Wednesday 22 November 2017

One-year deadline set for reports into deaths in care

Edel Kennedy

HEALTH chiefs will be ordered to publish reports into the deaths of children in care within one year of their death.

The Irish Independent has learned that timelines will also be put in place for the health authorities within which they must implement recommendations contained in the reports.

However, the new guidelines from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) -- which will be published next week -- will not be on a statutory basis and therefore there is no legal obligation on the health authorities or their workers to abide by them. The HSE is also unable to say if anyone faced disciplinary action as a result of the litany of failures in the system which resulted in the death of Tracey Fay.

Ms Fay's mother has now hit out at the Health Service Executive (HSE) for only contacting her once in the eight-year period between the death of the 18-year-old and the leaking of the report on her care earlier this week. Speaking yesterday, Doreen Curley said she felt "badly let down" by the health services. "I haven't heard anything from them in the past eight years since the night Tracey died until before Christmas just gone," she said.

"I got a call from a lady saying they were going to publish a report into Tracey's death and they were going to send me the recommendations."

Speaking from her home in the UK, Ms Curley said she got a call when Fine Gael released the report and was told by the HSE that they were "very annoyed" that it had been leaked. She also hit out at claims that her daughter had been abused in her care, saying that an incident in which her teeth were knocked out occurred in a hostel. Ms Curley said the last time she spoke to her daughter was three days before she was confirmed as missing.

"She rang me on the Saturday and said she had done the Lotto. She said that she might win. She said: 'If I win it I'll be over, I'll look after you.'

Vulnerable

"She said to take down the numbers, they were her lucky numbers. That was the last I heard from Tracey."

Children's Minister Barry Andrews has said better resources are being put in place to protect vulnerable children. Taoiseach Brian Cowen voiced his support for Mr Andrews and the system, saying many changes have been made since Tracey's death.

However, a social worker who spent 18 months working with the troubled teen revealed how he had not been interviewed when the report was being compiled. Known only as 'David', he said he and his colleagues were "absolutely devastated" about her death.

"She never touched drugs in our care," he told Newstalk.

"I worked with her for a year and a half and I was never interviewed for the report. I don't know anyone who was.

"I really don't know how a team of people who worked with her for such a long time weren't interviewed."

'David' added that Tracey would not want her death to be used as a political football.

"She deserved better than what she got from all sorts of services," he added.

The HSE is unable to say if anyone has been subjected to disciplinary action after the deaths of Tracey and David Foley, who both died from drug overdoses while in care.

Last night, Fine Gael's Alan Shatter, who leaked the report into Tracey's care earlier this week, accused Mr Andrews and the HSE of misleading the Dail about the extent of the efforts made by the HSE to contact her family in order to facilitate the publication of the report.

Mr Shatter called on them to admit that the real reason they failed to publish was "not concern for the rights and/or sensitivities of their families but to hide the failures of the former health boards and the HSE to provide these young people with the care and protection to which they were entitled". However, the Irish Foster Care Association has accused Mr Shatter of breaching young people's rights to privacy and confidentiality by publishing the report.

See Comment, Pages 28 and 31

Irish Independent

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