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Wednesday 18 October 2017

HSE has yet to decide on taking action against staff

Eilish O'Regan and Patricia McDonagh

No health worker connected with the Roscommon 'House of Horrors' scandal has been disciplined, despite the failings over two decades revealed in a damning report.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) said it had yet to "consider" whether disciplinary proceedings will be taken against any health staff involved in the case .

The inquiry report revealed how six children were left to suffer horrific abuse at the hands of their drunken parents.

It also showed how the children were sexually abused, malnourished and neglected in a squalid home in rural Roscommon by alcoholic parents until 2004 while various health board staff failed in their duty to protect them.

However, the HSE said it had to wait until the review was complete before examining if "there is an issue" for an individual member of staff.

Asked if any social worker or manager has ever been disciplined -- despite the litany of inquiries into children failed by the State over the years -- a spokesperson said eight HSE employees had been dismissed last year but it was unclear if any of these were involved in childcare.

The report revealed a litany of missed opportunities by health workers, poor management, bad decision-making and a failure to use all the legal avenues at their disposal to rescue the children from their torment.

Speaking in the Dail, Minister for Children Barry Andrews said people rightly expected accountability, not just for reasons of retribution but also to support good practice. But he said this had to be done by the HSE -- insisting that ministers in the UK made an "absolute mess" of disciplinary action in the Baby P case by calling for resignations.

But a "fast turnround by the HSE" was expected, he added. A revised wording on a new constitutional amendment on children's rights will shortly be brought to Cabinet .

He argued that the enactment of such a referendum before now would not have saved the children in the Roscommon scandal -- the health board had sufficient powers available to take them into the care of the State.

Meanwhile, the Government's Special Rapporteur for Child Protection, Geoffrey Shannon, told the Irish Independent that the HSE failed to take effective, practical steps to safeguard the children.

"There were clear risk indicators of neglect over a decade that was not acted upon," said Mr Shannon who rejected claims that a lack of resources was to blame for failing to protect the six children.

"Sometimes we perceive the phrase 'state intervention' as dirty words, but in a small number of cases there is a clear need to act.

"The HSE showed, in this instance, too much deference to family support and underemphasised the importance of child protection.

"There is a small number of cases where the family can be a very dangerous place for a child to grow up. This case illustrates that graphically."

Although the HSE has promised an audit of chronic cases of neglect by an independent childcare expert Lynne Peyton it is still unclear how far it will go back and what the terms of reference will be.

An additional 200 social workers were to be hired to ease the pressure on childcare services in the HSE before the end of this year. But it emerged yesterday that many of those who are being hired were already working as temporary staff in the service.

A spokesperson said that 175 of the appointments have been made of whom just 96 are new recruits to the HSE.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Brian Cowen admitted that the case was an "appalling vista".

"I think it has been made clear by those who are expert in this area there was no constitutional hindrance to these children being taken into care, so there wasn't a constitutional problem here," he said.

Irish Independent

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