Wednesday 22 January 2020

Child 'raped at knifepoint' had to wait two months before medical exam

Ombudsman Emily Logan said a breakdown in communication between the HSE and the child's mother prevented the authority fulfilling its duties
Ombudsman Emily Logan said a breakdown in communication between the HSE and the child's mother prevented the authority fulfilling its duties

A CHILD who claimed she was violently raped at knifepoint on a number of occasions failed to receive therapy and other vital supports from the HSE, an investigation by Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan revealed.

The investigation uncovered a litany of problems in relation to the care of the 11 year old after the HSE staff labelled her mother “difficult” to deal with.

The child alleged she had been raped several times by a adult man who wielded a knife.

Ms Logan revealed:

*It took two months for the HSE to arrange a medical examination of the child .The girl had insisted she wanted to be examined by a female doctor and the HSE had trouble finding one.

*She did not receive a therapeutic assessment which would help determine if she was abused. The girl insisted her mother be with her at the interview but this was refused by HSE staff.

*The failure to carry out an assessment meant she was not eligible for therapy .Her mother had to pay for this privately.

* A social worker was not allocated by the HSE to help the girl.

The girl, who made the disclosure of abuse between December 2006 and 2007,threatened suicide .She is now a teenager and distrustful and betrayed by the  HSE. The girl’s mother made a complaint to the Ombudsman in 2009.

Ms Logan said : “In this case the breakdown of the relationship between the HSE and the child’s mother became a very real impediment to providing the necessary services to the child.

“The period following a disclosure of alleged sexual abuse by a child is very traumatic for both a child and his or her family.

“ It is imperative that HSE staff communicate clearly and in a compassionate way with parents at this extremely stressful time. The HSE (in the coming months the Child and Family Agency) is the agency with statutory responsibility for child protection.

“The new Agency must ensure its staff are trained and supported to adequately respond to families following disclosures of alleged abuse including through the provision of practical, accessible and timely information.”

The HSE said proper practice is to interview a child on their own but the Ombudsman said flexibility should have been shown.

The HSE described the child’s mother as difficult but the Ombudsman said she found her an articulate and capable individual.

She concluded the HSE failed to take into account the child’s best interests and made a series of recommendations which she wants implemented before the end of teh year.

Key findings include:

The HSE’s record keeping was poor;

It failed to allocate a social worker or single point of contact;

It did not  arrange an early face to face meeting with the child;

*It failed to acknowledge, consider or address the views of the child expressed through her mother;

*The HSE did not provide psychological or therapeutic services for this child.

She recommended the HSE continue to engage with the child and mother in order to assess the child’s current needs and provide appropriate therapeutic services;

 The HSE should continue to work towards a joint approach interview with An Garda Síochána for cases of suspected abuse.

The ISPCC urged the HSE and the new Child and Family Agency to take immediate action to ensure that adequate and timely responses and 24-hour supports are provided to children and their families.

"The Child and Family Agency must ensure that all staff are trained and supported to adequately respond to families following disclosures of alleged abuse including through the provision of practical, accessible and timely information," the children's charity said in a statement.

Later, the HSE said it accepted the ombudsman's recommendations and is in the process of implementing them.

In a statement, it said its services and provisions in relation to child sex abuse have improved since the girl's allegations were first reported in 2006.

This includes the assignment of extra social workers and new 24-hour dedicated sexual assault treatment units with access to female consultants.

The HSE said it also follows Ireland's national guidelines for the safety and well-being of children - Children First, which was published in 2011.

"Standardised business processes for social workers have been introduced to ensure a consistent national response to reports of child abuse," the statement said.

"The HSE works in partnership, under agreed protocols, with An Gardai Siochana to ensure that allegations of child abuse are investigated in accordance with statute and in compliance with Children First.

"The HSE is committed to supporting those affected to resolve any outstanding issues they may have and will not be commenting further at this time.

"The HSE offers counselling, support, and services to anyone who has disclosed alleged abuse and liaises with other statutory agencies and relevant organisations to protect children at all times."

 

- Eilish O’Regan, Health Correspondent

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