Monday 24 July 2017

Report hits out at 'crisis-driven' child-protection services at HSE

Highly critical confidential probe is leaked by Shatter

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

A confidential report into the Health Service Executive's child protection services has criticised its management style as "reactive" and "crisis-driven".

The document, which has been in the hands of the HSE since last October but never published, also found there was a postcode lottery when it came to services, with different services on offer.

It calls for "tighter management" and "more visible leadership" across all levels of child services. The report, 'Inspiring Confidence in Children and Family Services', was compiled by PA Consulting and assessed current structures and management. It was leaked to Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter who published it yesterday. He also laid copies of the report before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

The report found that current management style tends to be "reactive, crisis-driven and focused on individual cases".

"There is a lot of management 'traffic' around individual cases but much of this is not purposeful in the sense of building better delivery to secure better outcomes," it added.

It also said there was unnecessary variation in the length of time children could expect to wait before their case was investigated and how their exposure to risk of abuse was assessed. There was confusion among other HSE services and external agencies as to who held responsibility for child protection while resources were not allocated according to need within local health office areas.

It said the HSE had failed some critical groups, most notably Travellers and unaccompanied children.

Indictment

Mr Shatter said the report was another searing indictment of the HSE's child protection services.

"It contains a series of detailed recommendations of substantial importance that don't appear to have been recognised or acknowledged by subsequent published reports by the HSE. Damningly, it shows how systems and bureaucracy take priority over child protection demands under the current HSE structures," he added.

Mr Shatter said the report had never been published or publicly debated. He added that the failure to place it on the public record was another example of the "obsessive secrecy" surrounding the management of childcare services. Last week, the Government's Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Geoffrey Shannon, presented his third report to the Dail and called for an independent review of the current system.

"Clearly, Geoffrey Shannon was never furnished with, nor is aware of, the PA Consulting report which essentially completed in October 2009 the review he recommended be undertaken in April 2010," said Mr Shatter.

"This yet again clearly illustrates that in addressing vital issues of child protection at Government and state agency level, the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing and there is a scandalous lack of accountability, proper communication and transparency." The HSE last night described the report as a "management tool" and said some of its recommendations were already being acted upon.

Phil Garland, the HSE's assistant national director for children and family services, said: "There is no secrecy about the PA report, it is just one element of a comprehensive review of childcare services which is critical to planning how we deliver the best possible services for children and families in the future."

Irish Independent

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