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Sinn Féin calls on government to increase family supports

18 June, 2009 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that there needs to be a drastic overhaul of social services in this state and the government needs to seriously examine the reasons children are being placed in the care system and increase family supports according to need.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“In a reply I received from the Minister for Health and Children it was revealed that in 2007, 1,342 children were placed in care under the heading ‘Family Unable to cope/Family Difficulty Re Housing/Finance’. 193 families (6%) of those reported to be having difficulties had children placed in care as a result of only housing or finance difficulties.

“It is unacceptable that a child may be removed from the home because of housing or finance difficulties when it is not in their best interest. 25% of all children placed in care, are entered into this system because the State has failed to provide their family with the support they need. These children are not in care because they are being abused, they are in care because the state has not provided their family with an adequate home or the means to support themselves.

“Would the state not be better off ensuring that the child remains with its family (if it is in the child’s best interests) and providing them with a home rather than putting them in care? Why is the state willing to give a foster-carer €325 allowance a week but not provide financial support to keep a family together when it is in the child’s best interests? This is unacceptable - because when a child enters the care system, the state will fail them again.

“There are still massive gaps in resourcing of social services. In Cork, HSE documents have revealed that the case loads of social workers have now become ‘sufficiently high as to make them unmanageable’, which has led to referrals receiving inadequate responses.

“When Sinn Féin asked the Minister for Health and Children to state the average length of time between reporting a child protection concern and when a social worker will deal with the report, the HSE parliamentary affairs division said the HSE could not provide correct information as to the length of time between the making of child protection reports to the HSE and time the report is dealt with, because ‘the information has not been collected up to this point, due to the variability in definitional interpretation and work practices across HSE level’. This lack of resourcing can only lead to children being placed at further risk and this is unacceptable.

“Sinn Féin is calling on the Government to live up to its responsibilities towards the 5,300 children that are in the care system. Social services need to be adequately resourced and families should be given the supports that they need. Children should only be placed in care if it is in their best interests.” ENDS

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