HSE chiefs 'failed to fully investigate child sexual abuse claims'
ALLEGATIONS of sexual and physical abuse made by children in care were not fully investigated by health chiefs, scathing reports have found.
The impact of domestic violence on youngsters was also ignored by staff while some failed to properly assess family members as foster carers.
The criticisms were unveiled in a series of reports that examined the care given to children and young people in the years before they died between 2010 and 2012.
Sixty young people died in state care, after-care, or while known to HSE child protection services.
More than 20 were from natural causes, 16 were suicides, 14 were accidents, six deaths were caused by drugs, and three people were murdered.
Dr Helen Buckley said she uncovered some disturbing findings in a small number of reports that she examined.
But she said her greatest concern was for the seven girls and nine young men who died by suicide. The youngest was just 13 years old.
"The significant number of young people that took their own lives highlights the need for staff to be vigilant about any indications of suicidal behaviour or ideation," said Dr Buckley, chair of the National Review Panel (NRP).
The three-year review by the NRP also found a record 23 children died last year who were in care, after-care or known to social services.
Most recent figures show 17 young people have died so far this year while known to HSE child protection services.
Dr Buckley said one teenager whose case she examined had died by suicide, and was "invisible" to social services despite spending most of his life in state care.
A review into the death of the 18-year-old revealed his basic physical, emotional and psychological needs were never met over the years.
A review of his case found no serious effort had been made to assess his safety and welfare on the rare occasions when social workers met him as a child.
"This was a poorly managed case at every level," stated the review.
Reports on 24 of the 60 deaths and serious incidents found there was a delay in allocating social workers in 50pc of cases.
In three cases, allegations of abuse against relative foster carers were not investigated properly, and two separate child sex abuse accusations were not fully probed.
Paul Harrison, with the HSE Children and Family Services, said there is huge pressure on the system, as the number of referrals has soared.
He warned that more community involvement is needed to tackle problems in the home at an early stage.