Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children Charlie McConalogue has called for a Dáil debate on new figures relating to serious incidents and deaths of children known to child protection services. Deputy McConalogue has also called on the Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald to explain why she has still not published an independent review into the deaths of 200 children in State care, which she received before Christmas.
The Donegal North East TD said, “I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the families of these children. These cases are extremely upsetting and once again they highlight the unacceptable deficiencies in our child protection system.
“One case involving a child who died by suicide found that social workers were “clearly overstretched and placed in the position of managing complex caseloads” and there was a sense that the case was placed in the “bottom drawer” and treated as a “low priority”. These dangerous gaps in our front-line social worker system have been highlighted time and time again by HIQA and by independent inquiries into child protection issues. And yet, the Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald failed to meet the target of hiring 60 extra social workers last year as recommended by the Ryan report. Almost 15 months after taking up office, there are only 14 extra social workers in child and family services and the Minister will give no commitment to back-filling all vacant posts.
“An independent report into the deaths of 200 children in State care was presented to Minister Fitzgerald before Christmas. Five months later, it still sitting on her desk. I cannot understand why the Minister is dragging her heels on this. Nothing could be more urgent than giving the families of these children the answers they deserved and have waited so long for. The delays in publishing this report is in stark contrast to the swift publication of the reports today by the National Review Panel.
“It is extremely regrettable that these latest reports have been published after the Dáil has been suspended for 10 days. I am calling on the Government to set aside time as soon as the Dáil resumes in June for a full debate on these latest findings. I am also calling on Minister Fitzgerald to immediately confirm a date for the publication of the independent review into the deaths of children in State care.”