Tuesday 17 September 2019

'That's not right' - judge demands explanation from Simon Harris as troubled boy waits 27 months for help

Judge describes delay in accessing mental health service as 'phenomenal'

Simon Harris Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Simon Harris Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Tom Tuite

A judge has demanded an explanation from Health Minister Simon Harris why a Dublin mother has to wait 27 months for her troubled son to get help.

Describing the delay in accessing a mental health service as “phenomenal”, Judge Halpin was presiding over a Dublin District Court case of a  woman facing prosecution by the Child and Family Agency (CFA).

The case has been brought because her son, whose age was not stated, has been missing school and his attendance has not improved.

The court heard the woman's son had been referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

After that she was referred to “primary care” but was told she would have to wait nine or 10 months to get an appointment, said defence solicitor Emer O'Sullivan.

The CFA asked for an adjournment.

Judge Halpin said it was easy to identify the problem but getting a referral was phenomenal.

He ordered the mother's solicitor Emer O'Sullivan to write to the health minister, on his direction, demanding an explanation.

“We have identified something to help a child who should not be waiting nine months,” he told the solicitor.

She said her client had already waited 18 months to get her child into CAMHS before being told to expect a further nine or 10-month delay.

Judge Halpin noted that was 27 months in total and remarked, “in a kid's life that is huge”.

Ms O'Sullivan said she had no problem writing the letter but cautioned, “do not be too disappointed if it falls on deaf ears”.

The mother said she already had four appointments and the answer she got was they had to “wait for someone else”.

Judge Halpin said that he wanted the explanation as soon as possible but certainly by the end of January.

Solicitor Stephanie O'Meara told the court the educational and welfare officer involved in the case would write a similar letter.

“I need the minister on board, 27 months, that's not right,” the judge said.

The woman could be fined up to €1,000 and jailed for a month if found guilty of breaking the Education (Welfare) Act for not complying with an official warning to ensure her child went to school.

The case resumes in January.

The minimum school leaving age is 16 years or the completion of three years of post-primary education.

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