Tuesday 20 February 2018

At least 188 children 'known' to the HSE died in past decade

Breda Heffernan

AT LEAST 188 children and young people who were either in care or known to social services have died in the past decade, the Health Service Executive confirmed last night.

The HSE revealed that 151 young people who were known to it but were not in care died during the past 10 years -- 10 of them as a result of unlawful killing.

The new figure is in addition to the 37 children who the HSE last week confirmed had died in care during the past decade.

Last night, the HSE said it hoped that publication of the figures would "bring to an end the debate about numbers".

However, it was learned last night that so far no files concerning the dead children had been passed over by the HSE to the Independent Review Group.

And fears were immediately raised that the true extent of the scandal could be much wider as it did not include children who were identified as 'at risk' but who died before a full assessment had been carried out.

Health managers insisted last night that they were not trying to bury bad news by releasing the shocking figures late on the eve of a bank holiday weekend.

In a damning indictment of the state of the country's child-protection services, it emerged that almost half of the 124 children who were known to social services and who have died since January 1, 2000 died as a result of unnatural causes.

Meanwhile, 27 young adults, who were aged between 18 and 21 years and who had previously been in care but had since left it, died during the same period. While four of these died from natural causes, 23 died from unnatural causes.

The HSE said 84 children and young people had died unnatural deaths, including:

  • 21 suicides.
  • 10 unlawfully killed.
  • 14 died after taking drugs.
  • 15 died in traffic accidents.
  • 24 died in "other accidents".

The most vulnerable group was shown to be those aged between 18 and 21 years and who were no longer in care. The vast majority of these were found to have died from unnatural causes. Children's' charities last night called for aftercare to be placed on a statutory footing.


Among these is Danny Talbot, the 19-year-old who died from a drugs overdose in Dublin's inner-city last August. He was in an aftercare programme at the time of his death.

The HSE said it had analysed its records dating back 10 years. During this time, there were more than 200,000 referrals to social services and there were child-protection concerns in relation to 20,000 children.

Fine Gael's Alan Shatter said the HSE was still "scandalously concealing" the number of children who were identified as being 'at risk' but who died before a full assessment of their case was carried out.

He said that in 2008 alone, of 24,000 reports to social services of children being 'at risk', 8,000 were never even assessed or investigated.

However HSE local health manager Bernard Gloster, who is responsible for compiling the figures, said he was satisfied that any 'at risk' children had been included.

"There are lots of children who come to the knowledge of the State for different reasons but that wouldn't necessarily say that there would be evidence to suggest that they were either of child-protection concern or at risk."

The register of child deaths will remain open for the next three months and any new cases that emerge will be added to it.

However, Mr Gloster said he was satisfied that it was already as accurate as it could be.

Children's Minister Barry Andrews said there would be shock at the scale of the numbers revealed.

He added that behind each case was a child and family, whose loss must always be borne in mind.

Irish Independent

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