Saturday 20 January 2018

Number of children in care up by almost 20 per cent

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

THE number of children being taken into care by the State has soared by almost 20pc in just three years.

The revelation came as the author of a hard-hitting report into child welfare warned that future child protection systems have to be open and regularly reviewed as to their success or failure. A major social workers' conference in Cork has heard there will be 25,000 referrals to child protection teams across Ireland this year alone.

By August, Ireland had a total of 6,215 children in care -- a rise of 900 (or 17 per cent) since 2008.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan -- who headed the report into historical abuse in industrial schools -- said individuals can play a crucial role in preventing future abuses.

"It can be forgotten that if everybody does his or her job satisfactorily and responsibly, and is permitted to do so, the chances of abuse happening or, if it does happen, that it will go undetected, are greatly reduced," he said.

Mr Justice Ryan said that repeated probes had shown that failings were both individual and institutional, congregational and departmental.

"Each contributed its own snow to the avalanche of abuse, the failure to detect and the failure to report. The system produced some abuses and facilitated others. There were failures of regulation, supervision and inspection as well as failure of management in individual schools," he said.

"The fact that the abuse had been denied and that victims had been portrayed as guilty of gross exaggeration in their claims, served to increase the public indignation at what had taken place in the institutions," he added.

His comments came as Child Protection Minister Frances Fitzgerald warned Ireland's economic plight cannot impact on the drive to ensure such levels of child abuse are never again allowed to occur, although it will make the challenges ahead more difficult.

"Our prime objective must be to draw to a close a history of abuse and neglect which is a shame to the nation," she said.

"Report after report has shown us to have failed the most vulnerable in our society. Report after report has damned the abusers in our society for their actions and damned the powerful for their inaction. . . (and) highlighted failings in nearly every facet of society," she said.

"We have to drive a culture of personal responsibility for child protection into every agency, club, society and community," she said.

"We have to fix the system so social workers can dedicate their time effectively to addressing the needs of the families and children who so desperately need their attention."

Sunday Independent

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