Friday 27 April 2018

Anger at HSE child protection hold-ups

Breda Heffernan

A central database recording details of children in state care will not be ready until late next year at the earliest.

It comes more than two years after the scandal of children dying in state care first broke, and the delay in establishing it has been criticised as "incredibly slow" by child care experts.

The Health Services Executive (HSE) was forced to admit last year that it did not know how many children had died while in care as there was no centralised system in place.

A lengthy trawl through social workers' files eventually revealed that 188 children and young people who were known to be at risk, or who were in care, had died in the preceding decade.

However, hopes that a permanent database would be rolled out shortly were dashed after the HSE confirmed to the Irish Independent that it would not make a final decision on who would create the system until April next year and the database would not be rolled out until the second half of 2012.

Fergus Finlay, chief executive of Barnardos, said setting up the database was "incredibly slow".

"We all remember the controversy when the HSE had to manually trawl through thousands of records in order to answer the crucial question of how many children had died in state care. That kind of information should have been available at the touch of a button," he added.

He said that while he welcomed the start of the tendering process, he urged everyone involved to "get on top of it and make it a priority".

The database will hold details on all children in state care as well as children about whom social workers have concerns. It will contain information about their health, education and legal status and all case notes.

It is expected that around 1,800 HSE staff will initially have access to the database and the system will have to be able to handle as many as 450 users at the same time.

The database will be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Donna Lamb, whose 19-year-old nephew Danny Talbot died while in an HSE aftercare programme, asked how many children would die before child protection was taken seriously in Ireland.

Removed

"The sooner child care is removed from the HSE, the better," she said last night.

"We get families ringing us who are facing the same struggles we faced years ago with Danny. We were making up to 30 calls a day trying to get help."

Following the publication by the Ombudsman for Children of a damning review of the State's Children First guidelines, the HSE said its National Child Care Information System was being "prioritised".

A spokeswoman for the HSE said, in keeping with government policy, all major ICT projects in the public sector had to be peer reviewed at all key decision points.

She said that, post procurement, a period of user-testing would be required and it was expected the system would be deployed in phases starting in the second half of next year.

Irish Independent

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