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O'Brien calls for vulnerable children to be protected

17 November, 2011 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Speaking in the Dáil today on child protection issues, Sinn Féin justice and equality spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O’Brien said that the deaths and serious incidents concerning children outlined in the 2010 Annual Report of the National Review Panel on Serious Incidents including the Deaths of Children in Care, should be a wake-up call to government.
The Cork North Central TD said:
“This report tells us of 35 deaths and 16 serious incidents involving children in the care of the Health Service Executive or who were known to the organisation, since March last year. Suicide, murders, road traffic accidents and drug overdoses all make for very disturbing reading. These tragedies were shocking and need to be a wakeup call for everyone in this house, particularly the government. Of course the shock we feel at reading the report pales in insignificance at the devastation the families and friends of these children are going through.
“It is clear that child protection structures in this state are systematically flawed, chronically under-resourced, and lacking the robustness required of a system concerning the safety and welfare of children. There are difficulties regarding the ability of the Review Panel to manage its caseload in the timeframe required and this is something that must be addressed by the government. .
“Even the Review Panel have said in their report that the National Review Annual Report said that the timeframe was “unworkable.” This is clearly something that the ministers for children and health need to examine. The government must also commit to resourcing and implementing changes that address the high caseloads that social workers are working under.
“The Minister for Finance decides how much money is allocated to children services and I would ask the minister to think of these children when he is addressing the public expenditure budgets for the HSE and Department of Health. Substantial numbers of children are placed in the care of the state, not because of the inability of their parents or families to look after them or because there is a risk of abuse, but because their families simply cannot afford to raise them.
“Future budgetary decisions must be family-friendly so that children can remain with their families. State care is not a good place for children in Ireland but this government has the opportunity to make it better and I am calling on government to use this opportunity.”

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