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State agencies to review care of disabled children

  • 15 Jan 2018

An Investigation by the Ombudsman for Children has found that a lack of coordination between two State agencies was responsible for denying adequate support to a woman who has been fostering a teenager with Down syndrome and severe autism.

Monday, 15 Jan 2018 09:03 www.rte.ie 

An Investigation by the Ombudsman for Children has found that a lack of coordination between two State agencies was responsible for denying adequate support to a woman who has been fostering a teenager with Down syndrome and severe autism.

The woman, who has been fostering the teenager since she was abandoned at birth, has accused the Health Service Executive and and the child and family agency Tusla of leaving her financially, emotionally and physically drained.

Ombudsman Dr Niall Muldoon has recommended that the HSE immediately devise a respite action plan for all children with a disability.

Dr Muldoon's report says "Molly" (not her real name) has been dependent for 14 years on her foster family for everything including feeding, toileting, dressing and accompaniment to very frequent medical and other appointments.

However, he said the State left the family substantially out of pocket for many of these outlays.

The Ombudsman said the refusal years ago by the HSE, Molly's then corporate parent, to fund her respite care suggests the HSE abdicated its duty to the foster mother.

He criticises Tusla, the current corporate parent, for failing to create a budget line to defray foster carers' spending on necessities for disabled children.

Dr Muldoon's recommendations, which have been accepted by the HSE and Tusla, include a review by each of their provision for about 471 foster children with moderate or severe disabilities with a view to making improvements.

He also recommended a review of Molly's services to ensure that she reaches her full potential.

Tusla Chief Operations Officer Jim Gibson said of the main issues in Molly's case was the availability of respite services.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said he was not trying to transfer the blame to the HSE, but that this was an issue for the executive.

Mr Gibbons said Tusla did provide supports to the family and allocated a social worker to Molly at all times.

"The real issue, when we look at Molly and what Molly's foster carer was saying, was that they needed access to supports and interventions and services.

"A good skill that a social worker has, and was demonstrated in the report,  was strong advocacy for that child and for the foster carer,  internally to Tusla and externally to other strategic partners," he said. 

Mr Gibson added that social work training is transferable to all client groups and there were dedicated social workers for children with disabilities.

He welcomed the report into Molly's case, saying he accepted the recommendations, but said he was unaware of how many times her family contacted the agency.

He said he could not discuss individual cases or comment on the recommendation that Molly should now be placed in residential care.