Saturday 14 December 2019

Weekly psychiatric service now available to children in care

Ms Justice Bronagh O'Hanlon
Ms Justice Bronagh O'Hanlon
Ryan Nugent

Ryan Nugent

A protocol has been approved that will ensure the availability of psychiatric services to children in secure care on a weekly basis, five months after an inquiry was made by the High Court into unavailable therapeutic services.

New case reports by the Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP) outlined that child care agencies will now be able to avail of psychiatric care once a week at three secure units.

A psychiatrist will now be made available three days a week.

According to the report, previously these secure units could not provide the psychiatric care because it was under the provision of the HSE, a separate remit.

However, after Ms Justice Bronagh O'Hanlon received a letter of complaint from a child at one of the secure units, she made an inquiry into the provision of the services.

The child's guardian had also raised the issue, pointing out that the child was detained in this care because they were deemed to be in need of therapeutic services and that therefore psychiatric care should be provided. Previously, in an emergency, the child would have had to been taken to a hospital's A&E department.

The new protocol was approved by the High Court earlier this month.

The CCLRP has conducted reports on more than 1,200 cases in their first three-year phase.

Director of the organisation Dr Carol Coulter told the Irish Independent that their next focus will be to examine the delay in certain child care cases, which can take up to two years to conclude.

She said the more complicated cases can regularly include those in relation to child sex abuse allegations.

"I knew that if I attended another 300-400 cases it wasn't going to change what I've already found," Dr Coulter explained.

"I'm going to look in depth at the very long, difficult, complicated cases that can take up to 25 days over two years and see if it's possible to find out why these cases take so long.

"Very often, but not always, they often include allegations of child sex abuse. We hope we can learn from these cases how to improve child care proceedings for children and their families," she added.

The Child Care Law Reporting Project, led by Dr Coulter, publishes regular reports from the courts which make orders under the Child Care Act.

It collects and analyses data from the proceedings, reports on the nature and outcomes of the child care proceedings and promotes a public debate on the issues raised. The anonymity of the children and their families is preserved throughout. The project is supervised by an oversight committee composed of legal and child care experts.

In another case highlighted by the CCLRP, Care Orders were granted for the five youngest children of a family of 18 where the father was at the bottom 0.3pc of the population in terms of intellectual ability. A psychologist gave evidence of his inability, and that of his wife, to understand what was required of them in order to parent their children.

Irish Independent

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