19th October 2011
A series of reports undertaken by the national review panel for serious incidents and child deaths. This report details the circumstances of child deaths and serious incidents involving children and young people. The first annual report of the national review panel was also published yesterday and it provided an overview of the work carried out by the group since its establishment in 2010. It is the first of what I hope will be an annual report. The report highlighted a number of deficiencies in the current child protection system, including several breaches of Children First guidelines, inadequate supervision of practices in the HSE and family services in a number of cases and the absence of a standardised method of assessing the needs of children and young people who come to the attention of social services. The report also exposed the need for specialist training for social workers to improve investigative skills and to assist in engaging with hard to reach families. It also highlighted the need to develop additional protocols for children who abscond from care and the very real need for after-care support as children make the transition to adulthood. I fully support the review panel’s recommendations. The reason I am raising this in the House is that report raises the question of whether we need greater scrutiny, which I feel we need. I am concerned that the report of the national review panel states its workload is virtually impossible to carry out owing to the number and breadth of inquiries it must instigate. Every one of those inquiries is a child death or serious incident. This is not just a pile of paper, each one represents a child. It has been reported that the panel was asked to review 51 cases, including 35 deaths, since its establishment in March 2010. It is imperative that the panel is adequately resourced to ensure the timely, proper and full investigation of these cases. Each and every childhood counts and key lessons can be learned from the reports, which will inform policy and child protection and welfare and prevent future child deaths. These lessons must be seized on. I call on the Leader to request the Government to entrust the receipt of these reports in full to the Joint Committee on Health and Children so that it will facilitate appropriate scrutiny of the child protection systems within the Oireachtas.