend the boy's hearing. The judge then adjourned the case until the afternoon sitting of the court for the relevant social work department to be contacted. When it resumed, he learned that social services could not anyone “at such short notice”.



Judge Gibbons said: “This young chap patently needs the assistance of something that terms itself the child protection agency.”



“It is very worrying that very service does not deem it worthy to come down to meet this young man, who is by all accounts in need of assistance and is need of care and has a social worker”.



A social worker's report had been furnished and after reading it Judge Gibbons said “it is obvious from this that the HSE has completely walked away from its responsibilities”.



“I am worried about the future of childcare if this is the way that the HSE deals with it,” he said.



The judge also said it was “disgraceful”, the HSE had “lost the plot” and he was disturbed by their lack of co-operation. The court heard that in October last year an application was made to have the boy placed in a residential care home.



The judge also referred to sections of the Childcare Act which state the HSE must promote the welfare of children and provide adequate care and protection, and it must identify children who require care.

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