Monday 27 January 2020

Tusla admits quality of its service must improve after tragic death of 13 youths

Dr Helen Buckley Chair of the National Review Panel. Pic Steve Humphreys
Dr Helen Buckley Chair of the National Review Panel. Pic Steve Humphreys

David Kearns

Child and family agency Tusla has admitted its service needs to be improved after the publication of reports into the deaths of 13 youths it was helping.

The National Review Panel (NRP) reviewed the deaths of children and young people known to the child protection service.

Of those who died, seven were found to have taken their own lives while one was found dead with a high level of toxicity in her bloodstream, indicating a drug overdose.

None of the reviews found a direct link between the deaths of these young people and the actions or inactions of services provided by Tusla.

However, chairperson Dr Helen Buckley did identify examples of "slow or blurred responses" in some cases and criticised the absence of co-ordination of his care by public agencies.

"It is inevitable that where child protection and health concerns co-exist, and particularly where children are terminally ill, the family will be in receipt of numerous services.

"In these circumstances pressure and distress experienced by families could be reduced if one discipline or team took the lead in coordinating services to reduce pressure on the family and avoid overwhelming them," the report said.

It concluded that Tusla needs to deepen its approach to risk assessments and follow-up of child sexual abuse allegations, and that more foster carers were required for young people with mental health problems and those coping with disabilities.

The NRP said that young people requiring care should not have to wait before being offered a placement with a foster family or in a secure unit.

Addressing the review, Tusla said it had now developed a national approach aimed at early intervention and that it was working on a child protection and welfare strategy to support families where children may have experienced harm.

The agency also said it was devising a national approach for services led by social services.

"On behalf of Tusla I wish to extend my sincere sympathies to all those affected by the deaths of the young people mentioned in these reviews. Whilst the reports highlight that the deaths were not as a result of the quality of services received, Tusla continues to be committed to the constant improvement of the services we provide," said Cormac Quinlan, interim director of policy and strategy at Tusla.

"Keeping children safe requires the cooperation and collaboration of all services working with children and Tusla welcomes the recommendations that support the ongoing integration and cooperation of the respective services identified in the report."

Irish Independent

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