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Children in Residential Care Homes in a “Vulnerable Situation”

The Ombudsman for Children has claimed that children in residential care homes are in a “vulnerable situation” due to a lack of monitoring by the HSE´s Child and Family Service.

Listeners to this morning´s “Morning Ireland” program on RTE1 heard the Ombudsman for Children – Niall Muldoon – criticise the HSE´s Child and Family Service (“TUSLA”) for allowing voluntarily and privately run children´s residential care homes to remain open when it should have been known that their owners were in breach of statutory regulations.

Mr Muldoon blamed staff shortages at TUSLA and “inconsistencies and discrepancies” in monitoring standards for the failure to inspect the residential care homes. He said his own office´s investigation had revealed that it often took fourteen months after the registration of a care home for an inspection to be carried out, and this was placing children in residential care homes in a “vulnerable situation”.

The inconsistencies, Mr Muldoon explained, were due to the HSE having four different regions that have developed over the past twenty years. Each region has developed its own policies and procedures within that time, and this concerned the Ombudsman inasmuch as his office wants to see the same standards of care for children in residential care homes across the country.

In order to resolve this situation, the Ombudsman for Children has initiated proposals to amalgamate TUSLA into the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA – the agency currently responsible for monitoring state run residential care homes). The intention is to run the agency as an independent authority in line with the recommendations made by the 2009 Ryan Report.

Speaking later in the day on RTE´s News at One, TUSLA´s Director of Quality Assurance – Brian Lee – said: “We are working very closing with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and with HIQA to move this along. There’s nothing impeding us from supporting this process but it’s in the hands of the Department and HIQA to move this forward.”