Immediate Release: 2nd November 2016
EPIC welcomes the publication of senior counsel Conor Dignam’s report. This report was commissioned by the Minister for Social Affairs when it was revealed that “Grace”, a young woman with intellectual disabilities was left in an abusive foster care home despite evidence that it was unsafe. The focus of this report is two successive inquiries commissioned by the HSE, conducted by Conal Devine (2012) and Resilience Ireland Ltd (2015), giving particular attention to the approach adopted by these inquiries and the validity of the reasons the HSE put forward for not publishing them. Mr Dignam has deemed the HSE’s approach to both inquiries inadequate, and supports their publication.
These findings again highlight the exceptional vulnerability of our children in the care of the state, and the additional vulnerability of children in care with disabilities. The fact that the HSE failed to adequately investigate the allegations of sexual and physical abuse of over 40 children placed in this foster care home must prompt us to re-examine how we ensure that every child in Ireland is protected and safeguarded, in particular children in the care of the state and children who are often without a voice.
Director of EPIC, Jennifer Gargan made the following comment:
“Beyond the official acknowledgement of the wrong that has been done, the establishment of an independent investigation on how and why this abuse of vulnerable young people was allowed to happen and continue for many years is absolutely necessary. It is fundamental in order to prevent it happening now or ever again. EPIC supports the government’s commitment to establish such an investigation.
As corporate parent the State has a statutory and moral responsibility for the protection and welfare of all children in its care. It has failed to do this in the past and needs to act now to make sure that we do not repeat the failures of the past and allow this horrendous abuse of our most vulnerable children to happen again.”
EPIC believes that there are a number of key actions which would provide greater protection to children in care, and particularly to the most vulnerable groups, such as children with disabilities. These include:
- EPIC believes an independent inquiry must be carried out without further delay to find out why this happened and endeavour to prevent it happening again.
- Every child must have access to a social worker. Reports from Tusla show that as recently as October 2015, 7% or 443 children in care had no allocated social worker.
- Every child must have a Care Plan which is regularly monitored – 9% or 544 children in foster care were without a care plan (Tusla, October 2015).
- Adequate resourcing for HIQA is paramount to carry out regular inspections of Foster Care which would include meeting with children, foster carers and their families and ensuring that children with disabilities are given a voice effectively. Inspections of services are currently carried out without this happening.
- Every child with a disability should have a statutory right to have an independent advocate.
- Greater cooperation and joined up services between Tusla and the HSE are necessary to ensure that children with disabilities do not fall through gaps in services.
EPIC, as the only organisation that specifically advocates on behalf of children and young people in State Care, knows the importance of listening to each child individually and the significance of having a strong relationship with an independent Advocate as a protective factor against abuse. EPIC has seen a significant increase in the numbers of children with disabilities being referred to our Advocacy Service. Many of these children are in care but some are placed in residential services without any clarity about their legal status. Adults with disabilities currently have a right to an independent advocate, yet children with disabilities do not.
Note to the Editor
- Young people in foster care are particularly vulnerable and those with disabilities even more so. International studies indicate that children with a disability in the care system are at a higher risk of living in an inappropriate placement and are more susceptible to abuse and neglect compared to non-disabled children. Research carried out shows that there are a number of factors which increase the vulnerabilities of children or young people with disabilities to abuse including: lack of mobility, limited communication, the need for intimate care, lack of awareness, not being consulted, lack of communication between professionals and lack of joined up working.
For all media enquiries, or to arrange an interview please contact:
Jennifer Gargan, Director of EPIC
Telephone: 01 8727 661 Mobile: 086 607 3866
EPIC (formerly IAYPIC) is an independent association that works throughout the Republic of Ireland, with and for children and young people who are currently living in care or who have had an experience of living in care.