Dáil debates

Thursday, 11 November 2010

3:00 pm

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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Question 2: To ask the Minister for Health and Children if she will give an undertaking that all of the recommendations of the Roscommon child-care case will be implemented in full; the timeframe for the implementation of the recommendations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42112/10]

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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The report into the Roscommon case was published by the HSE on 27 October 2010. The HSE stated it is committed to learning from this and other reports to ensure that services are strengthened to help protect children to the greatest extent possible. The HSE has already provided me with an update on the actions it intends to undertake in regard to 56 of the recommendations of the report that fall within its remit.

It is the case that some recommendations made following previous inquiries were also made in the Roscommon inquiry. I am giving consideration to putting in place a mechanism to ensure that all recommendations are implemented nationally. The HSE has commissioned an independent consultant to carry out an audit of neglect cases. This process has already started in Roscommon and will then be carried out in Waterford and in an area in south Dublin. A full national audit will be carried out based on the lessons learned from these initial audits.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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Some 50 recommendations were made, all of which were very sensible and, as the Minister of State said, some of which were made before in other instances. Can the Minister of State tell me how many recommendations have been implemented? One is the introduction of a national common assessment framework without delay for all child welfare and protection cases which needs to identify core components while allowing for flexibility. It is recognised that any such framework will need to be reviewed and updated as knowledge and practice develops and changes. If one does not have that, then the service will be as the Roscommon case has thrown up - patchy, in some places delivered well and in some places not delivered at all.

Another recommendation - I am merely picking two and am not even going into the issue of who is responsible for all of this - states a specialised child sexual abuse unit or team should be put in place in each HSE region to build up expertise and experience in assessment and to act as a centre of excellence when front-line workers require advice, and therapeutic treatment services should also be available for children who had been sexually abused.

Will any of the two of these, in particular, the sexual abuse unit, fall now to embargoes? Are we assured that all of these recommendations will be put in place and how many have been put in place to date?

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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The recommendations were only recently received, a couple of weeks ago. I propose to wait until the audit is completed into these neglect cases in Roscommon, Waterford and Dublin to see what comes out of them. Those areas are targeted because of specific previous concerns that have been raised in those areas. Based on that report, we will have sufficient information then to aggregate what has come out of Roscommon and previous cases to which Deputy Kathleen Lynch referred in her question.

I am open to suggestions on how that implementation and review will take shape. We might include the NGO sector and others with a professional interest in child protection in ensuring the implementation of the recommendations and all of the previous recommendations.

On a child sexual abuse unit, there is, of course, St. Clare's and St. Louise's units, in Temple Street and Crumlin, respectively, which provide an excellent service. It is not only children who are being abused, but children who have abused as well. There are discrete services there for the latter but it is a challenging area of the health and social services.

In terms of learning, it is depressingly familiar to hear responses that follow tragedies such as this. Yesterday, I launched the first ever hub of learning in the world for professionals which contains all the research, policy and legislation in this area accumulated over the years. That is now accessible by social workers.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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I accept fully what the Minister is saying. Anyone who has any interest in this is not out to do damage. People genuinely want to do right when it comes to it. However, we do not need an audit to tell us that we need national guidelines. This report gave us that. Equally, we do not need an audit to tell us that we need a child sexual abuse unit in HSE regional areas.

My big concern is that there will be an audit which will then lead to a group of people sitting down around a table to see what happens next and this time next year we still will not be any further down the road. There are recommendations in here which need to be implemented now.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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The HSE is acting on the vast majority of the recommendations. They have assured me that they have broken them down into different groups. There will be four regional workshops in early December to try to disseminate the important aspects of the report and other matters in terms of trying to improve the child protection service. The recommendations are being acted on.

On the audit, that started in September and it will be finished at the end of February, not in the far distant future. There may be other concerns in Roscommon and we must be alive to that. There might be other chronic neglect commonalities in other areas to be put in the mix in terms of implementation of this area because it is a discrete area. The Ryan and Murphy reports talked about institutional care whereas we are talking about family neglect, a discrete area that needs to be looked at in a different way.

I agree with Deputy Kathleen Lynch that the recommendations need to be implemented carefully but the HSE has already begun to act on them. As I stated, we will have more information by the end of February.