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Sunday 25 February 2018

At-risk children 'being failed' – minister

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

THE Children's Minister, inset, has strongly criticised agencies responsible for the care of at-risk children, accusing them of failing to work together successfully.

The is also a lack of team work between the various professionals in the health service, Frances Fitzgerald told the second day of the European Regional Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in Dublin.

These weaknesses in child protection mean that "too many children are being failed", she said. "Increased demand has placed significant pressures on Ireland's child-protection services which we are working to address."

The number of child-protection and welfare referrals had almost doubled, from 21,000 in 2006 to over 40,000 in 2012.

This comes against a background of a rise in the country's child population, up 13.4pc since 2006, with the number of Traveller children rising by 30.3pc.

There was an increase of 49.5pc in foreign- national children.

Referring to last year's report of the Independent Child Deaths Review Group, Ms Fitzgerald said a large number of different agencies were involved in some cases.

"So it wasn't that the State didn't intervene. We did intervene. We just didn't intervene as we should have and services didn't work together."

She also referred to the National Audit of Neglect Cases, published in June, which indicated that parental alcohol misuse was a factor in 62pc of neglect case.

Domestic violence was present in two-thirds of the sample cases, and parental mental-health issues in two-thirds of the Dublin cases.

The new Child and Family Agency will "for the first time, bring together child protection social workers, family support workers, education welfare officers and psychologists under one roof and into one team", Ms Fitzgerald said.

She added: "By getting these services working together, while protecting professional identities, we can then deliver the new models which will ensure consistency and quality with respect to case intake; risk assessment; referral to appropriate services; and case-working."

Irish Independent

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