Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children, Kathleen Funchion TD, has described findings contained in Tusla’s annual report and HIQA’s annual inspection report on residential care units, both released today, as deeply concerning.
The Carlow-Kilkenny TD added that the state’s care system is in crisis and that a national strategy is required to address the significant and distressing shortcomings in the delivery of appropriate alternative care placements for children.
Teachta Funchion said:
“We have an alarming situation where our care system is creaking at the seams, and vulnerable children are being failed as a result.
“Today’s reports come on the back of District Court Judge Dermot Simms’ intervention, reported this week, voicing his concerns for the welfare of children in residential care who appeared before his court.
“Judge Simms’ comments were backed up by Tusla’s new CEO Kate Duggan, who acknowledged this week that the state agency was in crisis.
“Today’s reports highlight the significant challenges facing Tusla and the risks children are being exposed to arising from the state’s failure to carry out its statutory duty to find appropriate placements that meet the needs of children.
“The government is failing children. This week I have heard of very young children with significant additional needs being pulled out of their communities and schools, and sent to the other end of the country. This is atrocious, deeply traumatic, and simply cannot be allowed to continue.
“We urgently need the government to produce and implement a national strategy on residential care that commits to increasing beds, reopening high support units closed during Covid, and a gradual reduction in the number of private for-profit residential care providers. Wales did it, we should follow suit.
“A national strategy must involve several government departments including Children, Justice, Health, Education and Social Protection. That is crucial if we are to address the significant and distressing shortcomings in the delivery of appropriate alternative care placements for children.
“The sharp rise in referrals to Tusla is worrying given the stress existing services are under. HIQA found staff were herculean in the discharging of their duties in very difficult circumstances – this should be highlighted and commended.
“Services are overstretched, and a situation where private companies are competing for lucrative government contracts in no way serves the children the sector is meant to protect.
“I am calling on government to take these alarming reports seriously, and to act immediately to address a sector in crisis.”