Social workers told to act earlier against abusive parents
SOCIAL workers must raise their game and intervene earlier with parents who are mistreating their families, according to an audit of how the HSE dealt with child-neglect cases.
The audit was ordered last year in the wake of horrific revelations of neglect and abuse of six children by their parents in their squalid Roscommon home.
The review of the Roscommon case, which is complete but has not been published, said the challenges faced by social services in tackling these families are similar throughout Ireland and Britain.
It pinpointed the need for more "authoritative social work" which would see well-informed social services build up a case and provide supporting evidence for intervening earlier.
Senior managers need to review and audit files on these families and there should be established thresholds for legal intervention in cases.
This would mean that if the behaviour reached a certain level then it would automatically trigger action to take children into care.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said the local HSE management team in Roscommon is overseeing the implementation of recommendations contained within the review.
A progress report carried out three months after the audit found that the inquiry's recommendations were being implemented. The changes include:
•A monthly childcare meeting chaired by the general manager which considers specific developments within the childcare service.
•Revised management structures have been put in place and five additional social work posts were allocated to Roscommon last year, with a further three due this year to deal with an increase in referrals.
Both parents in the Roscommon case have since been convicted before the courts. The 40-year-old mother became the first woman in the history of the State to be convicted of incest.
The issue of how social services deal with families, categorised as cases of neglect, was again highlighted by a separate disturbing case in Galway Circuit Court last week.
Eight children were only taken into care nine years after social workers first became aware of worrying behaviour within the family.