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News

Report highly critical of child protection system

  • 29 May 2017

A major report due to be published this morning finds that a complete cultural change is needed in Ireland's child protection system. The report, written by the Government's Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, was commissioned by An Garda Síochána in the wake of the controversy surrounding the removal of two Roma children from their families by gardaí in 2013.

https://www.rte.ie/news/2017/0529/878599-child-protection-report/

It examines the Garda's use of Section 12 of the Child Care Act, a provision that allows gardaí to remove children from their families when the children are at serious and immediate risk.

The report is highly critical of Ireland's child protection system, stating that there are chronic systematic failures in the functions carried out by the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, and that communication between Tusla and gardaí is superficial and ineffective.

The report states that some children are repeatedly removed from their families by gardaí, only to be returned by Tusla.

It further criticises the lack of a comprehensive out-of-hours social work service, stating that unsuitably trained gardaí are often forced to take young children to garda stations or hospitals as the only available place of safety.

There is also strong criticism of the Garda PULSE system, in that accurate and consistent information relating to Section 12 removals of vulnerable children could not be found on the computer system in all instances.

The report does not find that Section 12 powers are used indiscriminately by gardaí or that racial profiling influences their decision making.

In response to the report a spokesperson for Tusla said: "An Garda Síochána is a crucial partner in the area of child protection and both agencies have distinct functions, powers, responsibilities and methods of working.

"Much of the research for this audit was done over the past number of years and collaboration and services have significantly improved since that time.

"This report was commissioned for An Garda Síochána, and Tusla was not involved in its production. No Tusla staff were interviewed as part of this audit."

Children's Ombudsman Niall Muldoon has said the report is "very concerning".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said that he has not seen the report yet but it appeared that many areas of concern, such as inter-agency cooperation, remain problematic.

Dr Muldoon said there was a clear need for a co-location of child protection services.

He said 24/7 services that should be in place are not available and it is draconian to remove children from their homes and bring them to garda stations.

Dr Muldoon added that all gardaí should have special training in dealing with children.

When asked if Tusla was fit for purpose, Dr Muldoon declined to comment but said its ability to self correct "seems to be slow" and this must be addressed.

Analysis of the findings of the report will feature in RTÉ Investigates Chaos in Care, which will air on Claire Byrne Live tonight on RTÉ One at 10.35pm.