'Vulnerable teens died after care authorities failed them'
Published 24/04/2010 | 05:00
A VULNERABLE teenage boy in state care died of an overdose after he was left to the mercy of the chaotic dangers of Dublin city centre, a damning new report has revealed.
David Foley (17) had voluntarily asked to be put in care, but instead found himself living in emergency hostels, where he was exposed to a risky sub-culture.
The revelations emerged in one of two reports released by the Health Service Executive (HSE) yesterday that uncovered major failings in the care of young people the State was charged to protect.
The other report into the care of Tracey Fay (18) -- a mother-of-two who also died of an overdose -- described how she was shunted from various types of accommodation, including B&Bs, and given a flat where the ceiling collapsed due to defective plumbing.
Launching the reports, HSE National Director of Children and Families Phil Garlan said that the State had seriously failed both teenagers.
He insisted major changes in the care of children had been made and stressed services no longer used B&Bs.
Children in a similar predicament are now placed in high-support or special care accommodation.
But he warned it was always possible another young person in state care could could die of an overdose as authorities tried to balance their charges' protection and freedom.
However, the HSE last night admitted that no health worker connected to either cases had lost his or her job or even been disciplined or reprimanded for any failures.
Tracey's Uncle, Damien Fay, said he was not surprised that the health workers who failed his niece escaped unscathed.
"The accountability is never there in the HSE," he told the Irish Independent.
"This has all had a huge effect on our family and we haven't even gotten to the end of it yet."
Both reports, which are for internal use, had to be severely censored before publication and contain little information about the detail of the care.
Instead, they relied mostly on general recommendations because the HSE wanted to "protect the dignity of the two young people".
He confirmed that a human resources examination was currently under way in the HSE to determine if anyone should face a disciplinary inquiry.
The report on David Foley, who died in 2005, revealed he first came into contact with the Eastern Regional Health Authority in 2000.
Although a wide range of services was provided to him there was a lack of "singular assigned responsibility" and confusion of roles.
The report revealed:
- A lack of initiative and fear of taking charge of the care of "this very vulnerable person".
- Inexcusable delays in providing essential services, a lack of case management and a fragmented approach to his care and ineffective meetings.
- He was left at the mercy of a chaotic environment and exposed to a sub-culture which "exists among certain young homeless people which educates impressionable and vulnerable children on how to avoid certain services and exploit other services to their own detriment".
The report into Tracey Fay -- published in full by Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter -- found no less than 40 social workers were involved in her care.
It revealed how the troubled young girl, who died in 2002, was accommodated in nine different places and spent 255 nights in 20 B&Bs. She was found dead after taking ecstasy.
Children's Minister Barry Andrews last night warned that while these cases were historic, some children today may not be getting the care they need.
"Though these cases relate to 2002 and 2005 and there have been improvements in services since then, undoubtedly, there are children today who do not have access to the necessary services to enable them to live in a stable and caring environment," he said.