Thursday 18 January 2018

Report reveals children who had to be removed from their homes 'treated like human trash' before intervention

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The author of a report on child protection measures taken by An Garda Síochána has said some children had been treated as “human trash” before officers intervened to remove them from their homes.

The Government's Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Professor Geoffrey Shannon, said some of the cases he had seen were “shocking beyond belief”.

“There were children treated as human trash in some of these cases. I do not use the words lightly,” he said.

Prof Shannon said a number of children had suffered “barbaric treatment” in their homes.

“These children do not need our sympathy. They need action.”

His report, published today, focused on the use of Section 12 of the Child Care Act, which allows gardaí to remove a child from their home for their safety.

Geoffrey Shannon. Photo: Tom Burke
Geoffrey Shannon. Photo: Tom Burke

Prof Shannon said the most frequent reason for gardaí having to intervene was the failure of parents.

“This audit shines a light on a truth the Irish public is uncomfortable with. Parents can fail their children,” he said.

He also highlighted how alcohol and substance abuse was a major factor in many cases, and said the Government needed “to take on vested interests” in relation to alcohol.

While praising the work gardaí do, the report found a number of issues of concern, the most serious of which was a lack of inter agency cooperation between An Garda Síochána and Tusla, the child and family agency.

He said the level of cooperation was inadequate and children were slipping through the net.

Gaps in out of hours social services were also a major problem highlighted in the report.

“Children just can’t wait for a service,” he said.

The report examined more than 5,000 cases from 2014 and 2015.

It found numerous instances of gardaí staying long beyond their rostered working hours to organise the care of a child and said officers demonstrated very high levels of commitment to the welfare of children.

But it said there were inadequacies in the operation of the Garda Pulse system, with numerous gaps, flaws and variations in the data captured.

It said some children were repeatedly removed from their families by gardaí, only to be returned by Tusla.

The report was also critical of the fact there was little or no emphasis on formal training of new garda recruits in relation to child protection. Instead there was a deep-seated culture of “on-the-job” training, possibly to the detriment of formal core training at the Garda College.

Prof Shannon’s report also said gardaí expressed frustration at the general situation where Tusla do not routinely provide feedback or updates to gardaí following the handover of children into Tusla’s care.

It found no evidence of a formal routine follow-up regarding the progress of a particular case, unless a garda had an existing strong relationship with the local social work team.

The report found continually poor and limited levels of inter-agency cooperation and coordination between An Garda Síochána, Tusla and other agencies involved in child protection.

Prof Shannon’s audit was conducted following the removal by gardaí of two Roma children with blonde hair from their homes in Tallaght and Athlone in 2013, amid unfounded concern that they were not the children of the parents in those homes.

His audit found no evidence that racial profiling influences the exercise of section 12 powers.

It said that in each instance examined that involved minority ethnic children or families, there were strong factual grounds for removing the child.

Online Editors

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