Wednesday 11 December 2019

'They turned their backs on him from the cradle to the grave . . .'

Edel Kennedy

THE photograph taken on the day of his First Holy Communion was Danny Talbot's most treasured possession.

Despite living on the streets, it reminded him of happier times and it was among his few belongings when his lifeless body was found in August last year.

The 19 year old died of a suspected drugs overdose after spending most of his life in the care system.

His aunt, Donna Lamb, yesterday said they refused to wait eight years like Tracey Fay's family for a report into the circumstances surrounding the vulnerable young man's death.

They met with Children's Minister Barry Andrews last October, but have not heard from him or the Health Service Executive (HSE) since.

"When Danny was alive we were continually ringing the social workers and begging them to intervene," she told the Irish Independent. "The only information we got about Danny's death was from a coroner's report. We, as a family, will not be waiting for years for a report about our sister and nephew."

Danny's mother, Linda Lamb, who was intellectually disabled, died tragically of a brain aneurysm in 2007. Eighteen months earlier she had been raped in the Phoenix Park before being thrown on to a fire and Donna said she spent those final months of her life living in fear.

She had been under the care of the health authorities for much of her life as she had the mental age of a 13 year old. Donna last night said the HSE had also failed her sister.

"Everything is always swept under the carpet by the HSE," she said.

"If the report on Tracey Fay hadn't been leaked we wouldn't be having a debate in the Dail about the care of our nation's children.

"It should have been released, how can they learn from their mistakes if we don't know what they are?"

Danny was born in December 1989 to Linda and Paddy Talbot.

Teachers at St Vincent's Boys School were so concerned about the state of Danny and his brother that they wrote to social services. In a letter signed by four teachers to the then Eastern Health Board, they expressed worry about his level of aggression and "a knowledge of sexual activity way beyond the boy's years". They asked to see a social worker to discuss their concerns.

Danny was placed in foster care and his brother was taken in by his aunt Sandra.

His behaviour began to deteriorate as he grew older and he ran away from his foster parents on several occasions, later accessing services for homeless boys.

In the "out-of-hours" service, a largely unstructured form of emergency care, he ended up on the streets for most of the day, drifting into a brutal world of crime and drugs.

Growing worried for his welfare, his aunts sought -- through a family solicitor -- a more stable care placement for him.

It took the best part of a year of intermittent appearances before the High Court before he had a proper assessment of his needs. Later, an aftercare plan was arranged until he would reach the age of 23.

However, it was too late and he ended up in prison for a time.

Danny maintained contact with his aunts and they said he had been "turning a corner" when his body was found last August in a flat in Dublin's north inner city.

He had died from an apparent drugs overdose.

The HSE refused to comment on the family's concerns last night, only giving the standard response that it would not discuss individual cases.

"They turned their backs on him, from the cradle to the grave," Donna added.

"As true as God, he'd be alive today if he'd gotten the proper help."

Irish Independent

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