PULSE system ‘not fit for purpose for Child Protection issues’ – Ó Laoghaire
Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has expressed his concern at the ability of the PULSE system to adequately capture the data required for Child Protection issues related to Garda powers under section 12 of the Childcare Act.
He was speaking following a meeting of the Justice Committee, where Geoffrey Shannon, Government Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, made a presentation outlining the findings of his audit in to the Garda exercise of its s12 powers, which relate to removing a child from a home by the Gardaí due to neglect and abuse.
The Cork South-Central TD said:
“I believe that there is much cause for concern in this audit. Obviously, some of the cases, and it is easy to forget the detail of much of that, were quite horrific; in some circumstances, children repeatedly removed from some homes and children being exposed to the most horrendous abuse and neglect by the people meant to care for them and quite often issues relating to alcohol and abuse being central.
“While it is clear that as individual members of the Gardaí, many discharged their duties with a very high standard of commitment, and compassion, that is not to say that the Gardaí Síochána are beyond reproach here. That is clearly not the case.
“In particular, I am concerned at the comments made by Geoffrey Shannon that the information on the PULSE system is not adequate and has led to discrepancies.
“According to the audit, ‘Particulars with regard to prior or subsequent history on PULSE for children were not included in 31 instances’.
“This is quite shocking and so far as I understand it, when a child is so removed u s12, the only record the Gardaí have of these incidents would be on PULSE; knowing what happened to these children afterwards is difficult.
“In addition, the Gardaí were forced to revise a total of 560 valid incidents for 2014, of a total of 595 recorded incidents, which differed from the official figure furnished by AGS of 577 valid incidents in 2014.
“So clearly, there are issues here in relation to data collection, and it appears from Dr Shannon’s comments today at the Committee that the system is simply not fit for purpose.
“There are also serious issues in relation to the lack of ongoing training in child protection, and in the gathering of ethno-cultural data. This is important to combat against any potential for Racial Profiling, although, Dr Shannon’s report found no evidence of that, which is positive.
“There is a clear lack of inter-agency cooperation, with Gardaí routinely being unaware of what happens to children after the s12 powers have been exercised and the child becomes the responsibility of TÚSLA.
“And it remains clear that there is a need for a fundamental reform of the Child Protection system in the state, including a full audit of other powers such as s13 of the Act.
“The Shannon report shocked the nation, and it is crucial that it does not simply gather dust like so many reports to date. The Government needs to ensure that the Gardaí and Túsla implement the recommendations.
“While I am heartened by the commitment evidenced by individual Gardaí, there are still major questions here for the Gardaí as an institution.”