Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children & Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte has criticised Minister Katherine Zappone for her failure to provide a 24-hour social service during her first year in office.  The recommendation was contained in an audit of the legislation which allows Gardaí to remove children from their homes in emergency situations.

Deputy Rabbitte explained, “I am shocked and disappointed by Minister Zappone’s lack of action in response to the disturbing findings of Geoffrey Shannon’s audit.  This report highlighted serious gaps in Ireland’s child protection system, perhaps most obviously the lack of an out-of-hours social service for children in need.  We are all well aware of the fact that social care emergencies are not confined to office hours and it is appalling to think that vulnerable and at-risk children are unable to access social care services after 5pm on weekdays or at weekends or bank holidays.

“This flawed system sees Gardaí taking on responsibility for child protection issues outside of current “working hours”.  Many Gardaí have expressed concern that they are not properly trained in this area and do not feel prepared in dealing with these cases.  This is an unacceptable situation for both the Gardaí and the children concerned.

“The Minister’s response to this audit has been to ask Tusla to examine the “demand” for an out-of-hours service. Which part of Dr. Shannon’s report is she missing? There are several cases examined as part of the audit which conclude that children were repeatedly placed back in abusive homes and situations due to the lack of an out-of-hours social work service.  It is obvious that a 24 hour social work service is needed.

“The Minister cannot continue to delay this necessary measure – vulnerable children are being put at risk because of the gaps in our system.  Moves must be made to deliver this service as quickly as possible and I will be raising this issue with Minister Zappone in the Dáil”.